By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 12 - THe Truth is Out There
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 8th day, evening
Matteo walks away from the table to the dark skinned innkeeper, and after a brief conversation, the innkeeper places his right hand over his heart and bows politely to Matteo, who returns to the group. After taking the order the red-haired waitress walks over to the bar, where the innkeeper briefly speaks to her. As soon as Matteo is seated at the table again, Kalil sighs and looks slowly at all those assembled. Theatrically he lifts himself from his chair. He bends half over the table, leaning on it. He coughs once to get everyone’s attention. He waits for a second and says, “Good. Here we are, at this table. Grim…“ He points at the human staring at the pouch and its mysterious contents “…Holds only one of the enigmas. We’ve got more.“ Kalil waits for a second to let his words sink in.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t understand. I’ve got many questions to which I would like to have an answer.“ Kalil continues, “Although you might find it interesting to decide whether or not to eat biscuits, I rather like to discuss what happened until now and decide to what extend we should involve ourselves. That is why we came to this…“ Kalil pauses a moment to look around, “…interesting place.“ Kalil looks again at those around the table, naming each of his companions as he look at him (or her). “Druth, Telsom, Ditalidas, Immerine, Grim…“ Kalil cannot help to smile at the man, as he is totally focused on the strange items) “…Portia, and finally Calathra. Could you please enlighten me about the following topics?“
Kalil looks up, seemingly lost in thoughts, for a moment. Then he continues “Question one: who, precisely, killed Tharkas and even more important; why? Second question: why was Tharkas afraid of the murderer, and why did he give me the pouch?“ Once again, Kalil looks at Grim; it seems he’s almost eager to join him in his search. “Question number three: Matteo and Portia were supposed to meet Tharkas. Why? Fourth question: what exactly is in the pouch, and what could it mean? Question five: what about the undead attacks you reported…“ He looks at Telsom, Druth and Ditalidas “…and what does the have to do with followers of…“ Here Kalil hesitates and continues “Velsharoon?“ His expression shows he is not familiar with Velsharoon or what she stands for. “And last but not least, question number six: what in the name of black ink are those meddling ore creeps from Those Who Harp up to? I heard too many references to their involvement.“
It seems Kalil is finally going to shut up. “Please help me out.“ He concludes his monologue. He stands erect, looks at his companions once more, and indicates the others they can discuss his questions by sitting down on his chair once again. He eagerly listens to anyone who wants to speak.
Ditalidas looks at Kalil who is leaning on the table. “I wish I had some answers for you, but I’m afraid I have little. I don’t know Tharkas. I even don’t know what happened to him. I only know I was attacked by undead…“ For a moment she takes a deep breath. It’s clear she has trouble controlling herself and tears moister her eyes. Softly but still audible she continuous: “…and that somebody went trough the effort of making one of them look like my mother…“ Again she pauses swallowing away something that seems to squeeze her throat shut. “…Telsom and Druth were just in time to save my life… When we returned we saw some villains escape the city. One of them seemed to recognize me. I didn’t know him though. They dropped a symbol, I believe Telsom has it.“ She looks at Telsom to see if she’s right. “Shortly after that we met Lieutenant Aluar. There isn’t much more to say. At least I believe there isn’t. Did I forget something?“ She looks at Telsom and Druth. “Please, feel free to fill in what I forgot to mention.“
“The object I retrieved from the fleeing villains’ wake is a holy symbol of Velsharoon, I will keep it until after I have buried those fiends at which point I will shatter it above their graves.“ Removing his gloves Telsom places them on his lap. “The only information that I have to add to what the lady has said is that Druth and I were each lead to her by magical rose petals that would drift on the wind. I’ve never seen anything of it’s like.“ When Telsom mentions the rose, Druth nods in Ditalidas’ direction. “And this rose is striking similar to the one the lady is wearing. It seems her father’s garden has some of these flowers.“
Looking down to his hip, Telsom sits in silence for a matter of seconds before continuing. “As soon as we are finished discussing this unpleasantness I hope to get some sleep. I go back to the location of the battle at dawn. I hope to find some trail which will lead me to the Velsharans where I can bring justice to them.“
Arriving back at the table Matteo whispers briefly to Elisa, the serving girl, before taking his seat. As initial discussions get underway he raises a hand and says, “I have arranged for a room where food will soon be delivered as well as for accommodation here for all who need it. The room itself is just through the curtain there.“ He adds, gesturing towards a nearby growth of ivy. “It would, perhaps, be better to conduct our talks in a little more privacy than the common room of a public inn. If no one objects, we can retire there now and resume our questions and answers.“
Ditalidas blinks with her eyes several times as she looks at Matteo. Somehow his words tore down the last defenses she had. Tears roll down her cheeks. “You mean… you mean there’s a private room?“ Sniffing she goes on: “You mean I told my story in a public place while I didn’t have to?“ She stands up from her seat. She closes her eyes, doing her very best to get a hold on herself. When she opens her eyes again sadness and tiredness can be read in them. She staggers a few paces backwards. “I… I…“ She sits down in her chair again. “I don’t care. You decide.“ She says to nobody particular. She’s still sniffing a bit and looks as if all energy left her body… Even before Ditalidas blinks her eyes Marc stiffens, with an astonished yet understanding look in his eyes. Then, as she sits down again, his mouth slightly opens, panting. Then, slowly, he starts rising.
A look of sadness and regret ghosts across Matteo’s face but is soon gone. Turning to Telsom he says quietly, “Will you take the Lady through to the room? She might appreciate the privacy I think. It is through the ivy there, second door on the right.“ Shaking his head sadly Telsom leaves his chair and kneels beside Ditalidas, placing one hand on the back of her chair and another on her hand. Quietly he bends in close to her ear and speaks softly to her. As Marc sees Telsom approaching, he sits down again. Only then he closes his mouth. Turning back to the others he says, “I think we should all go through.“
“Let’s go then.“ Druth stands up and looks around the room, scanning it for anyone who might be overtly interested in their doings. He then walks in the waitress direction, to retrieve his wine. Leaning in close Telsom tries to comfort the poor woman. “Lady, the day’s trials have been long, I know they weigh heavily upon you. We’ve accomplished our goal of delivering our information to these people, if you wish to leave we may. We could ask Druth to remain so that he might tell us what the others have to say when he returns to your manor or we could stay, hear what the other have to say and then go on our way. My only concern here is your well being, I think you would be better off in bed then in a room full of strangers speaking of terrible priests, murderers and creatures, but I will not force my wishes upon you. Whatever you decide, know that I will remain with you for as long as you need me.“
Kalil watches Ditalidas with pain in his eyes. He feels pity on Ditalidas. So much is for sure. Yet he doesn’t respond until Matteo has spoken. “Thank you.“ He replies to Matteo “Let’s go on.“ He encourages the ones that haven’t spoken so far. Immerine falls silent and quietly watches the assembly and is quite surprised to be included in Kalil’s list of people to whom he asks questions. At Ditalidas’ story the veiled woman turns her soft gaze to the woman, pleased that her protectors are there for her. When Matteo speaks of the private room and Ditalidas grows more upset over having spoken her story in public Immerine says quietly, “Your faydwar did not mean to cause you pain I am sure, Lady. Sometimes private pain is better shared with companions. Sometimes its burden can wear at our existence making life unpleasant. Why hold something to make living more painful than it already is?“
Having spent much of the time staring and trying to understand what the party is talking about, Calathra can’t take it any more. She jumps on her feet staring at Kalil standing just at the opposite end of the table from her. “Enough! Tallman Matteo said he would explain all of this to me. Somebody do so or I’ll go sleep and the next morning you’ll have one woman less to worry about.“ Calathra shouts angrily, so much unlike her halfling race.
As Immerine stands to walk to the private room, she pauses at the raised voice then turns back. “Peace. I believe information and explanations are being revealed. It would behoove you to use patience. Threats to your companions do not place you in their care, but rather removes you from it.“ Immerine stands firm as she speaks, enunciating each word quietly in her unusual accent. Once finished she continues on to the private room.
Calathra waits for Immerine to leave and then utters, “So cold and patronizing. Anyone else want to tell me to wait and have patience?“ Turning from Ditalidas for a moment Telsom gives the odd halfling a quizzical look. “I think I would like to, but I’m quite sure you’d pay it no heed. Your heart must be as heavy as the luggage you carry around with you fair halfling. Is there anything that can be done to raise your spirits? Other than Matteo’s explanation?“
Motionless Ditalidas listens to Telsom’s words. When he’s done speaking she doesn’t react for a moment… then she shakes her head. “Give me a few moments and maybe something to drink. I really want to hear what the boy and the others have to say.“ Again she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “I do hope we can get this over with quickly though.“ It’s only after that when she looks at the female halfling. “I don’t know what we’ve done to you to deserve this attitude from you. But what ever it may be, I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive us. If not, maybe you indeed should go your own way. Don’t get me wrong, you’re welcome to stay, as far as I’m concerned, but you could at least show us some respect and kindness.“ All this is said in a soft tone while her sad looking eyes look into the eyes of the halfling. After that she rises from her chair and turns to Telsom. “Would you please be so kind to escort me to this private room?“ She asks him softly. Taking the lady’s arm Telsom escorts her into the private room, waiting until she is seated before taking his chair next to hers. Telsom sits down hoping to get the meeting over with as quickly as possible.
Calathra actually smiles for a second and adds “Perhaps your explanation will do me good?“ Kalil looks from Telsom to Calathra and back to the paladin again, “Yes Telsom, please do explain us. What’s your contribution?“ Kalil says without any hint of sarcasm to the paladin. He looks amused to the halfling, as he found in Calathra an unexpected ally for retrieving information.
Marc bends to pick up the dog’s bowl with water. As he was seated just a bit further he has to reach over his friend Friend’s, who’s still lying there. He still can’t reach it, so he takes, still bowed, a little step forward. Thus he steps at his dog, and – quickly tying correct himself – he trips over his dog. So suddenly it’s all noise in the silent corner of the inn: Marc stumbles and falls, just touching the bowl enough to knock over the bowl so all water really hit him in the face literally, while Friend sadly squeaks. As he pitifully walks to the other room he leaves a trail of water droplets, a vague reminder of the blood of Immerine’s narrative.
At the sound of Marc tripping Ditalidas turns around to see what happened. A concerned look flashes over her face. “Are you alright?“ She asks concerned. “Did you hurt yourself?“ As Marc stands up and walks to the private room she gives him a nod and a comforting smile.
Soaking wet Marc sits in a tiny pond of his own. He looks at himself and then at the lady. He looks her in the eyes and replies enthusiastically, “No ma’am!! I’m better than I’ve been for ages!“ He stops suddenly and continues in a more modest way, this enthusiasm still sparkling in his big brown eyes; water still running from his hair, “Ehm, sorry, her highness, but yes, I’m alright, I really am!“ He silences for a brief moment before he cautiously adds, “It’s good to see you smile, her highness.“ He keeps looking in her eyes expressly, then he continues: “yeah, I know! But still!“ Marc gives the lady a long and warm smile in which the sadness, usually so apparent in his eyes, seems to be eclipsed by compassion. After that he stands up a bit clumsy, looking at his wet clothes once, then laughing silently at the whole situation. He taps Friend friendly at her chest, saying to her, “you’re okay too? Great! Lets go then!“
As Marc stands up again, to follow the others to the other room, he looks at the halfling-woman with a friendly and puzzled look on his face. Calathra smiles again and adds, “A halfling from Corm Orp is who I am. Not who I want to be though, TallMan. Have you ever seen a halfling?“ Forgetting about her worries for a second, Calathra chuckles.
Walking more lightly to the other room Marc looks to his left and right to examine whom this halfling could have meant with the ‘tallman’-bit. Then he looks in the eyes of the halfling, giving a friendly smile in reply to hers, while saying: “Hi! I’m Marc… a human.“ He chuckles lightly, as this is an unusual addition for him, “…from Dryham. And as you see I’m only a few inches taller than you are.“ His eyes twinkle friendly, “And yes, I’ve seen a halfling or two before… but… ehm… well… only from a distance, and… ehm… not… ehm… ehm…“ Marc stammers a bit and briefly looks away. Then he seems to have found the right words and ads rapidly, “…and not this… feminine.“ Marc blushes deeply, looks away and quickly moves on to the other room, still heavily dripping.
In the other room he pulls out his smock, wrings it – it really was wet! – And hangs it somewhere close to dry. Just before he hangs his fur around his shoulders another set of scars can be seen on his back, looking as if somewhere in the past, a large animal scratched him severely. Then he sits down, looking quite happily.
Looking to Kalil and Calathra, Telsom arches an eyebrow. “Considering I wasn’t at Memblar’s when the event unfolded and I really haven’t heard much on the matter, there isn’t much I can explain. The only thing I know is that there has been a murder, a group of Velsharans it would seem are responsible and should be punished. I’m not interested in undertaking a crusade to rid the world of Velsharans, although it would be nice were that horrible religion to disappear, but if it turns out that they were responsible for the attack on the lady then I shall bring justice to them at the end of my blade. As I’ve mentioned earlier, as the sun rises I will be riding to the area where we faced the undead to investigate further.“ Pulling the symbol of Velsharoon from his belt pouch Telsom holds it up for those assembled to see before clenching his fist over it and resting his hand on the tabletop.
“My contribution to you is small indeed. The Velsharans were responsible for your friend’s death. I know not why they killed him or carried his corpse off. All that I know is that they reacted to the sight of Ditalidas, I’m assuming another of their party was in control of the undead which had attacked her and they were surprised to see that their companion had not accomplished his task. My assumption of their plotting against the lady could be flawed or completely unreliable, but it was those men that dropped the symbol of Velsharoon, with undead attacks in abundance common sense would say that it was they who created the problems.“ Unclenching his fist on the table Telsom gazes at the symbol for a moment before replacing it in his belt pouch. “We came to see you at the behest of the lieutenant, I am sorry that the information we possess might not be of great use to you, but we told the lieutenant we would pass along the information and so we have.“
Once in the private room, Immerine answers Kalil. “You asked questions to which I have few answers. I do not know this Tharkas, or why he was killed or anything about a pouch. If you have this pouch, why not open it to see what it contains? As for undead, one rose from the river earlier today and confronted me not far from here. It had a strange look in its eye, almost as if it were intelligent and had a decision to make. My voice joined those of the spirits and together we drove it away. Now, Those who Harp… they are known even in my land.“ Immerine’s eyes twinkle and you assume she is smiling beneath her veil.
After he walks with the others to the private room and everybody is seated, Kalil smiles sadly and answers Immerine. “About the pouch, Grim was…“ Kalil looks for Grim, but doesn’t see the man around, he probably is still looking at the pouch and its contents, “…ehm, is looking into it. You’ve encountered other undead than our lady? That’s a scary thought. Please inform me about the way you drove away that horror – later. Now we have to give the others a chance to tell their story.“ As an afterthought Kalil adds, “When this is done, I really need a drink…“
Totally unaware of the events happening around him Grim still studies the piece of paper with total concentration, only breaking his silence to mutter some words and sentences half-finished. “Hmmm, I think this… no, can’t be because… unless.“ Taking a deep breath he is silent for another few moments. “It must be… but…“ Still looking at the eluding puzzle he finally speaks up, “I think I finally wrestled some secrets from this paper’s grasp my friends! It’s most likely a very complicated form of…“ Pausing for a moment make it sound more dramatic, Grim finally lifts his glance from the piece of paper… and discovers that he is the only one left sitting on the table.
Looking around the room he can find no trace of his friends anywhere. Grim motions a waitress and asks where everybody went. After receiving an answer he hurries to the room his friends all went to and glances around the corner of the open door. “I think I discovered something… that is, if you are interested in it of course.“
Kalil is first astonished at Grim entering, and then almost explodes from anxiety when he hears Grim. “Of course we want to hear your discovery! What are you thinking?“ Kalil pauses, smiles at Grim and invites his friend to tell everything he learned with a gesture of his hand.
Up until now Matteo has been content to sit and listen to proceedings, trying to gather information. As Telsom finishes he says, “Thank you Telsom. As I see it we have indications of a Zhentarim involvement from Darkhold, at least in the death of Tharkas. We have a name, Lohgran, to match the face of one of his assailants. That needs to be investigated to determine whether a relationship does in fact exist. Chasing shadows will not get us far.“
“We also need to investigate the extent of operations by the followers of Velsharoon. Are they involved in Tharkas’s death as seems possible? What are they seeking to achieve? And we need to determine why they may have targeted the Lady Jalarghar? Questions we have, but with few clues. Lohgran’s name, a scrap of paper, a gemstone; each needs to be considered.“ Turning to Grim, Matteo says, “I believe you said you may have deciphered some meaning from the symbol and writings? Could you share it with us now please?“
Calathra actually comes forward trying one more time to decipher what happens all around her. “So, Grim, what have you found? See the greed in the merchant’s eyes, do you not?“ She utters as she waves Marc to get to Grim too and winks to Telsom. Looking from one curious face to another Grim is obviously enjoying all the attention he is getting… when his glance comes across Immerine’s he stops smiling however. Still looking Immerine straight in the eye he starts talking again, “No offence meant my dear mysterious lady, but can you explain something to me?“
“No offense is taken, ask your questions.“ Immerine says while holding his gaze with her own. Not taking his look from Immerine Grim steps into the room, stopping just one step from the door. “So far my visit to this city has been filled with murdered friends, crossbow bolts aimed at my head, evil magic, strange moving shadows tailing me through dark streets…“ His voice softly trails off into nothing more than a whisper. Shaking his head he clears his throat and continues. “…And now a mysterious stranger awaits us in just the tavern we were planning to discuss our actions… telling a sweet bedtime story about water and a claiming to have fought evil undead beings.“ Pausing again for a few moments he keeps looking Immerine straight in the eye.
“Why should I trust you? How do I know that you are not just another one chasing the secrets of this paper? A friend of mine already died for it. I beg forgiveness for not being my usual trusting self this time… but I would like to hear a very good reason for me to trust you, oh mysterious one…“ A soft chuckle comes from the willowy woman, “You shouldn’t. Trust is not something to be given lightly. I do not trust any of you. I am surprised you have added me to your group with no more questions than have been asked. You are to be commended for at least pausing to question me.“ She looks at each of the people gathered at the table. “Is there any trust here yet? I wonder.“ She says softly.
“The truth is I was not waiting for you. I arrived to this city this afternoon. A merchant by the name of Halacan was kind enough to guide me to a place he assumed I would be comfortable. Mumadar was gracious and accepted me here, gave me a room and dinner despite my dwindling coin and offered to give me space to tell stories of my home. I did so, hoping for coin… not with intent to find those who are looking for the same thing I am. But here we are, and now what are we to do? Could I lie to you and tell you what you want to hear? Yes. But then what kind of beginning would that be?“ Immerine watches Grim as closely as he watches her.
Still standing casually leaning his weight on one foot with his left hand holding his chin, Grim’s right hand now appears to be behind his back underneath the cover of his cloak. Telsom listens intently as first Grim and then Immerine speak. “There are actually two groups here lady, although that may change. As for trust, I trust in my goddess not to throw me to the wolves, she allows me a brief glimpse of people’s souls and since none of you carry taints of evil I have no qualms offering up my trust. Especially since all we are doing is sharing information.“
Raising herself on her toes to match Telsom and the other’s height Calathra adds: “So we don’t trust each other? You’re a holy warrior, Tallman. That makes you the leader in my eyes, if I can’t be one and if Kalil isn’t, then its fine. You join the two groups into one, Telsom. Let us have no secrets here. And, one more thing – the next time you go poking around a jolly halfling brain, sensing if I am ‘evil’, please say so. I feel exposed now… Oh well; we’re all friends here. Grim, what is it you have uncovered?“
Chuckling Telsom winks at the halfling, “My abilities do not give me the ability to read one’s mind nor would I want to. Some have a great distaste for my abilities, although I prefer to judge someone on their behavior my initial action whenever meeting anyone is to look for darkness. When I discover the absence of darkness I can rest at ease enjoying company, when I discover the darkness I confront it.“
Turning back to address to include the others Telsom continues, “I’m not convinced we need to merge into one group, I’m willing to work with you fine folk to right whatever wrongs have come about today but each person must be willing to join forces. My motivations in this are pure, I do not seek treasure or fame, merely a chance to protect the innocent, preserve beauty and enjoy life to the fullest. My intentions are clear I will seek out this evil and see it put to dust. I serve but one thing in life and that is Lady Firehair, if I receive advice from outsiders on my journey through life I heed it, but always take such things with a grain of salt. If advice is sound I will go along but if I feel in my heart that different measures are needed then I go with my heart. The reason I am explaining this is because I do not wish to mislead anyone, should we group I may have to leave without notice, my first commitment is to my goddess, for that same reason I would not be a good candidate for leadership.“
A wry grin crosses Matteo’s face though it does not touch his eyes. “Nicely put Telsom. But before we decide how many groups we will fragment into and how many people here now will go their own way, it would be best if we knew as much as possible about what we face. Grim, will you please tell us what you have deciphered from that scrap. It seems the only piece of the puzzle still before us unexplained.“
Nodding her head Calathra pleasantly smiles at the man’s sincere words. She puts her diminutive palms over paladin’s hands, smiles again, raises her hands and continues: “Perhaps the matter of the leader is not the most important, right now. So, these walking skeletons seem to threaten us all? I once met an undead man chasing a gnome in Corm Orp… It was tall and pretty humanlike, but its flesh was rotten… I believe they called it “Cravanent“ or something like that. When it appeared, all the chicken started running away. I believe that’s the way nature reacts to unnatural… The Tallman’s dog may be scared when it spots these undead servent… How will we deal with them, Tallmen?“
As the conversation continues, Immerine suddenly feels something touching her hands beneath the table, the soft wetness of a dog’s nose. Smiling to herself the young witch opens her palms then rubs the dog. Immerine looks under the table to meet the animal’s eyes then back up to the people around her. Sighing deeply, a single tear rolls down her cheek. Noticing Immerine’s reaction, a compassionate look appears in Ditalidas’ eyes. As their gazes meet she tosses the woman a quick warm smile. Immerine’s eyes meet those of Ditalidas. The noblewoman sees deep, raw pain for a moment before Immerine closes up again. She nods to her and looks down and Friend before turning her attention to the conversation about the paper.
Seeing a pain so similar to her own in the eyes of Immerine, Ditalidas has trouble keeping back her tears. As she sees Immerine closing up she whispers real softly: “Sometimes it’s better to share private pain than hold it and make live more painful than it already is…“ She closes her eyes “Wise words…“ lowering her voice even more she isn’t audible any more. “It’s too bad that wise words are so much easier spoken than followed.“
“Except when the pain held privately is someone else’s, Lady. I do not share this alone.“ Immerine speaks without looking up. Still sitting with her eyes closed Ditalidas nods. “That may be so, but carrying the burdens of others can also be very painful.“ She opens her eyes and looks at Immerine. “I didn’t mean to offend you. Please accept my apologies if I did. Maybe one day, I will share my burdens and pains with you. And maybe one day, you will share your burdens with me.“ She smiles sadly. She’s about to say something else but…
At Immerine’s query into the nature of her god, Portia nods her head in agreement. She’s right. Kelemvor is most definitely opposed to the undead, and a foe of Velsharoon. Listening to the others talk, she listens thoughtfully, reviewing all that has happened, trying and failing to piece it all together. “The one thing I know for sure is that there are Velsharans involved here. That alone is enough for me. As I was tasked by the Church to aid Matteo, I will follow his lead.“
“You should know, however, that I’m from Baldur’s Gate. I’m here in Berdusk only because the Church had heard rumors of a Velsharan priest running amok, and we’d managed to trace him this far. I must admit to being a bit frustrated when the Death’s Hand reassigned me to this mission. Now, however, I see that it might very well be connected to my initial search after all, and, in the end, the results will likely be the same; the destruction of a Velsharan priest and it’s undead minions. Now…“ Portia says, “…Let’s hear what Grim has found.“ She looks expectantly at the man.
Marc is surprised as he sees his companion licking this weird lady. When he sees her reactions his eyes light up a little. After he spends another couple of seconds thinking – his head tilted a bit – he looks at the lady, nods and smiles lightly at her. Then he focuses on the general conversation again.
Shifting his gaze from Immerine to Portia when she speaks, Grim listens attentively. He makes a slight nodding gesture with his head as she stops speaking. “Very well, I do trust your judgment in this… at least enough get on with what we came here to do.“ His right hand slowly returns from its previous resting place and joins its left brother… with the thumbs hooked behind the belt. “It might not be what you hoped to hear from me, but treated rightly it offers enough to proceed with.“ Looking very serious he walks to the table and takes a seat, placing the piece of paper in front of him. “I have some experiences in these matters and I am quite sure I have seen writing like this before, but for some reason the words keep slipping from my mind as I am trying to delve into its mysteries. Judging the form and flow of the words and symbols however does tell me that we are looking at the description of some kind of ritual.“
“The most important fact I managed to wrestle from this eluding piece of writing, is that the writing itself is in fact also magical! Experienced as I may be in deciphering that which is written, words made up of magic are beyond me…“ He slides the piece of paper back to Portia across the table. “I suggest that someone with knowledge of the magical arts takes a look at this, but make sure it is someone trustworthy because knowledge of the contents should, in my humble opinion, best be kept secret… rituals and magical things are to dangerous to be left unguarded.“
Kalil gasps at Grim’s story. He starts talking with an energetic voice “Oh, well, but, wow…“ Before Kalil even begins his sentence he stops, clearly frightened by his sudden enthusiasm. He looks around as if he has just seen a ghost. Kalil smiles just to relax himself and says slowly and softly “Ehm, I’ve been looking at the stone. It’s worth a lot and I’ve heard stories about these stones. They can be used in magical processes. If the paper is written with magic, maybe it details the use of the stone. Then, this find can be of great value, both monetary and… well, for our search.“ When he is finished, Kalil shrugs his shoulders as if he’s cold.
Calathra shrugs and says “Always about money, are you, merchant? Seems to me like you may have a point, too… Tallmen, I say we go to that wizard temple we just saw. We can make wizards read the fancy paper. If they ask for payment, we will give them Kalil’s jewel. Maybe we can ask them for my fear of those shadows I told Matteo before too.“
“We cannot go to the magistrati this late in the evening Calathra, nor am I prepared to hand over one of our few clues in payment. Does anyone here possess the ability to read magical writings?“ Matteo asks, looking about those gathered. Immerine speaks up, “There are many forms of magic and writings. If this is a clerical ritual written in the language of magic, I may be able to help. If you trust me, that is, to aid you in an attempt.“
Marc, sitting in his corner, looks up. He appears to be irritated. He looks at the gathered men and women and nods his head. Then he stands up and walks the few steps towards Immerine. He stops before her and turns at her, puts his hand on her shoulder and proclaims, “I do trust you, ma’am! …And so does Friend.“ – And indeed Friend can be seen sitting right up, close to Immerine, with her black and white nose comfortably laid in the witch’s lap – He turns back to the group and adds, still agitated, “Trust IS the key, you know.“ Then he turns to walk back to his barrel again.
The lady flinches when the boy touches her, but that is nothing compared to the surprise in her eyes when he proclaims his trust in her. She looks down at Friend immediately, more crystalline tears escaping their pooling home. Seeing what’s happening Ditalidas tosses Immerine a small sympathizing smile. On his way back Marc’s eyes meet those of Ditalidas. A glimpse of a smile shows up and disappears in one of the corners of his mouth, and as he passes her he stops, lays his left hand on her left shoulder and looks her warmly in her eyes. His hand is even warmer than his look; tenderly he caresses her shoulder a bit with his thumb. Ditalidas looks up at him and gives him a short but grateful smile. After a few heartbeats Marc says delicately “Trust me… you’ll win.“ Then he moves on and seats himself again.
Marc suddenly feels a dozen of eyes pointed at him and looks a bit startled. Then he smiles innocently and says, “Ehm… I don’t know either what’s keeping Elisa this long.“ His eyes show he’s curious for reactions on his proclamation. Soundless Ditalidas repeats Marc’s words with her mouth. “I’ll win?“ With a question lingering in her eyes she looks at Immerine to see if maybe the lady has any idea about what Marc was saying and why.
Matteo, momentarily distracted by Marc, looks intently at Immerine for a moment before slowly nodding his head. “Portia, why don’t you and the Lady Immerine try to determine what the paper says? Between the two of you, your combined knowledge might make the difference.“ Immerine raises a single eyebrow and turns to Portia waiting for her decision.
Kalil looks at both Matteo and Portia back and forth. He seems distracted, for a moment completely lost in thoughts. Then suddenly he comes back to this world and asks gently in general “When will you try to read the magical writing? I’m quite hungry. I propose we eat right now and get to bed. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. I want to go to bed early. Let’s examine the paper tomorrow.“ To Matteo and Portia he adds, “I would like to see how you try to read the papers. Please allow me to see you working on it.“
“Of course you can observe.“ Replies Matteo. “It is my intention to have the paper examined now. I have to report to Captain Zaina at the guard barracks regarding any information we may have found, not to mention whether we will pursue the matters of Tharkas’s murder and the activities of the Velsharans. It would be nice to have something to report. In the meantime, food is already on its way and I have arranged for rooms here to be made available.“
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