By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 48 - Foraging Eyes
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 10th day, mid-morning
Jez rises from the table and turns his head to Immerine and politely says, “If you ready my lady, I shall escort you to Thunderwood’s Foray.“
Immerine gives Jez an irritated look. She pats Nik gently and whispers close to his ear as she rises. When she finishes speaking to Nik she again turns to Jez, “I find it odd that a few moments ago the weather was too bad for anyone to go out and suddenly it seems fine. You people never cease to amaze me.“ The look on her face has changed to cold indifference and anger flashes deep in her eyes. “One thing I do not do, young Jez, is pander to people’s whims. Please keep that in mind.“ Immerine picks up her bundle containing her ruined armor and waits for Jez to lead the way.
“I shall.“ He says politely. Moving to the entrance of the Running Stag, Jez stops and dons hid cloak and pulls its hood over his head. He then opens the door for Immerine. As soon as she is outside, he follows her a step or two on her right and most definitely behind the healer.
The weather outside hasn’t changed much. The drizzle continues unabated, now and then stirred up by a cold wind. Immerine and Jez huddle up in their clothes to shield against some of the elements and they start walking across the courtyard. The mood of the few passersby is in stark contrast with the mood of those inside after Nik’s performance. Everyone seems to be in a hurry not to spend too much time outside. A horse drawn cart that passes in front of The Running Stag makes Immerine and Jez step aside quickly in order not to get covered in mud spatters.
“Slow down and be careful.“ rasps Jez at the driver. A look of cold irritation still apparent on his face, he briskly follows Immerine to the stables.
Immerine heads across the courtyard to the stables, she does not question Jez’s courtesy. Entering the stable she smiles and greets the stableboys and looks for Qwenta. When she sees her friend she walks to him, “Ah, my beauty, would you like to go for a walk? I need to go across this city and I am thinking you would like to stretch your legs, even if we are stuck in this interminable city of man.“ She opens the stable door for Qwenta to make his decision.
“He is yours my lady? A beautiful stallion.“ says Jez as he admires Qwenta. Turning away from Immerine, he looks at the stable boys and give them the “beat it“ sort of expression on his face then says to Immerine, “point me to your saddle and harness. I will retrieve it for you.“
Immerine does not see Jez’s look to the stableboys as she strokes Qwenta’s muzzle. “He is his own and my best friend. I raised him from a colt. I trust him like I trust no other. I was thinking of not riding with trappings. We are not going far and he enjoys his freedom. I am not afraid of losing him, now. We are getting uncomfortably familiar with this city.“
“Ah exercise. I see. You are a fortunate woman to have raised him. He looks very loyal and appears to have the markings of a stud. Does he like apples?“ Jez says.
“He does from me. He is very selective about whom he chooses to trust. He has a decided tolerance for Matteo. You may try to give him one if you like. If he chooses to trust you, he will not kill you – it is that simple.“
“Kill?“ gulps Jez. “Horseshoes and hoof prints… Ehm… I’m feeling risky but not that risky…“ Then he passes and looks at Qwenta and says, “you don’t mind if I feed you, well uh… an apple or two now and then. Uh, you won’t hurt me, will you?“
The stallion turns his head to face Jez and jerks his head high into the air twice. The intelligence behind the liquid brown eyes is unmistakable. His lips raise and he whuffs out a puff of air at Jez and then turns back to Immerine and neighs softly. Immerine laughs at her companions assent to the exercise and to Jez’s presence.
Jez blinks and his forehead wrinkles in confusion. “Uncomfortably? I do not understand.“
Immerine levels a gaze at Jez, her face blank. “I do not appreciate such places. Your cities are unfamiliar. I would never have dreamed to even begin to know one of these bastions of brutality. But now – I am changing, and so I must form new opinions of many things. Cities are one of those things, yet I will never enjoy them nor will I feel comfortable in them. Being caged in houses of dead wood and broken stone unsettle me deeply. The Stag is an acceptable location as it is home to a pure spirit, changed but loved.“
Jez stops and looks at Immerine. A scowl is about to mar his face, then he pauses a moment to consider her perception of the world. He says, “Berdusk is a good city with good people, more so with people like my family and even customers who frequent the Running Stag. But it’s not a bastion of brutality. That would be someplace like Waterdeep, or Zhentil Keep, or even Darkhold to the north. I hate those places; so many people without joy, mirth, or happiness in their hearts. I’ve heard some of them live in the gutters.“
“Now if it is nature and the open wilds, there is a park in Berdusk. But I’m worried of it as of late. There was a robbery recently in the park, last night I might add. It concerns me that such a thing would occur in a city as safe as ours. It also concerns me that a woman was a victim in this matter. I find such behavior appalling. I intend to look into this matter, by myself if need be. However, I could use someone of your insight and knowledge to help me find clue I might miss.“
“You strike me as a ranger, but I think you’re a druid.“
“I am Immerine. This means I am me, my training is that of a devotee of Khelliara. I also enjoy some wilderness training due to my – past experiences.“ The last two words are spoken with a mixture of loss and bitterness.
“I see you do not always speak insults to those you engage in conversation with. I am pleased I have withheld judgment on you. I am familiar with the Tor. I have been there twice now. Once the night before last with Lord Ashgale, and earlier this morning I took a nap beneath the boughs of one of its trees.“
Jez looks at Immerine who more than a moment then look of guilt and foolishness smoothly etches itself like an inked-dipped quill in the graceful hand of Deneirian scribe. “My apologies, it was rude of me to pry into such personal matters.“ His face suddenly livens again by with curiosity. “But who is Khelliara? I have heard of Eldath, Silvanus, Mystra, Lurue, aye even Talona and Bane. She must be from outside the Heartlands. Is she from outside the Heartlands?“
“You mean Nik?“ He says glumly. “Again my apologies, but I hold Lliira’s name most dear. It also wounds me to see a minstrel, aye, any minstrel or merrymaker in a state such as his. Looking at him reminds me of a dancer that has lost his foot, or leg, or his sense of balance. The way he consumes alcohol…“ Jez merely shakes his head. “Alcohol is to be respected, not indulged. It’s my belief that merrymaking, drinking and the indulgences of spirits be only done in festival, holiday, or wakes. Rarely is it used to loosen up and never to drown one’s own past no matter how terrible it may seem.“ He stops and thinks for a moment, “a victory drink or two after a good fight or challenge… but some Lliiran priests have been known to turn an eye from time to time.“
A mischievous smile creeps across his face. “I find Nik’s impulse to steal quite amusing for I’m a rogue myself. I do not steal on impulse mind you, but I have learned it can be a valuable skill from time to time. Besides my father is a locksmith. So I guess it’s in the blood.“ He pauses for a moment to catch his breath and continues, “It’s not the style of living I wish to continue in the near future or when I am older. I even considered dabbling in magic. But, I know not of any wizard that would train me. The wizards in Berdusk are a bit high strung, more so than I.“
“Speaking of wizards, Sememmon’s Donkey is one of the few songs I wouldn’t play, more or less sing, within earshot of Darkhold. I heard he sends assassins and cutthroats in the night to punish and even murder bards and minstrels foolish enough to string a chord, no, a verse from it.“
Immerine peers at the young man, a scowl of irritation forming on her face. “And, I never stated the people in this place were the cause of my dislike. What tears at my soul is the twisting and bending places like this cause the spirits of the land. However, most have adapted. Their voices are changed, but they are not silenced. I do not like the prisons you encase yourselves within. Matteo explained all this to me the evening before last, so please do not lecture me about it as well. As for investigating the robbery, I would not mind helping if you believe I could be of assistance.“
“I understand. We in the Heartlands have a saying, “A house is but where you stretch your feet after a day’s work. A home however is where your soul dwells. As far as you from your house, you never truly leave your home.“ I heard it once from a home-sick merchant.
Immerine’s green eyes blaze with anger as Jez continually interrupts her. “Forget it Jez. I have decided not to go to Thunderwood’s with you. What I have will have to last.“ Immerine runs her hands up her friend’s head and softly strokes down his neck. “I have no money to spend as it is. Another thing these places of so-called civilization have going against them. How you feel about Nik is your own opinion and not one I share. I was not just referring to your speech to the minstrel, but to your affectations towards the others and myself as well.“
Immerine walks from the stable, Qwenta following his mistress. Once outside she mounts her stallion, “If you want my aid in examining the Tor we should go now. If not, I will exercise my beauty and return to the inn – alone.“
Confusion simply washes over his face. “But I do not know the others at all.“ Nik was the only one I met, last night.“ He sighs and says, “I did not mean to offend you, my lady. If you lack coin to purchase new armor or repairs, I think I can loosen my purse. Besides, I was hoping to hit two orcs with one stone. My parent’s home is in the direction of Thunderwood’s Forays. I need to stop in an gather a few things of my own.“ “This could be my way of apologizing.“ He meekly concludes.
Immerine’s face is a neutral mask as she responds, “I do not accept charity. Lord Ashgale tried this with me once as well. If I do not have the means to tend to my own needs, then I will do without. I know you do not mean to cause insult by offering, which is why I am not riding away right now. If you choose to go to your home that is fine, I would like to meet the parents who would teach you Rashemi. And, you still have not accepted my offer of aid at the Tor – do you still seek my help?“ “Yes, I shall.“ Jez says meekly. “To the Tor it is.“
“Where is your mount? How will you keep up?“ Immerine asks as her eyes sweep the courtyard. “I can walk from here to the Tor. It’s not that far.“ Jez replies. Immerine rolls her eyes in exasperation, “I did not say it was far. I asked how you would keep up. If that is what you choose, then so be it. We will meet you there.“ Immerine nudges Qwenta forward with her knees and the great white stallion leaps forward.
Seeing the stallion’s white posterior gallop off into the distance, Jez closes the barn door behind him and rushes off into the city. A few passersby hurry aside, muttering curses under their breath, as Immerine races atop Qwenta through the streets and onto the Tor. Qwenta’s thundering hooves send mud spatters flying around. The animal seems relieved to run free after having spent so much time in the stables.
Jez sees Immerine and Qwenta quickly ride off towards Clearspring Tor. Quickly he sets off in a running pace trying to get there as quickly as possible. Deciding against a slippery shortcut, Jez decides to take the somewhat less slippery path that winds its way up the hillside. Ignoring the muttering passersby who are brushing off some mud from their clothes, Jez continues jogging uphill.
At an almost breakneck pace, Qwenta races up the hillside through the park and along the wall of the High Lady’s Castle. Immerine dodging branches and twigs as well as she can, exhilaration flooding through both witch and horse at the feeling of freedom. The cold drizzle stings the skin, but in a pleasant way to both rider and horse.
When Immerine finally takes control of Qwenta, she guides him to the top of the Tor. Panting from the sheer experience, Immerine looks around. Qwenta snorts comfortably and tosses his head up and down. Further downhill, Jez is making his way up, it’ll take him a little while to make his way up to the top. A couple of beeches grow on top of the hill, their thick, dark-red foliage providing a measure of shelter against the continuing drizzle. Small clouds of steam rise from Qwenta as he is cooling of pacing around, a light coat of sweat lathering his flanks.
Immerine slides off Qwenta and lands lightly. She twirls in the rain and finally hugs one of the trees. The borrowed gown is plastered against her skin, and her hair acts as a dark cloak where it has fallen from the coif. “Qwenta that was marvelous! We have to run free a bit more before we forget who we are.“ Immerine leaves the tree and hugs her horse putting her arms around his neck. She sighs deeply and looks at the area around her. Her eyes close as she stands there and she listens to the sounds of nature and the beating rain.
Immerine opens her eyes as she hears the rhythmic beating of Jez’s footfalls and the tang of his scent catches in her nostrils. Her eyes flare open as she sees him approaching the crest where she and Qwenta wait. When he gets closer he sees a smirk on her face that clashes with the plastered white gown most women would be embarrassed to be seen in – if wet. Straggles of long ebony colored hair give a marbled effect against the white background of the wet material, “So young master mouth.“ She challenges lightly, “What took you so long?“
Jez keeps his eyes down away from Immerine’s plastered white gown as a look of red embarrassment washes across his face. “I needed… the… exercise.“ He huffs.
Immerine looks at him puzzled by the blush and the aversion to looking at her. She looks at herself and at him. “Something wrong? What is it about you people and the female form? I thought I was in good shape, except for a few recent scars. In fact I am much more clothed now than I was earlier.“ Immerine gets a devilish grin on her face. “Have you ever been kissed?“
“Yes, I’ve been kissed before, on more than one occasion.“ He says with his eyes more or less concentrated on her face. “You’ve haven’t been to any feast halls, have you?“ The last phrase is more of a question than a rebuttal.
“You have lodges in this city?“ She asks in shock. Then she shakes her head immediately, “No matter. No, I have never been to a feast hall. I was actually wondering why you would blush. My other clothes are in bad shape and this dress was lent to me. There was this beautiful emerald gown with black lace…“ Her eyes get a dreamy look in them. “A gown any woman would be stunning in… but he had to ruin our time just like usual and I left without it.“
Her grin gets wider, “Have you ever had sex? Do you know human men, and I suppose other races too, swell when excited? The first time I saw this effect, I though the man was infected and offered to relieve the pressure. Odd thing men.“
The blonde haired half-elf smiles when Immerine’s response to his question befuddles him… for a moment. “Yes, Berdusk has a lodge. I am elven in blood. I am hot-blooded and passionate, but even I have my pride and honor. I must show respect to women, both above and below my station in Berdusk.“ He stops and ponders what she means about the blouse. He finally says, “It’s not the manner of dress but rather your presentation. That is why I blushed.“
“My lady, my first sexual initiation into adulthood was in at a Lliiran festival, an event arranged by mother, but approved by my father.“ He says with a masculine smile. “I shall not privy you into such events or in detail.“ His last words are spoken with irritation.
“No matter. I am sure it meant as much to you as certain affairs I know of mean to other people. The act of procreation, I have been told, is pleasurable and addictive to most people in that they choose to enact it time and again. Personally I find it appalling. Now, where did the attack happen with the lady you were telling me about?“
“Ah, the romantic in you speaks.“ He says. “My act of pleasure was far more metaphysical, no, more spiritual than what most people engage. But it was equally erotic as well. It’s a pity it was only to happen once in my lifetime.“ The gleam in Jezbodiah’s eyes speaks the truth but also speak with a glimmer of sadness.
“Now let us search around the clearings in the Clearspring Tor. Look under the shrubbery and new any bushes. Look for of any pieces that look like they would belong to a necklace or similar jewelry, no matter how small. A woman was robbed last night and I want to know why? Maybe we can find a clue or some such?“
Immerine cocks her head to the side, “Perhaps the woman was rich. I have seen many atrocities in my life; a robbery does not rank among them. I agree with you though, things like this should not happen – no matter your sex.“
Qwenta snorts once and takes a few steps away from Immerine and Jez to start browsing on the wet grass. Immerine smiles gently and rubs Qwenta once more, “Stay here my beauty and relax, I have to help Jez now.“ Jez moves into one, and Immerine into a different direction, both carefully examining the ground and looking under bushes. Though enjoying some shelter from the autumn foliage, the insistent drizzle soon drenches the pair. After what seems not a long period, Jez finds several footprints, relatively concentrated in an area. Though it’s obvious that they are footprints, the young half-elf can’t make much more out of them. The weather from last night and this morning hasn’t done much good to the prints.
“Damn rain.“ Jez mutters to himself. Immerine continues her search, oblivious to Jez’s discoveries. “My lady.“ Jez asks. “I’ve found tracks. This looks like the sight of the struggle.“ The area where Jez is looking is about 10 yards from the source of the Clearspring. There are several shrubs and small trees in the area. The ground is sprinkled with dead leaves and twigs. The site enjoys relative obscurity; form the Seat of Lore the site can be seen over some of the lower bushes. The whole scene breathes a form of serenity that is hard to imagine in the middle of a crowded city. The sound of the water, issuing forth from the ground and cascading in a series of waterfalls towards the harbor, provides a relaxing background ambiance.
The only sounds of civilization that penetrate into the heart of the park today are the sounds of the crews in the harbor loading and unloading barges, and the occasional barking of dogs.
Immerine heads over to where Jez is searching being careful not to disturb any remaining evidence left by the rain. “Hmmm…“ She says as she examines the ground. “The guard have been here, trampled most of what remains. But there are some tracks left of the original occupant in this area. They are older… let me see if I can learn anything else from the, or where they may have led.“ Immerine kneels and looks very carefully at the tracks. She uses her fingers to tell her things her eyes may not find and she inhales deeply, before realizing what she is doing. She snorts abruptly then continues.
It takes a while, and Immerine subconsciously realizes most if not all the scent of the footprints owners has washed away with the rain. Yet by studying bent twigs, blades of grass and overturned stones, she can discern a vague pattern that seems to lead in the general direction of a grouping of rhododendrons. Behind these bushes is a somewhat steeper side of the hill, almost cliff-like.
Immerine slowly heads off in a direction towards a patch of rhododendrons. She steps into the bushes, when a vision of Matteo’s broken body flashes in her mind as she peers over the ‘edge’. She takes and involuntary step backwards then shakes off the imagined sight, her face an odd mask. She shakes her head and returns to her task.
“Leave it to the city guard to muff up an investigation.“ Jez says, as he allows Immerine to finish what she is doing. He keeps his distance and allows her to concentrate but often wonders what is she is doing. ‘Why is she breathing so deep?’ “You can smell them?“ He says amazingly. “What did you think you saw, ehm, scented?“
“Actually, no. I cannot smell them. I had a dream recently and find myself doing a few unusual things because it was so real.“ Immerine looks over her shoulder amusement in her eyes. “That would be an unusual gift even for a barbaric witch.“ She returns her attention to the ground.
“I don’t know.“ replies Jez with a smile. “I heard druids can exasperate the growth of plants and rangers can… speak… to animals…“ The half-elf’s voice beings to trail off as he looks in another direction. The grouping of rhododendrons grows over a small cliff-like face on the hill. Suddenly it dawns on Jez; below those bushes is a shallow cave that leads a little into the hill… Lover’s Embrace it’s called… “Heh… I should have known!“ Jez says in a knee jerk reaction. “Lover’s Embrace. The site where young lovers sometimes go in spring and summer…“ Jez quietly heads in that direction, but remains careful not to disturb or destroy any evidence. “Are you coming?“ He says to Immerine. “Lead on, I will follow.“ Immerine says quietly.
Jezbodiah slowly walks in the direction of the rhododendrons, followed at a short distance by Immerine. Both examine the ground and the bushes for any signs that might hint at the possible kidnappers. As the two edge closer to where the cliff-like rock face starts, Jezbodiah suddenly sees a piece of black cloth. When Immerine sees Jez stop in his tracks and look at something she notices the cloth as well. It seems to be a scrap torn of from a larger piece. The end of a broken-off branch seems to have snagged it. Upon a closer look, the edge of the scrap of cloth has a little patch of white as well.
Immerine gingerly steps forward and looks at the area then looks closely at the branch and the cloth. She plucks the cloth from the branch once she has examined it in the larger surroundings first. “I want to check the cave out before we leave.“ Jez says. “I also noticed you had a look of amusement on your face moments back, do you mind telling me what that was about?“ The tone in Jez’s voice is more inquisitive than anything else.
Immerine offers the cloth to Jez to see if he recognizes anything about it. “The amusement was nothing more than remembrances, nothing of importance, other than to bring a smile to my face. Do you see anything you know about the cloth?“
Jez looks intently at the piece of cloth, but shakes his head, as he can’t make heads or tails from it. Leave it to the city guard to botch an investigation.“ Quips the young half-elf as he gently folds the scrap and carefully places it in his pocket. Carefully Jezbodiah and Immerine descend the hillside toward the cave opening. It is apparent that the cave is used much by the locals, the edges have worn smooth, and there are even old remains of a fire. When their eyes have adjusted a little to the gloom in the cave opening they see that the cave leads a little into the hillside, and curves around a little, obscuring the end from here. Yet there are a couple of fresh footprints visible, even to Jez’s untrained eye. The prints seem to lead deeper into the cave.
Immerine purses her lips together. “I did not bring my pack, so I do not have a way to see in the dark. However…“ She pulls a vial from a pouch at her waist, “May I have the cloth back. I may be able to discern something.“ “Sure.“ Jez says. “Just don’t damage it. I may need it in the future.“
“What I intend to do will leave it unscathed. That is – unless the spirits choose to take it for themselves.“ The witch kneels on the floor of the cave, placing the cloth on her thighs and stares at it for several moments before closing her eyes to tune into the sounds and feelings of this area. Her free hand touches the material gently and strokes the fabric, then drops to the rough stone and caresses the rock tenderly. Her face settles into a mask of utter calm. Her eyes open and she takes the stopper from the vial and upends the contents into her mouth then swallows quickly. Her eyes close again and she drops into a trance.
Fascination overtakes Jezbodiah as he continues to gaze upon Immerine. “Interesting woman.“ He thinks to himself. Subconsciously voicing his thoughts. “Skilled in magic, but what kind. I wonder what she will think of my mother and father.“ Jez continues to gaze upon Immerine’s form but says nothing that would impede her contact with her magic and the spirits she seeks to communicate with.
Immerine opens her eyes a few moments later and looks down at the fabric again with a furrowed brow. She says softly, “Of course… possibly…“ She looks up and sees Jez gazing at her, “I need to keep this so I can show it to Matteo and the others when we return to them.“
The witch stands and looks at the tracks leading into the cave. “These tracks are less than a day old, possibly a half-day. One was carrying something heavy and there are four sets. We must follow them… I have to know.“ She stands up and leans on her staff for a moment. Her gaze sweeps through the cave looking for something to use as a torch. Then they settle on Jez again and she laughs out loud, “You need to shave.“
“Of course you may keep it.“ Jez says. “But what did you discover?“ And with a puzzled look, “I need to shave?“
“The cloth may belong to a missing companion. Something feels odd about this. And yes, you need to shave I can see every single bit of stubble quite clearly right now. Please Jez, we have to follow these tracks while I can still see this way to take advantage. Do you have anything I can use as a torch?“
“Uhhhh, shave, uh okay.“ Replies the confused and young half-elf. “I have my cloak. I could scrap it and we could use the cloth as fuel.“ Jez looks around him for a dry branch or even a wet branch that would do effectively a makeshift torch. Once he finds one, he removes his cloak and shreds the bottom half portion of it.
While Jez is making a makeshift torch, Immerine strips off her soaked dress and slips into her slashed armor and wraps her ruined cloak around her frame. Her body is firm and supple, recent wounds crisscross her pale skin like tiny roads of agony etched into her flesh. “This isn’t much better than that dress, but it will provide a bit more protection. That is – if we encounter something.“
Immerine looks fierce in her studded leather armor. The staff suddenly appears as a fierce weapon in very capable hands. She looks wistfully at the one piece of armor she did not don… a studded facemask. Her hands shake gently as she wraps it in the dress and carefully stows the clothing in the bundle she was going to originally take to Thunderwood’s Foray.
Jez unsheathes a dagger from his boot and begin thrashing his only protection against the day’s rain. Now and again he looks up at Immerine stripping his cloths. His breathing becomes slightly laborious and lightly heavy. His face blushes but one cannot tell if it is the weather or his steadily pumping heart.
With his cloak removed Jez’s frame appears more to Immerine now. Jezbodiah is significantly taller than any normal half-elf, almost 6 feet, but his figure is lean, slender and graceful. Even from under his cloths, Immerine can see he is a natural born dancer and acrobat. His chest and shoulders, although slightly broad, is pack with strong wrench-like muscles. His stomach and waist are lean and slim, almost catlike, leaving his hips, thighs, and calves packed with heavier muscle. Behind Jez’s now-vanquished cloak are two scabbards tied with peace strings. One is a slim but lengthy dagger bearing an emblem on the pommel. The other is a rapier.
Finally, with enough of his cloak shredded, Jez sheaths his dagger in boot then he finishes knotting the cloth into a tight bundle on one end of a wet dead branch. Jezbodiah says, “How are we going to light this thing?“
The young woman frowns as she looks up at him, “My flint and steel are in my saddlebags back in my inn room. However many things can be adapted when there is a need.“ She unpacks the studded mask. “Let me see one of your metal weapons. I can use the hilt to create a spark and hopefully it will catch in the fabric.“ Jez lift his leg and retrieves his dagger from his boot sheath. He hands it to Immerine pommel first. “I’ll hold the torch.“
Immerine takes the dagger and strikes it against the studs on the facemask. A few sparks land on the cloth but nothing takes. She tries again. And again it fails. Not giving in, she continues striking the studs and finally a few sparks catch in the material. She leans in and blows trying to turn the smolder into a blaze. Finally the makeshift torch flares to life but it burns hot and very smoky. Immerine coughs as she gets a whiff of the smoke.
“It burns and now I can’t smell anything else.“ She stands up and looks at the ground and takes the torch from Jez. “Come on we have to move while I have a way to see so I can track.“ She quickly moves further into the cave.
Once finished with his dagger, Jez graciously takes his weapon from the ebon-haired spirit-talker. “Your sense of smell shall return shortly.“ He says. “Don’t fret over it.“ Then Jez follows her with his hand grasped on the hilt of his dagger and his other hand, behind his back, on the hilt of his rapier.
Carefully studying the tracks, Immerine moves deeper into the cave, followed by Jez. The entrance part of the cave had more sand on the floor, making tracking easy, deeper into the limestone cave there is less and less sand. The cave’s entrance though formed by water seeping through the soil above and eroding the soft rock, has no stalactites and stalagmites. Only a few pieces of flowstone give testimony to the cave’s origin. Following the trail is almost impossible at this point, but Immerine’s enhanced vision allows her to note the tiniest disturbance. Yet surprise is clear on her face as the trail stops at a blank wall.
“They go beyond the wall.“ Immerine reaches out to touch the wall. She runs her fingers along it to find a way through or means to open it. “It would appear so.“ Jez begins to look for features, hairline cracks, and such. Both Jez and Immerine try to discern if there are cracks or outlines in the wall of the cave where the tracks have suddenly disappeared.
Immerine frowns, as she finds nothing. “Perhaps notifying Lieutenant Aluar… Aaahhh!“ Immerine loses her balance as her hand passes through a section of the wall. She stumbles forward into a rough-hewn passage. “Jez!“ She whispers urgently. Jez suddenly sees Immerine tumble straight trough the seemingly solid wall. Blinking in disbelief and at the sudden lack of light, the young half-elf looks again at the section, from behind which comes an urgent whisper.
Suddenly the section becomes translucent and the light from Immerine’s torch shines back into the section where Jez stands. Immerine sits on the ground in a rough-hewn passage that leads deeper into the hill. A rancid stench wafts up from below, a smell that reminds Jez of the sewers.
Stepping through the wall, Jez enters on the opposite side and the reek alone is enough to remind him of an earlier encounter. “Bloody Hell.“ He mutters softly. “I thought I’d seen the last of this place.“ He looks at Immerine, “Aren’t you glad you inhaled that smoke?“ The look on the witch’s young face indicates that maybe she can smell something after all. “Oh yes, I am sure it would be much worse.“ She stands up and looks around for the continuation of the tracks.
The passage, hewn out of the solid limestone leads downward in a rather steep slope. The air is damp and rank and clearly smells of offal and unidentified other sources. The wall glistens a little in the flickering torchlight. Mosses and small fungi grow in abundance on both sides of the narrow passage. Overhead tendrils of slimy algae hang down, now and then releasing drops of water to the uneven floor. It is obvious that the passage has been used recently, there are scrape marks left and right on the rough walls, and Jez spots another piece of cloth a little further down the hall.
The half-elf proceeds cautiously down the corridor and towards the scrap of cloth. Immerine unconsciously cringes with each step as precious evidence of prior passage gets eliminated. She remains silent though and is in a hurry to press on. Yet with Jez’s careful lead, the two progress slowly further down the hall. Despite carefully placing their feet, now and then they slip on the slick floor yet each time the two regain their balance easily. A hurried progress would surely send them tumbling down head over heels.
When Jez arrives at the piece of cloth, he finds it is different from the first piece. A much coarser fabric, it seems most likely to be part of a cloak or robe. From his position in front, Jez can see further down the passage. At the limit of his vision the passage seems to intersect with another passage. The sound of running water is clearly audible, as well as irregular dripping sounds.
Immerine wrinkles her nose and each time she touches the slimy walls she shudders. “Just another benefit of your so-called civilization.“ She whispers at Jez’s back. She looks worriedly at the torch. “I am losing the light. We may have about five moments more if I am judging right.“ She looks at her own tattered cloak. “Maybe more if I sacrifice my cloak. Do you see anything?“ Immerine presses close to the half-elf. Her body brushing into his as she peers around him to see signs of previous passage.
“Don’t look at me.“ He whispers. “I’d rather be outside on Clearspring Tor than in this dung hole. I had no clue as whether this passage would take us under Berdusk or not. Twice in one day. No sane Lliiran would celebrate in this place, more or less be caught in here.“ Immerine can hear the tone of voice change to disgust and sarcasm. “I’m going to soak in a hot bath when I’m out of this sewer.“
Seeing the light slowly dim, Jezbodiah says, “If the torch is going out, use some more of my cloak. I can always get another one.“ At a slower pace, Jez proceeds down the hallway. “It’s coming to an intersection.“ He whispers. Jez kneels and retrieves the other piece of cloth. “We’ll examine this when we have better light.“ Immerine nods and hands the half-elf the makeshift torch. While waiting she continues to look around searching for signs of recent passage.
Jez takes the slimed piece of cloth and folds it away in his pocket. “I suggest we take the passage that has the best light source.“ the half-elf says as he snaps the remnant of his cloak off his back. He takes the mangy fabric and says to Immerine, “Shred more pieces off my cloak, but make them long pieces.“ He takes the torch from Immerine. “I’m going to hold the torch sideways. I want you to drop the tip of cloth onto the torch and wrap the cloth around as quickly as possible. This will give us more light.“
“I wish we had a flask of oil right about now.“ Jez mutters. Immerine raises a slender eyebrow, “No. We are following the tracks. Or, at least I will be.“ Immerine tears several long strips of cloth and adds these to the torch trying to keep it lit. After she is finished she sticks her singed fingers in her mouth and takes the torch back in hand and squeezes past Jez to follow the tracks. “Ugh! Slime! I’ve got slime in my armor!“ She says sharply as she feels some of the cold moss and slime slide between the gashes in her armor. If only Immerine could see the smile on his face. The half-elf merely but briefly snickers. “I was already down here once today. Waist high in it.“
“Looks like you’ll need a bath after all.“ He takes the remainder of cloak and follows behind Immerine, who descends further down the slope to the intersection looking for clues. The other ‘tunnel’ is nothing more then a sewer channel. Due to last nights snowfall and the subsequent rain, the level of water in the sewer reaches a little into the side tunnel. The only way to continue is to wade through the murky water either up or downstream. A slow but steady flow suggests passes form left to right. Occasionally something unidentifiable bobs past on the surface.
Carefully studying the rough masonry walls of the sewer, Immerine can’t see any indication about the direction their quarry took. A splash downstream suddenly attracts her attention. When she raises the torch a bit higher she sees a tiny shape in the water swimming downstream.
Immerine’s face twists into disappointment and anger. Sighing deeply she growls, “Back. We should go back. I think Lieutenant Aluar would appreciate knowing about this. Then we should find Matteo, I believe he was going to Lord Sillisten.“ Immerine looks back over her shoulder and shakes her head. “What did you see?“ Jez asks. “Absolutely nothing. I have lost the trail.“ She begins a long stream of Rashemi in which she says something about her skills and it isn’t very nice.
Jez blushes a deep red at Immerine’s stream of foul language. “Okay, let’s go get the authorities and your friends and some supplies too.“ Immerine laughs sharply at Jez’s embarrassment, “And I thought I was naive. Please Jez. Those are hardly the worst of things I have learned over the years.“ She falls silent as they return to the secret wall. “I’m not naïve.“ Jez says. “It’s just… oh never mind…“
“Where are we going anyway? Can we stop by my parent’s house on the way? It’s not that far from the Running Stag and I have supplies that could help us.“ “We are going to the barracks. From there we will be returning to this area, so on our way back to the Running Stag we can stop by your parents.“ Immerine pushes on to get out of the sewers as fast as possible.
Climbing up through the rough and narrow tunnel, Jezbodiah and Immerine emerge a little while later at the mouth of the cave. Both are relieved to breath fresh air, and the drizzle that is still falling out of the gray sky suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. A whinny comes from a little down slope, followed by the thundering of hooves as Qwenta gallops uphill toward Immerine.
“I see Qwenta is happy to see you.“ Jez replies as they exit the cave. The young lady smiles softly as she runs to meet her friend. “Uh, may I get a ride this time. My parent’s home is not that far from the Running Stag. It’s just down the street a bit.“ Jez replies a little perplexed as Immerine runs off to her friend.
After Immerine and Qwenta get re-acquainted, Immerine and Jezbodiah set off in the direction of the barracks, Qwenta following his friend. After a short walk, the three turn onto the road leading up to the castle gate and the barracks beyond. Two guards are standing close to each other at the gate. Their conversation stops when they see two persons and a horse walk up to the gate. One of the two walks towards the three. “Hail and well met. Please state your business.“
“I am looking for Lieutenant Aluar. Do you know where I may find him?“ Says Immerine as she looks at the stone structures with discomfort. The guard looks ate her for a moment and then at Jezbodiah. “I don’t think the lieutenant is present at the moment. But let me check.“ He turns around and walks through the gate, shrugging his shoulders as he passes his colleague. The other guard looks at him and then shifts his attention to Immerine, Jezbodiah and Qwenta.
After a while the guard returns, marching through the gate towards Immerine and Jez. He stops in front of the two and addresses Immerine. “The Lieutenant is currently not on duty. He will return to duty later today. You might want to try and come by later.“ Then his gaze shifts past Immerine and Jez to a point further down the road. He reaches out with one hand and gently applies some pressure to Immerine’s arm. “Please step aside! And saer, could you make sure your horse doesn’t bolt.“ At that moment Immerine and Jez hear the sounds of several hooves clattering on the cobblestones. Qwenta’s ears swivel back and forth and he let’s out a loud whinny. From the base of the hill a mounted patrol is riding up the road towards the castle.
A sudden but brief flash of annoyance flashes across Jez’s face. Looking at the soldier, he politely replies, “Qwenta is not my horse. Qwenta belongs to my companion.“ He twirls his wrist and gestures until the flat hand of his hand is directed at Immerine. “Ask her.“
When the sound of trotting hooves catches the young half-elf’s attention, he turns his head towards the direction of the patrol. He turns and whispers to Immerine, “We should wait a moment. We may learn something.“ He nods his head towards the direction of the advancing patrol.
Immerine stares coldly at the man who would dare place a hand on her. When he tells Jez to control his horse, her face goes stark white and her eyes blaze at the impudent soldier. However before she can re-educate the man, Jez speaks and she takes a deep breath murmuring: “These barbarians do not know your ways, these barbarians do not know your ways.“
Immerine openly says in a tightly controlled voice, “Qwenta back up and stand quietly.“ Turning to the soldier she takes her hand, grabs his wrist and attempts to pull his grip from her arm, “Do… not… touch… me… again.“ Then she turns her gaze to the oncoming patrol and waits without another word.
Immerine’s hostile but controlled demeanor attracts Jez attention once again. He turns his head away from the road draws it towards the guard and her. He awaits the outcome of the encounter with impatient content.
The mounted patrol rides by, not acknowledging Immerine and Jez, or the guard. The horses and the men are splattered with mud, and the moods of the riders don’t seem to be in high spirits. The guardsman at the gate snaps to attention as the horses thunder past him through the gate and onto the courtyard.
When Immerine reacts to the guard, the man looks at the woman, a slightly confused expression on his face. Taking his hand away from her. The confusion replaced by a hint of annoyance. “Like I said earlier, the lieutenant is not here. He will return later today.“ He looks once more at Immerine and Jez, “If you want to see him, I suggest you take a bath before doing so. A good day to you.“ With that he moves back towards his post at the gate.
“I know Barim, I mean – your Lieutenant, is not here. I know he went home after our night in the wilds and after he was debriefed. I was hoping you might be able to tell me where his home may be. But if you cannot do that, perhaps you could at least give him a message from me. My name is Immerine Adonamere and I am currently staying at the Running Stag. I have some information regarding an encounter that happened on the Tor last evening.“ Immerine keeps her tone level and impartial.
At Immerine’s words about the event on the Tor, the guard freezes in mid-step. Quickly he turns around. “You have information pertaining the… ?“ The man’s eyebrows are raised in surprise, giving him a rather comical appearance. “Oh… ehm… eh…“ The man stumbles over his words, “P-Please follow me then. I’ll take you to… to the Captain.“
Immerine takes a step backwards an unreadable expression drops into place on her face. “I would much prefer speaking with Aluar than Zaina. She and I do not agree about certain factors in life.“ Immerine states flatly. The half-elf nods his head and looks at Immerine. A puzzled looks crosses his face. The guard, about to turn and lead the two toward and through the gate, looks at Immerine, a quizzical expression on his face. “Well… ehm… I guess I can take you to the Sergeant of the Watch…“
Immerine looks at the man, a wry smile slowly growing on her face, “Or, you could tell me where Lieutenant Aluar lives.“ Jez looks at Immerine and cocks an eyebrow. ‘Very tenacious.’ He thinks to himself. ‘She has a smooth silver tongue.’ The half-elf waits for the guard’s response.
“Ehm…“ The guardsman is momentarily speechless. Scratching the back of his head he looks a little helpless from Immerine to Jez, back to Immerine and then to his colleague – who shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head. Turning back to the pair he stammers, “Well… ehm… I… ehm… I mean… If there’s something you know in regards to the events of last night… ehm… I’m sure the Lieutenant wants to hear from you and… but… he’s off duty…“
Fidgeting with his glaive, the guards stares at the ground for a couple of heartbeats before looking at Immerine again. “Lieutenant Aluar lives across from the Lonelycoins House. That is near the western quay of the harbor.“
Immerine smiles gently at the guard for his final admission. “I would not presume to intrude upon the Lieutenant. Nor would I like to cause you any difficulty. Speaking with Captain Zaina will do just fine, but I am not sure she will not enjoy speaking with me. Please could you arrange it?“
“Yes Ma’am! Follow me please.“ The guard turns around and sets of toward the gate and courtyard, not visible to Immerine he raises his eyes heavenward and sighs. Immerine nods and turns to Jez and Qwenta, “Would you both please come with me?“ There is a hint of nervousness in Immerine’s voice and the skin around her eyes tightens wildly as she swallows hard. “I hate your civilized castles.“ She whispers.
“Sure.“ Jez says respectfully. “I understand, but mind you, I’ve never been in a castle.“ He stops and continues, “You know Qwenta will need to stay outside in the courtyard.“ Immerine snaps her mouth shut before she says anything rude. She lowers her chin to her chest, takes a deep breath then looks back up at the half-elf. “Yes, I know he cannot enter. But I also know he would not want to and I know he will stay in the courtyard, but this is the front gate.“ Immerine looks up at the stone edifice, “I have been here once before. I hated it then and I am sure I will not enjoy it this time.“
She suddenly smiles, “Captain Zaina is a very attractive woman and she is very adept at her job. I should not dislike her but I do, on a personal basis. I feel I am not in her good graces either, as I have hurt her without meaning to. Perhaps she will like you.“
“May Lliira smile upon me.“ Jez says with a jovial wink. “I am a son of Berdusk, although I am not First Born. Hopefully, I can convince her of the situation, but I need to know what you saw in the tunnel. Do you think the patches of cloth we found are related?“
“What do you mean what I saw in the tunnel. I lost the tracks. Rather than pursue quarry blindly, I prefer to get help. I have not been able to examine the second piece of cloth yet. Matteo should be able to tell us more. He is an… ehm, a cloth merchant.“ Immerine gives a ghost of a smile, before schooling her face to neutrality.
As the pair steps through the gate, they see the patrol that just arrived dismounting. A couple of grooms rush forth from the stables and start to take care of the horses. On the other end of the courtyard, a door opens and Captain Zaina emerges. Ignoring the cold drizzle, she marches towards the patrol. The squad leader jumps to attention and salutes his commander. Captain Zaina returns the crisp salute and starts talking to the man.
“Their escort turns around and says, “The Captain might be a while. She’s debriefing the patrol. If you want, you can wait here under this shelter. The man gestures at a slate covered wooden overhang. A couple of crates are stacked at one end, and two barrels are placed at the other. “I’ll inform the Captain of your arrival.“
“Thank-You, this will be fine.“ Immerine says to the guard. When the escort walks off Immerine points to Zaina and says, “There she is Jez – Captain Zaina. She seems quite infatuated with Matteo… I feel very sorry for her.“ Immerine unconsciously plucks moss from her armor and hair. “How so?“ Jez says as he looks at Immerine cleaning herself. “She is the Captain of the Guard. Why would she be infatuated over Matteo?“ There is no mockery or distain in his voice. The perplexed look on his face says all.
Not taking her gaze away from the Captain she smiles sadly, “Matteo is a very handsome and intriguing man. He is also self-absorbed and completely out of touch with his emotions. He is demanding and he is irritating. I saw the way she looked at him the first time I was in a meeting with them. Her eyes got very soft and her attitude was overpowering. I think Matteo is attracted to her as well. She would be interested in him for many reasons, none of which I will speak of at the moment. I feel very sorry for her, because she will never win Matteo. He is beyond her…“
“Love denied of the heart and none as such shall awaken my feelings, save duty, loss, and the love I can not speak; as quoted by the Lliiran balladeer, Rommel Brightharp.“ Jezbodiah gathers himself for a moment then continues. “I understand Saer Matteo now. More so I count myself as one who never entered the Berdusk militia.“ Immerine glances sharply at Jez, “That was absolutely beautiful, perhaps there is hope for you yet – but not for ‘Lord’ Ashgale. How do you mean you understand him? I do not even think he understands himself.“
“People are locks.“ Jezbodiah replies, “Some are easy to open. Some are not and some never do. Saer Matteo however is a lock, intricate, and difficult to pick open. All he needs is the right key.“
“Perhaps. But, perhaps he is rusted shut and tied within himself showing a bitter, arrogant facade to the world. For such locks there is rarely a key.“ Immerine smiles sweetly but her eyes glitter with an entirely different emotion.
“The man needs to open himself. Oh, and the next time I see him, I’m going to invite to burke in the streets in Berdusk.“ Jez’s only reply is a strong joyous laugh. He smiles back at Immerine. He then remembers he is before the Captain-of-the-Guard and straightens his manners most expeditiously.
“What does ‘to burke’ mean? Is that a type of entertainment? I am sure the steadfast and grouchy lordship is too far above things like that. His only amusement seems to be attempting to steal Qwenta and getting bit as a side effect.“ Immerine sticks her tongue out and laughs lightly. Her laughter is like the tinkling of soft bells and Jez gets the feeling she does not laugh often enough. Qwenta hears his name and tosses his head and whinnies before nuzzling his mistress’ hair.
Jez’s face turns beat red. “I choose a wrong word. I meant busking instead of burking. I don’t think Saer Matteo is into suffocating people. I need to wipe the proverbial egg off my face.“ Immerine’s look gives Jez the idea that she doesn’t agree with his assessment of Matteo. “I would say he is quite capable of that task. But what is busking? Is it something suitably demeaning? Would he look foolish doing it? If so, I may help you get him into the streets.“
“Busking? Demeaning, well no.“ Jez says, “Dancing and singing in the streets or the Festhalls during festival is very fun. It might loosen Saer Matteo up just a little. Besides, I dance, juggle, and play the drums.“
“For Matteo that would be demeaning – though you would not get me to do those things either. I tell stories, but they are not stories most people enjoy hearing. I teach with my ballads and they are not sung. There is rhythm to them but it is the music of life and nature.“ Immerine stops plucking at her hair and armor, “This is disgusting muck. I long for the bath I had this morning!“ She says in a slightly raised voice. Qwenta paws the ground in response to his mistress’ irritation, getting agitated himself.
“You would never dance or sing in the streets?“ Replies an inquisitive Jez. “You strike me as a free spirit and you look like the one who would most likely to do so. I know of several dances, most of which celebrate nature and the changing seasons. The spring equinox festival is only a few months away.“ The half-elf looks at Qwenta’s sudden change of behavior with regard and interest. “It seems Qwenta agrees with you.“
“I have never participated in any of the festivals. Never, not since… well, not in a very long time.“ Pain crosses Immerine’s face and a haunted look enters her eyes. “What happened.“ Jez asks politely.
“Life happened.“ Immerine says quietly and looks away. “Then I shall stop asking questions.“ Jezbodiah says respectfully. “I hope the Captain-of-the-Guard or whoever would speak to us very soon.“
“I am not prepared to speak of the dark times of my life Jez. Please understand. But know that not all joy died, I have Qwenta and he has been my pleasure until recently. Are you mated with anyone yet Jez? Or are you still searching for a life-mate?“ Immerine’s face drops back into a mask of complacency.
Jez face begins to blush and his jaw drops slightly. He composes himself for a moment then speaks, “No, I have no lifemate. My first love was a dryad. She was my initiation into manhood. She lives North in the woodlands above Berdusk. It was never meant to be. There was another but we parted ways. I have not seen her for two months.“ Immerine can sense a tang of bitter regret in the last sentence.
Immerine hesitantly places her arm around Jez’s shoulders, “Matteo is not the only one with a broken lock. Perhaps you will find someone with the right key.“ She smiles at Jez and squeezes his shoulders gently. “My lock was broken.“ Jez says sighing. “Someone found the key to my head and heart and lost it. I wonder if it will be found again someday.“
“It will be found – someday. I am sure of this. You are not truly everything you seem on the outside. You will find a mate to your heart and soul.“ Immerine smiles gently at Jez.
Jez doesn’t seem convinced at her words. It’s like his head and heart are yearning for bitter-sweet memories, like fresh words written on paper, only they are irretrievable by the clumsy hand knocking over an ink well, memories and words that are never to be his again.
He tilts his head in Immerine’s immediate direction. “What’s the world like outside Berdusk? I’ve been as far West as Scornubel but no farther. Is it adventurous as wizards and mercenaries say it is? It has been a dream of mine to venture far to the North beyond Cormyr, some day. I’ve heard stories and legends about Myth Drannor.“
“I do not know how to compare the world outside this place with the world inside. Outside life is simpler and rougher. In here I believe you have the dangers of society and deception of those you live with. Outside you know your chances against the world, in here you guess at your place from hour to hour. Given the choice I would gladly live outside these walls, but then again… I was not raised to them. Pursuit of stories is something of a fool’s quest. The stories will always be stories, and may never be fact. In most instances, they disappoint the finder. As for adventure, you obviously can have them here as well as there. What does the surrounding matter?“
“The surrounding depicts the ideals and its location. It is a foundation, no, a dance floor one shuffles his feet and sways his body with rhythm and beat. The surrounding is good for the experience, the chance to learn new ideas, to meet new people, and to fall into the clutches of trouble when the situation rears its head time and again. The heart of an adventure is to open your mind to new experiences and the dangers that come with them.“
He smiles, “And what I have learned from you, you may have a story or two when you leave Berdusk.“
“I already have stories. I also brought many with me. I have learned new… dances. One of which I have played with the Captain.“ Immerine looks over at the woman who is briefing her troops. “She would have made a fine faydwer. I do not know if she would have made berserker though, but I have the feeling she has the heart of one.“
“Tell me of your parents Jez. You said your mother taught you of Rasheman? What did she teach and how did she learn?“
“Faydwer?“ Replies the questioned-struck rogue. “What’s a faydwer? A berserker, the Captain? I don’t know… They’re very violent people aren’t they?“
Uh my parents, uh where to begin…“
“Faydwer… ehm I believe the closest translation to your common tongue would be something like ‘Guardian Warrior’. No, the berserkers are not violent people, they are deadly in battle and almost all of them call upon their rage as needed – they do not rage out of control. Now, you were going to tell me something of your parents…“ Says Immerine with raised eyebrows at the half-elf.
“Yeah…“ He says almost reluctantly. “Both my parents are half-elves. I know only little of what my mother tells me, but she was born of a woman of Rashemen and an elven father. A rare pairing if there was one. My mother taught my siblings and me her native tongue as a means to communicate with each other without other people knowing what we are speaking. Rashemen is rarely spoken in the Western Heartlands. She told me of its people, their love of nature, and its witches, the true rulers of her homelands. My mother told me if I ever encountered a true witch I was to mind my manners and my tongue.“
“As my mother matured, she trained early in life hoping to wield the magics provided by Mystra and Azuth. But, an elder of the lands tested her. She murmured something to my mother about the lack of magic in her blood.“ He stops for a moment then continues, “She took it very hard. I guess she wanted to wield magic more than anything, but it was not to be.“
“My father met my mother while an adventurer in Rashemen and Thay. I believe he was acting as a caravan to a group of Lliiran architects. They were commissioned to build a grand Festhall in Mulptan. She told this is when she found her true calling in the Lliiran faith and left Rashemen. My mother taught my siblings and me her native tongue as a means to communicate with each other without other people knowing what we are speaking. Rashemen is rarely spoken in the Western Heartlands.“
“Then it may not be a joyous meeting between your mother and myself. Rashemi should not have been taught to Outlanders and if your mother were in the company of an elder she would know this.“ Immerine frowns deeply, anger etched into her face and mirrored in her eyes. She shakes her head vehemently, “My apologies Jez. There are some things I cannot evade or forgive as a member of the sisterhood. I will try, but that is all I can promise.“
“My mother is not a member of the Sisterhood. She never was. She defied the will of the Sisterhood and was exiled. She can never go home again… on pain of death.“ He replies politely. “She is happy in the Western Heartlands with my father and her duties to Lliira. Besides, I’m excepting a sibling soon. My mother is eight to eight and a half months due. I might have a brother or another sister.“
Immerine can see the mirth and sparkling merriment in his eyes. Immerine clenches her fists, and in a tightly controlled voice answers, “My congratulations on the upcoming birth. I also know a bit more about the Witches than you or even your mother. The only reason she lives is because they allow her to exist. Defiance is not tolerated, no matter how small.“ Immerine stands and paces in the small shelter and turns an impatient eye to the Captain.
Seeing the balled-up mass that is her clenched fists, Jez replies politely, “Me thinks an introduction should wait.“
In the mean time the guard has marched up to the Captain and the squad leader. When Captain Zaina acknowledges his presence, the guard snaps to attention, saluting the Captain. Captain Zaina looks past the man at the pair under the overhang and gives a nod in acknowledgement, her face impassive. She says something to the guard, upon which he salutes her again and turns about. Captain Zaina continues her conversation with the patrol leader as the guard marches back towards Immerine and Jez. “She’ll be with you in a moment ma’am, saer.“ Nodding his head in a farewell greeting, he returns to his post.
The sound of hooves and wheels on the wet cobblestones announces some sort of vehicle approaching the gate. The guard hurries towards the gate as the vehicle draws nearer.
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