By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 17 - Night Spires
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 8th day, late evening
Telsom and Ditalidas leave the Running Stag after Marc’s emotional outburst. Saddling up their horses the two of them ride of to the Jalarghar Spires to spend the night there. The cold night air carries the tang of early frost. The city is quiet, save for a few sounds: a dog barking, men working late at night at the docks, and a few late night revelers on their way to their beds.
Telsom remains quiet throughout the ride back to the Jalarghar Spires; he keeps his horse close to that of Ditalidas and reaches over once or twice to pat her hand holding the reigns of the horse reassuringly. Ditalidas appreciates the silence. With her head slightly bend she pulls the cloak tight around her against the fog and chillness of the evening.
As the couple arrives at Ditalidas’ home Telsom helps her down from her horse a slightly sad smile on his face. “I doubt an allegiance with that band will bring you anything but grief milady. Their ringleader speaks in shadows, the boy should be in an asylum, and the others seem to only care for material gain.“ Taking in an extended breath the man closes his eyes. “Despite the company we’ve come to spend time with and the ordeals of the day, you’ve a beautiful scent about you.“ Head tilted up towards the heavens the man remains close to Ditalidas although his eyes remain closed.
Ditalidas sighs before she answers Telsom and gives him a curious look. “I doubt they are as bad as you say they are.“ A short chuckle escapes her. “But they are indeed not the most ordinary band of people. But that’s mostly the case with adventurers. I have no problems at all with their attitudes. I just wish I knew why Marc got angry so suddenly.“ Although a blush appears on her cheek on his remark of her scent, she deliberately ignores it and sighs again. After a moment of silence she asks: “Do you want to go inside? Or would you like to stay outside for another moment?“ She shrugs a little against the chilly weather though she’s not really cold. “No. We should probably get you inside and into bed my dear.“ Reaching down and taking her hand in his, Telsom continues. “Shall we?“ Ditalidas tosses him a thankful smile. She takes his hand and nods her head. “Yes please.“ Walking beside Ditalidas, Telsom makes for the door. Entering he looks her in the eyes. “Do we part ways here or would you like me to make sure you are tucked in?“
Their eyes meet only for a second, for Ditalidas looks away quickly, her blush deepening. She laughs softly. “I’m not a child anymore that needs being tucked in. But thank you for the offer. I shall show you your room.“ Ditalidas guides Telsom trough the house until she reaches a spare bedroom. She opens the door and enters the room. She walks trough the room to see if everything is taken care off, though she knows for sure it is. Suddenly she turns around to look at Telsom, her dress making a rustling sound when it swirls around her legs. “I hope you find everything in order.“
The room is a comfortable suite; a large canopied bed dominates the room, glass paned doors lead to a small balcony overlooking the garden and providing a view up the hill towards the Castle and Clearspring Tor. A cast-iron stove is burning in one corner of the room providing comfortable warmth. Close to the stove sits a comfortable chair. The other furniture in the room consists of a large mahogany wardrobe of Tethyrian design and probably origin and a writing desk with a matching chair from Mulhorand.
Looking past Telsom, Ditalidas can see Ruldan approaching. “Good evening Milady, Saer.“ Ruldan politely bows his head to Ditalidas then to Telsom. “Is everything according your wishes Milady?“ Ditalidas gives Ruldan a smile and nods her head. “Yes, everything is in order. I didn’t expect anything else.“ She turns to Telsom. “If there is anything else you need Ruldan will take care of it.“ She looks at him with a warm light in her eyes. “I surely should not forget to thank you.“ Then she turns and starts for the door. At the door she glances one more time over her shoulder. “Have a good night.“ She smiles and leaves the room to go to her own bedroom
That night sleep is not peaceful for Ditalidas. The events of the day come back in her dreams, haunting her, scaring her. At first the dreams start peaceful; Ditalidas is sitting with her friends old and new in the dining room of the Jalarghar Spires. Some of the older friends include Elidi, Devdan and Masou. Of her more recent friends she sees Telsom, Druth, Marc and Immerine. When Ditalidas looks up to the head of the table. Panic surges through her as her father is nothing more than a grotesque corpse. Her stepmother is sitting next to him chatting with Telsom, oblivious to her husband’s state. Scared, Ditalidas looks around the table. Shocked she sees her friends are laughing at her, making fun of her. Marc, Masou and Elidi are making a parody of her encounter with the zombies. Telsom is in a passionate embrace with her stepmother. The rest of the entourage is either mimicking the scenes or have turned into corpses. In panic Ditalidas starts to scream, yet no sound comes forth. Then the scene fades away into nothingness…
Alone, in a gray waste Ditalidas feels vulnerable as unseen eyes seem to watch her. Looking down to her body, she sees that her clothing is dissolving, leaving her naked. Then her skin starts to dissolve and her flesh. Further and further Ditalidas seems to dissolve into nothingness, yet she remains aware of herself. How can that be? There is no more Ditalidas. How can I be aware of myself? Though the sight of seeing her body dissolve frightened Ditalidas, her new state feels comfortable, familiar and pleasant. The gray waste suddenly doesn’t seem so gray anymore. It feels as if the surrounding is charged with vibrant energy. Tiny motes of light seem to swarm about, blooming into splendid displays of color, not unlike gnomish fireworks, before flowing back into their tiny forms. To Ditalidas the place feels like home, like a new skin. Again the scene fades away into nothingness…
Ditalidas is out riding on Alana her riding horse together with. Her father’s dog Vidya is running beside the horse. She’s riding on a trail that runs parallel to the Reaching Woods for several miles. Vidya is running ahead, as suddenly he stops, hairs bristling and growling. As Ditalidas stops and dismounts to see what’s wrong, she notices that the ears of Alana are flattened and she reacts skittish. A sense of dread creeps over you, sending a chill along your spine. Trying to control the horse, you hear some movement coming from the forest edge. When you look, several figures, man sized, are walking toward you. Alana rears and Ditalidas losses her grip on the reins, then the horse bolts away. Vidya remains close to Ditalidas, growling and baring his teeth to the figures. Something about them doesn’t seem right. About a dozen of them approach from the woods, but you can see more standing just within the tree line. Somehow unable to move your vision is drawn to one of the figures, a woman it seems, but hideously deformed. Through her tattered dress rotting flesh is showing, and in some places bones. When she raises a hand toward you, a slow moan escapes from her mouth: “Daaauuuughteeeerrrr.“
Ditalidas eyes widen in terror. Her hart pounds wildly in her chest. She stumbles a few steps backwards, enlarging the space between her and this creatures a bit. “By the gods, what…“ At that point she realizes what the woman ‘thing’ had actually said. Weakness runs trough her legs when she stares upon the leftovers from, what this creature said, is her mother?
“Oh, no… no… no“ she shakes her head and lifts her arms as if she could ward them off by doing that. The pain that took over her heart is almost unbearable as she slowly allows herself to believe that there was a possibility that this indeed could be her mother. It would explain a lot… A battle takes place between the feeling of disgust… and what is it? A longing for her mother’s arms, warmth and love? Not able to decide what to do, she waits and sees.
The shambling figures crowd closer and closer toward Ditalidas. The woman – is it her mother? – Holds out another skeletal hand, as if to grasp her. A piece of her tattered cloak falls aside; Ditalidas recognizes a familiar symbol on the rotten tunic. It’s her families crest. Could this really be her long dead mother? Can it? A cold fear grips her heart, yet somewhere she wants to give in and fall into her mother’s arms. Ditalidas hesitantly takes a step forward when Vidya interposes himself growling between her and the undead apparition. When the undead woman ignores the dog and continues to advance on Ditalidas, Vidya springs forward and attacks the woman by going for her throat. As if this was the moment the other figures were waiting for, they shamble on, surrounding Ditalidas.
Turning about Ditalidas sees no way to escape, and panic takes hold. The other monsters all look familiar, Telsom, Lieutenant Aluar, Kalil, Immerine… All deformed in their undead status, yet clearly and painfully recognizable. Ditalidas wants to scream for the undead to go away, as suddenly she feels something familiar; something that seems has always been there. Focusing on that feeling, Ditalidas feels herself shrink into a tiny mote of light. Looking about she still sees the undead abominations approaching, yet she no longer feels panic. She feels more in control. Blooming into a silvery starburst Ditalidas lashes out. Energy flies from her fingertips, and silvery flames, almost liquid, stretch forth to strike the undead. One by one the undead fall down, burning away beneath the silvery flames. Exhausted Ditalidas sinks to the ground and the world turns dark…
The next morning Ditalidas awakes. Remembering her nightmare, she sits up straight in her bed, her clammy nightshirt clinging to her body. Wiping a hand across her face, she discovers it is wet: sweat. Ditalidas realizes at once that the morning air is cold. It is raising a multitude of goose bumps on her clammy skin. After refreshing and dressing herself, Ditalidas walks to the dining room to have breakfast. The table is set, but there is no one present. Slowly she seats herself at the table and looks at the food displayed before her. Though her stomach tells her that she’s hungry, the food doesn’t appeal to her. She decides that she should eat and takes a piece of bread but she trifles with it. Looking at the empty seats she wonders where everybody is.
“Fair morning Milady.“ Ruldan bows his head politely as he greets Ditalidas. “Saer Torentshed wanted me to inform you that he has already left early this morning. He bid me to hand you this letter.“ Ruldan draws forth a letter from his jacket. After reading the letter Ditalidas looks for a moment blankly to the peace of paper in her hands. Than tears moisten her eyes. She bows her head and crumples the paper in her fist. Again wondering why it is that people hurt her so easily these last few days. Still looking down on her to fists clenched hands she asks softly: “Ruldan? Could you please make sure that my horse stands ready? I’ll leave in a few moments.“ She doesn’t look up to meet Ruldan’s eyes, hiding the pain that lays in them, from him. She rises from her chair. “I’ll be in the back garden.“ and she leaves the room almost running.
Arriving at the garden she walks straight to the roses that were her mother’s favorite. Gently she kneels in front of the blooming beauties. Carefully she picks one of the flowers and breaths in their scent. “Oh mother…“ She whispers softly. “What am I to do? Why did you have to die?“ A single tear escapes her and a lonely feeling takes over her hearth. She feels she lost everybody who could potentially be her friend: her mother, Marc and not in the least Telsom. She stays there for another moment. Silently over thinking all that has happened yesterday and this morning. She can come only to one conclusion. “Get yourself together girl. Stop wining.“ She tells herself out loud. She folds Telsom’s letter and puts it in her pouch. Then she wipes her face dry and starts walking back to the house, retrieving her cape and her horse and heads over to the Stag.
Ditalidas arrives at the Stag, where one of the stable boys takes care of her horse. As she walks through the front door, Ditalidas is greeted by Mumadar, who is absentmindedly flipping a coin with his right hand. The dark-skinned man offers a warm smile of welcome. “Welcome to my humble establishment again Milady. Your friends have gathered in the private room. Please allow me to take your coat.“
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