Eston went with Oren to the Lariant House, leaving Martell to further look around the Velgrey house with less prying and oversight. The Lariant house was in far better shape than the Velgrey, though that may have to do with its more recent construction. The three story house used the bottom floor for business and living spaces for the family were above. As such, the place was alive with several generations living in the spacious manner. The solid wood columns at the entrance were a reminder that the family was wealthy from the timber. It took Eston pointing it out for Oren to recognize that two of the columns were actually living trees.
Upon entering the great room, just inside the front door, the two gentlemen were introduced by the butler to Clayst Lariant, head of the Lariant family and trade house. Clayst was a portly gentleman, with a hearty laugh and a firm handshake. He welcomed them into the house with all the proper pleasantries. He recalled early on there had been another family that had reached out to Flynn for trading the lumber. However, when Flynn came to meet the other family they turned out to be charlatans and were trying to trick him out of his coin. Clayst had overheard the fiasco and tried to step in, but Flynn had his guard up and initially dismissed him. Clayst finally won him over but then the following season it was colder than usual and he did not have timber to meet Flynn’s order. Flynn was going to have to deal with an additional merchant. But Clayst had his teams scour the country side for anything he could scrounge up and ended up with sufficient lumber and impressed Flynn again. Clayst also gave his regards on the passing of Ziegman. Clayst and Eston got on rather well with each other; it was as if they were speaking their own language. One would goad the other enough, but then turned around and had them on their same side again. The conversation up through dinner turned to the prospects of if Oren would take over the Velgrey business. He playfully gave no affirmative, but smartly alluded to the Lariants not needing to worry about their position either.
Oren spent the night with fine dining and getting to know the Lariant clan. There were several attempts made to find out if he was an eligible bachelor as there were single ladies in the Larient clan. He sidestepped answering this several times over. He did not want to admit the vulnerability he had with Martell in a crowd of strangers. Rather he stuck to the truth that his wife was dead and then added he was not ready to move on yet. In turn, he was introduced to several ladies, and each he politely turned down. This was a game he knew from his occasional social outings in Aleto. His thoughts eventually wandered back to concern on how things were going for Martell and the search in his absence. He regretted not insisting she attend, but knew it was the right choice from social protocol.
After the dinner, Eston and Oren headed back to the Velgrey house. They both thought the night a great success and had added to the ties for future business. The truth was there was no one else currently situated to take the trade from the Velgreys. Halfway back they passed by a tavern, Jess’s Treasure. Eston excused himself here, he had friends he wanted to stop and talk with. Oren, who was ready for a few quiet moments, was happy to let him loose on someone else’s ear.
Oren continued on back to the house. All in all a good night he thought. And now time to go back to a welcoming face. He was enthralled with her, the first time in a while he had met a woman that had all his attention. His thoughts lingered on her black hair down past the shoulders, her black eyes that held a fire when he looked at the right angle, her thin lips…and then things went dark.
Some amount of time passed before Oren came to with a headache. He was in a stone room, one of the older buildings from what he could tell of its construction. There were four walls, a door, and a bucket in the corner. Oren tried the door, but was not surprised to find it locked. He sat down in a corner and massaged where it ached from the hit. “What had happened?” He muttered. He still had all his belongings, didn’t looks like anything else had happened aside from the knock to the head.
After ten minutes of hearing nobody pass by or another noise outside the room, Oren decided it was time to try out his skills as a channeler. He focused on the ring he had received earlier. His thoughts were of one of the spirits coming forward from the rest to assist him. He then thought of the message he wanted sent to Martell and repeated it in his head to the spirit that had come forward. He then let it go seek her out and bring her here.
It was all he could do, as this was his first time of trying what he had read in Mediations on Umbra. He could now only wait and see if she or his captors would come first. In the meantime, he took to practicing calling the spirits to himself and then sending them away at the last moment. The simple practice did a good job of relaxing his body and clearing his mind, but did nothing to dull the pain from the hit.
“Good Morning Oren.” He heard called from on the other side of the door. He recognized the voice, but did not place it. “Opening up with your breakfast, stay away from the door and don’t try to get out.”
The door opened and there was Rab. He set down a wood bowl filled with some sort of liquid. “Hi, you may as well settle in for a while. You’re here till your parents pay the ransom and maybe a little longer.”
“What is this all about?” Oren was still confused.
“You see, you are what we call a high value person. You have at least three parties interested in you.” Rab closed the door. He continued safe on the other side, “You got your parents, the Wolves and…” the rest was cutoff in garble. From under the door he saw blood starting to ooze into the room. There was some movement outside the room, probably Rab’s assailant searching or moving his body.
Oren took as defensive of a stand as he could in the confined space. His mind was racing as to who might be outside the door. This time when it opened, his hands went down and he let out a happy sigh. There was Martell, in full armor. She motioned for silence from Oren and then dragged Rab’s body into the room. She cut off Rab’s shirt and tried best she could to get the blood off the floor outside the door.
“You are getting better with you skills. I got your message, but the path here was hard to follow,” she said in a hushed tone. “Your messenger probably led me back in the same route it found me.”
“Where are we?”
“Somewhere under the town hall, this place is cavernous and has numerous entrances. It is why they sealed it off from above. As kids we would all poke around down here, but never this far in.”
She opened the door and looked down the hallway both directions before motioning for Oren to follow. They made it down the hallway before it forked. “To the left is our exit, but I suspect you want to poke around a bit before we do so.”
“Yes, I need to know who else is involved with this.”
The two headed down the tunnel to the right in search of any details that may lead to who the kidnappers were or their contacts with the Wolves. Martell handed her dagger to Oren so he would not be unarmed if it came to that. After checking numerous side corridors and chambers, they found what they were looking for. There was a room with a couple tables and chairs. On the desk was correspondence ready to be sent out to Oren’s parents. Oren skimmed through them.
He whispered, “Looks like they would have done the exchange at Xomen’s Inn. Might be a reason they chose there.”
Martell had found another letter, “Yes, they have another letter trying to ransom you to the Channeler’s Guild. The meeting is at the same location. Do they know that you are a latent channeler or are they betting on something with your mother’s family history?”
“I would assume they are betting on my family history. My guess is I would have ended up with the highest bidder.”
They looked through the remaining paper work, half distracted by every creak or scurry mice in the tunnels were making. It was a few minutes later they found what they were hunting. It was written as follows:
I do not think you would reach out to the Wolves unless you were certain you would be able to capture the Velgrey heir. We have agents in town already, and they have taken care of the Velgrey problem in the past. They were able to do so without alerting anyone to their presence and leave the guard clues. But if you manage to capture him before us, we will be willing to discuss compensation for your troubles. Remember, we need him alive.
The two decided it best to get out of these tunnels. They put back the paper work as best they could remember, though they took the note from the Erridda. Stealthily, they exited without running into anyone else down in the tunnels. They ended up in some hills on the outside of town. They took a minute to poke around before further making their getaway.
The two went back to the Velgrey house. Oren wanted to get a good meal and rest in himself. Martell agreed that there was no reason to suspect everyone else at the house only because of one person. However at her insistence, she would stand guard while he rested.
At the house, Eston greeted Oren. “Are you okay? They said you never made it back last night. Then this morning your guard takes off in full armor without a single word as to what she is up to.”
“Yeah, I got a hard knock to the head while walking home. I think they were content with my money.” Oren spoke heading up to his chambers.
“How horrid. You should say something the commander of the guard here. It is not good that a citizen cannot walk within the city and feel safe.” Eston motioned to one of the servants passing by, “Have a meal prepared for Oren.”
“I might do so. It could have been worse,” Oren commiserated. They were now up at the room. “Eston, you do a good job running this place. You can relax a little, the job is yours. You are taking over Ziegman’s post here.”
Eston leaned in and kissed Oren on the cheek. He then glanced over at Martell, who was about as confused as Oren, “No need to worry young lady. I am not after him; I already have someone waiting for me at home.” He then left back to his business before anything could be said.
It was a short wait till the food arrived and Oren tore into it. He had forgotten how hungry he was. When Eston checked back in to make sure food had arrived, Oren enquired about if anything was heard from Tethinger. To no one’s surprise, they still had not responded to the request. He then thought to ask if the name Erridda was one he knew. He passed it off as he recalled one of his attackers say the name.
“Erridda…the name is familiar to me, maybe someone in the guard? Were they afraid to be caught by them?” Eston paused. “You should check with the guard, I can fetch one if you want to.”
“Not yet, I need to rest.” Oren replied.
It was after his rest that Oren recognized the name Erridda. He went over to his bag and pulled out one a piece of paper had made with a makeshift map of the Drémore Vales. He looked to the strongholds in the woods and found the name he was looking for. Erridda was the name of the one closest to Avo. That is more than likely where they are operating out of.
It was now that Oren looked up and saw Martell was gone. A slight panic was starting to build, as he had not slept too long to warrant her going off for anything. He went down the hall and she was not there. It then occurred to him that downstairs there was no noise of workers. He went back to his room and grabbed his staff. As he turned to leave he saw someone sitting in a chair. It was the same woman that had come to his shop.
“Oren, you make things far more difficult than I need them. And your parents make this even more taxing. Where are the rest of the books? Do not worry we have already been to the house and I can assure you those were not what I want. But you knew that.” She screeched.
Oren stood in a defensive pose, waiting for her move.
“Your staff cannot help you here.” and with those words it was gone. “Now where are they?”
Oren was fighting something but it was nothing physical. It was as if a compulsion was building to tell them they were with his parents. He went to run but it was as if his legs had already betrayed him to favor the woman. His hands groped around looking for something to use till finally in a pocket he felt a small piece of obsidian. It was the small piece he had retrieved after his encounter with the sprite. Using all the focus he could muster he threw it at the woman. When it hit her, everything went dark for Oren.
He woke up in bed again, sweating. Martell was there looking at him, calling his name trying to wake him.
Oren looked around, and slowly grappling what had happened. His head was still a rush with thoughts and the conversation. What was it she was looking for? He explained the bits and pieces to Martell as best as memory would serve him. Like recalling any normal dream the details fled from his grasp as he reached out to salvage what he could. The simple fact was she was looking for a specific book, but which one she was not saying.
Oren then went to leaf through the maps he had in his bag. He found the one he had dreamed about and looked at it. There it was written on the map Erridda, but now it was on the stronghold furthest from Avo not the closest. Oren brought it over to Martell and explained the quandary.
“Normally I would say we should talk to the Tethinger Knights, but they are not interested in talking to you. Maybe Rowenn knows this place.”
“Should we both go to see her? I fear I may put her in danger with whoever that woman is.”
“Yes, Rowenn is not defenseless. Her goddess will watch over her.,” Martell snapped. “I do not need you left unsupervised at this time. Also I told Tsuminoe that we will not be returning with him tomorrow. I have sent word to your parents on our status with him.”
Oren got the feeling she was holding something back. “What is the rest of it?”
“The Neffians, they have declined your parent’s request. They want me to return and face judgment as to my future with them. If they do not hear back from me, I will be determined to have left the order and labeled a deserter. That means they will not assist me in the future nor will I be granted access to any of their temples.”
“You told Tsuminoe that you are not returning with him. Does that mean you have made your choice?”
“The message arrived today. I have till tomorrow to answer, when the messenger departs. I will send my response to the order with him. Let us go see Rowenn.”