Welcome to the New Age

Interlude: Columbia part Four

The battle at the Homely Sheep was bloody and hard-fought on both sides.  After felling Aideen, Black Mantle cut down Desmond and Gareth before seizing Aideen’s corpse and teleporting into her network of tunnels.

The remaining Heralds and their allies fought the rest of her men, although a few of their opponents fled the area.  The group did not give chase, instead ensuring that no one else on their side was lost.

In the basement of the tavern, a ritual space and (later) a secret door were discovered.  Ilikan ran to bring Grumbar to examine the working, while the rest of the group worked to keep Declan from opening the secret door before backup arrived.

Finally, the group reformed and Declan took the chance to open the secret door.  Undeterred by the poison which it emitted, or any of the traps in the hallway beyond, the Heralds searched for their lost friend in the tunnels.  

Eventually the trail led them to a large room, where Aideen was bound to a stone block, alive.


——-


Though she would not remember it, or indeed anything of her time past the threshold of death, Aideen was questioned under a Speak with Dead spell.  The questions, and her responses, were thus:

Who sent you to kill Black Mantle, specifically? (It was Declan’s idea.)

Do you have unfinished business which needs to be dealt with? (Yes, I do.)

Would you forswear a grudge against your killer if you were restored? (Yes, I would.)

How important is your unfinished business to you? (It’s important.)

((A comment, at this point, to someone near the Questioner: “That seems to lack the drive we’re looking for…  yes, yes, they’re often gone… I don’t think it would change…”))

If you are restored this day, to life, how soon would you leave Grayson to go about your business? (I would go as soon as I could convince my companions to go.)

((Another comment: “Yes, yes, let’s bring him onboard, and he'll speak for her.”))

Comments

From the darkness, voices.

The first, a stranger, said “It’s absolutely vital you return… your part in my mistress’s plan will not be fulfilled.”

The second voice I recognized as Black Mantle. “If you do not return, you won’t be able to keep up your end of the bargain to remove your friends, and allow me to do what I need to in Grayson.”

Unconvincing arguments, to say the least. I had no particular yearning to help either the stranger’s mistress or Black Mantle in their machinations. My attention wavered a little, a small, tempting pull into the darkness.

But the third, in a gruff voice (dwarf-like, but not a dwarf), simply pointed out a truth. “If you don’t return, you’ll never find your father.”

That statement pulled my focus back, sharp as a knife. My father. My… Our search. Declan. I couldn’t leave with that question unanswered. I couldn’t let my brother find the answer without me by his side. I had to be there. I had to go back. It was tempting, so tempting, to leave my burdens for someone else to pick up, but it wasn’t time. There were things I had to do, and if they were giving me the chance, I had to take it.

Cold, strapped to a slab of stone, breath returned to my body. Three faces looked at me. Black Mantle had brought me back…. but why? Two others had helped her; the Hunchback from so long ago, who wanted me for some part in his mistress’s plan, and a squat figure with a bulbous nose, the one who had provided the most compelling reason to return.

Both of the others excused themselves before I could say or do anything, the Hunchback saying “I’ll leave you to your pact, undead (Black Mantle scowled at being addressed thusly), I have business to attend to.” The short one stated “I must leave as well, my prisoners are too precious to leave long.” Both disappeared in flashes of very different magic, and I was left alone with my murderer.

Giving me a hard look, she said “Aideen, it is very important to not squander what you’ve been given.” After a moment of quiet, she handed me a knife and was gone.

It was tricky to break my bonds, and I had barely managed to saw through the first when I heard the rest of the Heralds approaching. Declan and the others had found me, and after they freed the rest of my limbs, I caught him up in a hug, sobbing.

Interlude: Columbia part Four
Asenath

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