Saturday, May 25, 2013

In Flux e02 : Shadows of Esteren

In Flux
Episode Two
"Donan's Journal - Trapped between a child and a hard place"

My name is Donan Roik.
I am an Investigator.

And recent events have made me realize that the world hides more frightening things in the light than in the shadows.  Oh where to begin.    My trip to the North was definitely not a smooth one.  And as I mentioned in my earlier entry, some conspiracy concerning a Northerner named Liam and his wife-to-be Gilana have pulled me into its web.  Even worse, Liam's brother, one of the Demorthen clearly showed a lack of trust towards me - which while I was used to, was definitely something that would be listed in the book of "Things that may lead to Donan's demise."  And then there was Rashid, whom like myself was tangled in the threads, but unlike me had every capacity to survive if he ever had to escape into the woods.

Dire potents indeed, oh Donan.

So, I offered a plan which I felt was fool-proof enough:  Liam and Gilana were to "expose me" to the town as having been captured for conspiracy against the lovely woman.  And they were to "kill" me before the gathered crowd.  An act, of course, which I was more than ready to portray.  And a body to be switched later with one of the corpses in whatever constitutes in this place as the city tomb.  Or catacomb.  Oh the North.  Why do you lack such common city comforts?

And as quickly as my educated mind has produced such a wonderful plan do these Northern savages disassemble it with their own choice of action:  a secret wedding.  Gilana opts to marry Liam in a secret ceremony.  And Rashid and I were to be the witnesses.  Of course, I have no choice but to agree.  Anything to settle this Northern journey as soon as possible was an option in my book.

The following night begins with Liam.. oh darn, his Lordship Liam and the Lady Gilana entertaining guests.  Liam, Rashid and I discuss the strange scent that Rashid seems to emit upon contact with me.  (On a side note:  Rashid's eyes betray an unspoken concern.  He looks at me with the eyes of someone who has either witnessed some atrocity such as a child cutting herself, or of me visiting him in his bed once again.  Knowing the Varigal, however, he would have probably held me down and tied me up if I had.)  I ponder on what could be causing this smell to emit, and find myself wishing I understood more matters of Science, Magience and Faith.

While Rashid and I share our thoughts on what the bride Gilana was going through, we can hear dogs barking in the distance.  A glance reveals the dogs agitated around the vicinity of the temples.  I admit to Rashid quickly that we had kissed prior to our leaving Osta-Baille.  But I confess that despite my typically ravenous appetite, I turned down his advances. I am one to recognize the drunken stupor of another, or the desire of a drug-addled puppet.  Rashid was clearly not approaching me out of want.  The dogs do not stop and as I peek once again, I see a man running from the temple, partly dressed in the manner of the priests.  His pace, however, distinctly captures how I have run many times from husbands and aghast wives.  Perhaps the man was searching for treasure and instead found priestly jewels in his hands.  (Come to think of it, I have never had a priest as of yet.)

Enough.  To stay in this crazy place is to invite the Feondas into my bed.  I suggest to Rashid that it be best we leave, and ask him if he would escort me back.  He reminds me he does not work for me however, and I realize I might have to juggle things around to safely find my way home.    I visit the newly weds once again to say my goodbyes - clearly my plans are no longer in action, so when the mind's stratagem falls apart, the body best make a move at once.  Gilana, unfortunately finds it fit to throw me a lashing of her understanding of Faith, truth, and the world.  I simply explain that for me, truth is the search for answers and faith is belief despite the absence of answers.  The ultimate goal of truth would be the destruction of the need for faith, and the eventual destruction of the temple.   Clearly, however, Gilana desires to regain some sense of control given the events that surround her perfect little world.  So I've decided to feign my being silenced by her words and give her that victory.

A tavern.  A good stout drink would be perfect.  Rasid and I head to the nearest place and find two others who stand out like sore thumbs.  (There's a certain look these Northerners carry, that much I can tell.)  We introduce ourselves to the two and learn of their names:  Glenn is the giant of a man whose wrist seems thicker than my thigh.  I can only wonder about any other proportions in secret.  His companion, Niall, seems to carry that Varigal look to him.  It takes me but a second to recognize him as the man running from the temple.  I throw pleasantries around, discussing women and how a crossbow was used in an assassination attempt (All right, I confess I did gander a few attempts to learn Glenn's actual shoe size) and inform the two that I have been exiled and work my magic to convince the barkeep to throw in a free round for all.  Rashid, ever the fun defecator, confronts Niall about his membership among the Varigal as he makes a huge point about the man hiding his walking stick.  Or staff.  Or whatever that Varigal tool happens to be.  Niall seems perturbed by this, and commits to leaving with Glenn in tow.  But as he throws the barkeep a Frost to pay for their own drinks, I catch the coin and pocket it.  Hey, the barkeep DID offer to pay a free round to all, after all.

My thoughts harken back for a moment on Liam and his new bride.   She probably would be telling him all her actions were just to test him.  Women.  Sometimes, you cannot help but wonder if they are the thing we fear and call the Feondas.

The journey is longer.  And given neither Varigal are actually paid by me (to quote Niall, "We just happen to be taking the same route"), I am thankful that my noisy wet antics with both fruit and fauna distract them all from the fact that they have been sharing me their secret roads for free.  

Okay, I lie.  I always wanted to try raping a melon.  I wasn't aware the seeds would make it feel so... exotically sticky.

We return to Osta-Baille quite safely.  Knowing my return would probably once again be the target of some machinations, perhaps by whathername Corrie herself, I decided to keep my pants packed and instead come as a woman.  Note to self:  the three did not raise curiosity or concern at my comfort for cross-dressing.  They should be companions for future journeys.

Of course, the two Varigal head straight to the Charter House to settle their issues.  And while there, I decide to try sell some information.  Of course, this old crone of a woman sasses me up and questions my authenticity.  I try a misdirect, a sway, and she seems to catch my every twist.  Someone refers to her as the Doyen, and I realize she's probably someone of a certain position among these rangers.  I suggest there is a growing danger in the North, and she questions if my information is true.  Thankfully Rashid is nearby enough to confirm that I was recently up north.  Gaining her attention, however, he slides the discussion instead towards Naill's act of hiding his walking stick.  And when the Doyen's questions fail to gain the answers she hopes for, I remind her she can always hire an Investigator for answers.

I catch Niall's expression and clearly see he wishes someone could pull him out of the issue.  I throw him back his own Frost and declare my thanks for bringing me safely back from the North.  When the Doyen attempts to hire me now for the truth, I tell her first that everything she has heard is a lie for I am no woman, second is that the two were never hired but instead merely traveled with me on the same road, and that any other information desired will now have to be paid for with full rates.  "Find me," I told her and walked out.

While I admit I doubt the old hag would realize I just questioned her capacity to grasp facts, I still personally feel I got my revenge.  I leave the Varigal with the Doyen to discuss things on their own, and sadly, from this point on my life takes a far less preferred road.

She is barely two winters old, based on her appearance.  But her eyes seem far older and her arrogance even more so.  The child somehow, walks up to me, and grabs my arm even before I notice her approach.  Fine, I was talking to the hulking mountain Glenn, but this child not only got close to me... she TOUCHED me before I could sense her.  That is impossible.  Simply impossible.  That is beyond natural.

I panic.  I pull away with a lot of screaming and panic.  Glenn chases after me, as he tries to explain why this thing refers to him as her Uncle.  But as we stop half a block away to discuss things, a pebble falls onto my shoulder.  I look up and see the same child sitting on the rooftop above me.  The SAME child.  This is not possible.  Not natural.

I draw my battle axe out of utter fear.  I yell at Glenn to stay away from me.  And the guards of Osta-Baille, in their infinite wisdom, approach me and question why a woman would draw an axe within the city's confines, rather than imagine a woman would draw a weapon out of utter fear of this giant of a man that is reaching for her.  The guards follow me.  I keep walking.  Anywhere I can get away from this.. this thing...

The guards.  These inept, stupid, uneducated, arrogant and illiterate men.  They accost me a few blocks away and ask more dumb questions.  Not in the mood to answer, I just tell them to take the damned weapon.  One offers to give some form of receipt for me to retake the weapon, but knowing that would probably entangle me more under whatever bureaucratic unwritten threads they can think of, I tell them to just keep it.  (I can always find a way to take a new one.)

The child returns.  This time, however, my angers gets the better of me.  Rather than run, I stand and do what I do best.  Learn.  I hide my observances under a guise of panic and chatter.  I draw out that she is called  Kethis and get her to talk about the world not being in balance, and that their kind exist to bring back that balance.  Now I am no fool.  I know the difference between balance and justice.  Balance is giving everyone, regardless of their size and appetites a single loaf of bread to eat.  Some get sated, some remain starving, and some never eat bread and it goes to waste.  Balance is not what the world needs.   Justice, perhaps more.   I tell it I care nothing about the world.  I care only about my life.  "The world may fall for all I want."  I ask Kethis what if I worked for those it was against and it admits I do not even know who those are.  "In the end," she reminds me, "There will always be more Kethis."

I can only wonder what happens when Niall and Rashid speak with Glenn.  He would probably tell them that his niece was in town.  Niall would probably suggest she speak with Rashid, thinking Rashid's antisocial nature would drive her away.

I decide to deal with something instead that I can understand.  Cormarel owes me answers.  I change my clothes and pretend to be a woman hoping to work as a maid. I easily convince the other helpers to let me in.  I notice the magience that illuminates the home and quickly discern that she has an alchemist.  I learn that the third floor is deemed off-limits.  I convince one of the maids to let me upstairs, and quietly maneuver myself to her bed chamber.  I learn she has a guest right now, but I cannot see who it is.  Instead, I feign having lost the "present Master Donan requested I deliver to the lady" and have the maid head back down to find it.  And I slide into her room, steal three new notebooks to add to my growing collection, and then strip off my clothes and lie on the bed.  Let's face it, it has been long enough since I had warm flesh between my skin.  Might as well hit two birds with one stone.

I eventually learn from the others that they were setting down to rest, after some protracted drama with the Doyen.  A glass bead of some sort dropped from one of their packs, and Rashid catches it melt into the ground.  When Glenn touches Rashid, the contact once again results in a strange emotional explosion from him.   Later that night, from where the oil bead fell, a hand emerged.  Niall awoke the others and faced some strange green man.  He claims he has been waiting for them, and makes mention of some kind of necklace as being the source of the bead.

Rashid loosed an arrow upon the figure, and green ichor spilled out.  Rashid muttered the word Feondas thrice and the green gathered into a marble.  Niall and Glenn rushed out, not wanting to confront it further, but it taunted Niall about how they were all friends and grew up together.  Rashid, however, plucked the bead from the ground and pocketed it.  And while Rashid suggested they stay at the guildhouse instead for safety, Niall countered that Glenn would not be allowed inside.

But yeah, let us go back to focus on the more important part of the narrative: me.  I throw my accusations towards Cormarel.  I admit I clearly failed to sleep with her, which Cormarel clarifies that I clearly failed to make her sister unholy.  I demand answers for two questions and the bitch relents.  On the question of where she stands if I tried to kill the Kethis, she admits that she would rather run.  I take note how she clearly was aware of the Kethis and never even bothered to ask how I knew of its existence.    On the second question, I ask if anything can be done to still shatter her sister's purity.  She claims it is too late and perhaps to drive me away, begins screaming for the guards to come.

I leave, switching my nudity with the priestly robes that Niall had worn and ditched during our journey back to Osta-Baille.  I can still recall her screams as I leapt from roof top to roof top.

The three had it lucky, as they found shelter in some inn and had a quiet night's sleep.  I, on the other hand, slept at the wet market among the baskets and old folded rags.   News of Cormarel's intruder spread in the city quite quickly, with the strange new fact about her hair having turned white out of utter fear.  That, admittedly, was a detail I was completely oblivious to.  Messengers had been sent to inform her family, but interestingly no Varigal were tasked to take the job.   With a few well chosen words, I gather some fruits for the day's hunger, and bless some family for their newborn child.  I suggest they name the child, "Kethis" claiming it means "The one blessed with balance."  As far as I see it, words have power, but only if their meaning remains what they want it to be.  So to fight these things, one thing I can do is make the meaning something i rather it was.

I see Glenn.  Here to gather supplies for a long journey, I approach him and offer to help him in his shopping.     He tells me of Niall's hopes of grabbing jobs that lead the furthest away from here, and unfortunately those jobs had been red-marked by the Doyen.  I eventually hear about how Rashid raises his frustration with the younger Vargial, and how the Doyen instead switches things about and has Rashid, who kept pushing for the traditions and customs of the Varigal to be maintained, ends up becoming assigned to follow instead Niall.  It probably is some kind of Varigal logical flow of thought that only makes sense if one has survived the wild as they do, cause I really didn't quite grasp it.  "Varigals lead, not follow," the Doyen supposedly told them - which makes me wonder why they have someone leading them in the first place.

When I finally meet the others once again, I learn about the Feondas, and about the strange emotional surges that seem to rise whenever Rashid is touched.  Some personal matter unfolds next, when Glenn's mother is brought to the scene by the Doyen - the matter they discuss concerns something and sadly the only thing I gathered was about the mother someone knowing how to block someone's scent.    I was more fascinated by the three stones that were at her throat area.  I wonder if they denote a rank of status or something.

Of course, the Doyen then turns to me and finally hires me.  She asks me to learn the truth of the matter, raising that these two varigal cannot be counted to report the truth.  I admit to partly being tempted to mutter, "But that's cause they aren't following you, they're leading their own paths," but I knew to say that would be to lose my opportunity of having them escort me safely again.   I remind the Doyen of my fees and she claims carte blanche on all the costs.  I would have liked to smile and embrace it as a blessing, but money not paid upfront tends to become money I never get paid in the end.


I receive a package.  Cormarel visits and her white-hair and older face seem to be true and not just some mix of wax and dye.  I stay in the crowd and leave the Doyen to speak with her, and soon am told that a brown package has been left for me.  Me specifically.  Inside, I find a tome.  Intricate knotwork in the front. Carving upon the cover.  There is an image of Gilana on the cover.  Her eyes are of amber.  Glenn looks bothered by the book and Niall wants to have nothing to do with it.

I wonder about its contents.  And I recall my talk with Gilana.
The truth reveals things.  Unveils faith.
Destroys temples.

The truth is not a kind thing.

And I've just been paid a lifetime of treasure to learns a truth that might stretch far back from a time even before I was even born.

I will get rid of that damned Kethis.  And I will get my revenge on that Cormarel for plunging me into such a crazy life.   And once both of those things are settled, I will pay Rashid, Glenn and Niall a lifetime worth of Frost to leave me alone and never bother me with their problems ever again.

And yes, I will make sure the Doyen foots the damned bill.


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