Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Delilah's Diary--Episode 5

It is difficult for me to write the account of what happened a few nights ago. I started this journal as a catalog of the interesting people I meet in my journeys and to form inspiration for my stories. However... that night... Well. It didn't go how any of us expected. It is not a day I wish to remember, but I have fears of what may come from the events and my own involvement. While I may not wish to remember what happened, it may be that the details are absolutely necessary. With hesitant hand I set them forth.

Tristan and I were with Delia when Vixen arrived with a she-elf named Elenwe. She was quite a lovely thing--tall, blond, and dressed just the way I would picture a forest song, if forest songs were to put on skin and carry a bow. She smelled of forest and wilderness and wild runs. Her face was gentle and kind--yet there was sternness there also. She bore tidings that Illcoren had been called to the South and left us--just as our need was greatest. As you recall, we were about to face the priest of the nameless one, and needed all the help we could get.

Tristan seemed concerned about his absence, but then he turned to Tikaani and me and told us that what we were about to do was dangerous and could be deadly. He said this was his fight, not ours, and he would find a way to defeat the priest alone. We, of course, disagreed and said we would come with him. Tristan is certainly skilled, but he would never survive this battle on his own.

Delia had another priest with her whom I should also mention, by the name of Wigolais. He looked to be about our age if not a bit older, but--and there is no way to put this delicately--he was nearly as tall side-to-side as top-to-bottom. I am quite sure it would take two of me to make one of him. His chubby face was cheerful and it was no surprise to find out later that he was on a first name basis with not only the baker but with Mirabel (in particular with Mirabel's pastries). When he overheard our conversation he gladly volunteered his cudgel to our battle, as did Elenwe her bow.

As we left Vixen stuck close to me and pressed something into my hand. It was a pair of fox medallions. She seemed very concerned about my safety--as well she ought to have been. She pleaded with me to be certain to not try to fight any more fire demons or anything along that line. I thanked her for the medallions and assured her I had no intention of getting involved in the actual fighting. I can handle a blade well--I use them in my routines and practice often. I am, however, no fighter. I felt quite confident in my assurances that I would be as safe as could be given the circumstances. I wish now that... well. What is done is done. Vixen did well to warn me. And the medallions were more than the mere trinkets I took them for.

After a brief stop at the apothecary (where Tristan insisted on paying full price for the most expensive potions despite my offers to handle the negotiations), we followed Isa to the place where the golden masked one (whom we believed to be Ector, the other missing otter) would be initiating new converts. It had begun to rain, and as we walked Tikaani used her shield to cover her from the storm. The rest of us just got wet. Once arrived at the old house I offered to scout ahead to get a lay of the land. Elenwe decided to go with me, and it was a good thing that she did. Isa told us of a secret entrance, and quietly we crept down.

Soon we began to see a disturbing amount of clothing on the floor. A boot here, a shirt there, trousers in another spot. It looked as if several people, 4 judging from the sets clothing, had decided to undress as they walked the tunnel. (A side note that I think of as I write this. There were 7 boots. Seven. Four people. Why weren't there eight boots? It bothers me that I was too distracted later on to take note of whether one person was either missing a foot or wearing an unmatched shoe.) The clothing wasn't the only odd thing. Elenwe and I began to hear strange discordant music all around us. The closer we came to the end of the tunnel the louder it was.

Elenwe thought we should go back for the others but, alas, I was very determined to see this to the end. As we reached a curve in the tunnel she held back while I carefully looked around. In the room I saw several things. Four people--two men, and two women--kneeling with their backs to us. Considering what we had found in the hall I was relieved they all had matching leather jerkins on. Remembering the previous day I specifically searched the room for any strange light sources, and saw a warm golden glow. It was a golden dagger on a table in front of them. Between the table and the acolytes stood a man in purple robes wearing a golden mask. He was singing on them and breathing on them. As I peered around the corner he looked directly at me and beckoned, "There is room here for all." I tried to turn around, but found myself strangely drawn to the man and the room. I struggled to resist, but the best I was able to do was stand staring just inside the doorway. My reputation had preceded me--he knew I was a dancer, and that I was one of the foxes and traveled with a white mage. I suppose between my performance in the market place and winning the race I have made some sort of my name for myself in this little town.

Elenwe, of course, quickly returned to our companions and shared the news. Tristan, in particular was concerned when I did not return and the four of them quickly rushed to my aid.

I didn't even realize I'd looked away from the golden faced man, but suddenly there he was standing in front of me. The music seemed to be growing louder in my head and I felt something hot in my pocket. I felt for the medallions Vixen had given me, and one of the medallions crumbled to dust. I could hear my companions down the hall. The man in the mask turned as if he was looking directly at them through the very walls. The man whispered to me--"This is not over Delilah Nerudasunni." Then he took a step back and said to the four acolytes, "Kill them all. Except for her."

I quickly moved after the golden masked man as he turned away. I drew my saber and plunged it under his ribs. I could feel how deep the thrust went as I sliced through his stomach. He screamed and fell backwards, grabbing me and pulling me with him.

The four acolytes moved toward my companions. The only one who had made it into the room with me was Elenwe. The hall was so small that the others had not yet made it around the corner. The acolytes were not nearly as skilled as they were, and in a few blows had been slowed. I realized later that Tristan had paralyzed one of the two women mid-stroke, though of course I could not see this at the time.

Meanwhile the golden masked man was struggling forward toward the table and the glowing dagger. I wasn't sure what magic the dagger held but I knew I did not want him to have it. Equally and for the same reasons I did not want to touch it myself. Moving faster than he could I brushed the dagger aside with my hand. It was in the instant that my fingers touched the golden handle that something strange happened. The music that had started in my mind earlier had never stopped. All this time it had only been on crescendo until I could hear little else. But in the moment I touched the handle the music stopped. My hesitations about the dagger disappeared with the music and instead of pushing it away I grabbed it and plunged it deep into his chest. As I did I heard a plink as of a gold coin hitting stone.

As the priest of the nameless one breathed his last the acolytes seemed to remember themselves and stopped attacking my companions. We had believed they were willing participants, but soon discovered that they had been drugged and forced into the ceremony. None had been killed, thankfully. I was still sitting astride the dead priest, as the blood dripped around me. I did not realize until Tristan reached for my shaking hand that I was still holding the bloody dagger over the golden masked man. He pulled me off and I gladly gave the dagger to him--noting that the golden sheen was gone. Now it looked like any old dagger in the marketplace. The others calmed the confused acolytes while Tristan took me to a corner and used the hem of his white robes to do his best at cleaning the blood from my hands and face.

Oh, and there was a very touching reunion between Isa and her daughter whom had been held in exchange for Isa's compliance. The poor thing was only 6 years old, but seemed to be perfectly fine.

When it was over we returned to Delia to report what had happened. I stayed behind after the others to ask in more detail about what had happened to me--the gold coin, the music, and so on. She did not know the answers, but promised to do her best to discover them.

And this is where the last part comes in--worse, indeed, than the rest put together. Later that night when I was returned to my room and alone, I saw a warm golden glow coming from my pack. I opened the pack and there, lying on top of my things, was the golden dagger I had used to kill the golden masked man and shining with a glow all its own. I quickly shut the pack again. I don't know what evil has happened, but I feel a foreboding like I've never felt before. I have not yet decided what I will do. I have some ideas, but I am afraid breaking free of whatever curse I have brought upon myself will be very, very difficult.

In the lull of our adventures I have had time to continue my quest in meeting various townspeople, and I have learned something interesting about my companion Tristan. It would seem that the very night we returned from the fight with the golden faced man he hunted down the Thorwaller that had been so troublesome to Takkani. There was some sort of drinking head-bashing competition going on in the bar and the Thorwaller was surrounded by unconscious bodies of men who had lost to him. The White Mage marched in there and tried to reason with him. He told him that Tikanni had saved the city, and above that was Tristan's friend and companion and therefore under his protection. (Of course, had I been there, I would have told him that it was not the best time for reasoning as the Thorwaller was quite drunk. Tristan has been far to sheltered to realize such things.) However, he must have had some sort of good instinct for as he saw the Thorwaller's gaze glaze over with disinterest he reached up, grabbed the man's neck, and bashed his own head into the other man's head (this was the game that the men had been playing). Tristan did not knock him out, but that did get his attention! The Thorwaller responded by grabbing Tristan's head and returning the blow with his own head. Tristan never flinched. There were drinks after that, and I do believe Tristan made his point rather effectively.

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