At breakfast Eston confirmed that they would be visiting the Lariants in the afternoon and then dining with them at their request. They were very eager to meet the son of Flynn. Eston’s meeting with Oren would have to be the day after the Lariants. Eston had not heard back from the Tethinger Order, but did not see a reason for them to decline the invitation for a meeting. Oren reassured Eston repeatedly that he was fine with the arrangements that had been made. He went on to confirm that he was satisfied with Eston’s attempts to setup an audience with the Order, and did not hold him accountable for the lack of response.
The night before, Eston’s books were brought up for Oren to review and like everything else he had seen an orderly business was being ran. There were neither signs that the crew in Avo was skimming profits nor concerns in contraband being smuggled in along with the Velgrey’s shipments. During breakfast, Oren complimented Eston on his work and said he would spend tomorrow shadowing him to better understand the workings firsthand. Eston was thrilled with the praise and was eager to show off his skill.
Martell offered to show him around Avo in the morning, it being her home town. Oren accepted the invitation, noting that Eston seemed slightly disappointed he would not have the privilege of showing him around. Martell started off with a walk through the main town of Avo. The city was smaller than Aleto, but the density was still there at the center. To Oren, the architecture of the buildings felt as if it were from a different time. She confirmed his suspicion, stating that some dated back to the Kingdom of Drémore. Specifically, the buildings including the Tethinger Order’s and what was now the town hall. Both were of solid stone, and looked like they may have been carved out of the stone as opposed to being built from the material. It was not until one got close that one could tell that there were breaks in the stone. Even then it was hard to tell which cracks were a sign of age versus breaks in the construction. At one point the town hall was a monastery for a religion long dead. The lowest of the floors, long since sealed off, lead to catacombs where remains of the dead priests still lay, mummified. It was then a fortress for those preceding the establishment of Avo. Those bits were best seen on the interior walls as they had since been fortified to hold the ceiling and additional floors atop.
The outer ring of new buildings arose from merchants after the resources in the Drémore Vales and mountains west. With winter coming, many of the miners would be returning to barracks that were currently empty. There was only building of note that was not like the others. It was a stone, one room building. The stones were covered in moss and three oak trees grew over the building. Inside it consisted of an altar in the middle with rows of candles along the walls. “This is the temple of Avo. It has been here longer than the city and older than the town hall as well,” Martel explained. “There is a priestess, the job passed down at the choosing of her predecessor. The name of the one worshiped here is that of your choosing. As part of the journey into the Tethinger knighthood, you would spend several days here with the priestess to meditate on if it is where you should be.”
“How long did you spend here?” Oren asked.
“I spent a week, the priestess’s job is to make sure you stay nourished and otherwise are not disturbed. The current priestess is my sister, but she is not the one that watched over me. I was hoping she would be here, but I think we just need to wait a little longer.”
They did not have to wait too long until a woman looking like Martell, only slightly taller and less muscular, entered. “Martell is that you?” her sister asked with surprise.
“Yes, I am here for a few days. Let me introduce you to Oren, up and coming son and heir to the Velgrey house.” Martell spoke, fighting back a smile. “And Oren, this is Rowenn, the One Hundred Twenty-Eighth Priestess of Avo. Though you may refer to her as Lady Rowenn.”
“A pleasure to meet you Oren.” Rowenn bowed to Oren, “Martell, did you know the Tethinger Order has removed you from their records? They say you left the order for good.”
“Yes I do, let us consider it a difference of opinion on how the world works. Did they remove anyone else from the Falcon class from the records as well?”
“No, there was a series of demotions that happened when your name was removed, but no one else was removed.”
“Cowards,” Martell scoffed. “They agreed with me upon my departure, but no one else had the courage to follow through. I expected at least three others to have left when I did. Rowenn I will stop by later and give you the details.”
“No need, I know what has changed there, but it is probably more than you know. The most recent candidates are no longer required to spend time here before proceeding into the order.”
“They are now recruiting those with less noble skills,” Rowenn continued. “The last one that they sent here for discernment tried taking what few objects I leave here. It was only a candle holder that I caught him trying to take, but the lack of respect for my goddess and her temple was something I could not stay quiet about.”
The three of them spent time catching up on events. According to Rowenn, the changes at the Tethinger Order seem to include other incidents of failure to teach respect for the order’s traditions. The town was starting to question the Tethinger Order. Not outright questioning, but if you knew where to listen or lingered in the right taverns you would hear things. They are not promoting them to knights but referring to them as agents. The agents are then sent off in service to numerous lords of the kingdom, but beyond that she had no information on what they did.
Before leaving the temple, Rowenn closed her eyes and walked over to Oren and handed him a ring. Her eyes still closed and she spoke, “Shadows are drawn to you, but something hides you from them. Spirits can be your ally if you have a focus. Use this ring to work with them, it causes pain and submission. Balance should guide you.” A moment passed before Rowenn opened her eyes, “I do not have any memory of what was said, but the goddess has spoken her piece. Whatever she has said, trust her wisdom.”
“Thank you Rowenn,” Martell spoke then bowed.
“Thank you both.” Oren followed and bowed.
Outside, Martell spoke to Oren’s confusion on what happened, “She cannot choose when or what the goddess says. It is up to you if you think it is her or not.”