The following two days Oren spent most of his time practicing how to avoid rocks and other things flying at him. The first day he ended up with lots of nicks and bruises, the second he still was getting hit, but less so. It was easy to draw spirits close, the harder part was convincing the spirits to shield him. A small localized shield was easier than a large one as it equated to hiding behind the spirit. Larger shields required him convincing the spirit to bend and contort in a manner to protect. In addition to finding a spirit able to help him, he needed it to stay the proper distance away so he we would not come in contact with it. If a projectile tore through his shield and hit him, he would start to feel as if the spirit had glanced off him as well. The end result was him losing focus and control to the emotions it would set off.
Oren was certain the ring was assisting in all this. When he focused using it the spirits would acquiesce to his commands. The downside he noticed was the more he used the ring the less the spirits were near him. It was as if they started to cower from it. So as a result he refrained from using it when he could. When he talked it over with Rowenn, she suggested he use it only for greater feats or if it was a dire need for them to respond.
Martell was gone during this time. It was in the evening, when practice was done, that Oren started to long for her company again. He was distracted during the day, but as time passed he wanted her to see the progress he had made.
He had sent the message to his parents on the investigation into Ziegman’s death. It would be a week before he would receive back a message from his father saying that he should take advantage of being able to hone his skills. His father further instructed that once he felt his skills strong enough, he should go to Erridda and see what they could find. As for his dream, it was correct his house had been burglarized, but everyone was ok. There was nothing missing but the mess was taking a bit to clean up and repair.
By the end of the week, Eston was curious as to where Oren was going daily. He also was asking on if and when Martell would be back. Oren was unable to answer either question. Instead, he said that he was taking in the area as possible ideas for additional trade may be available. He mentioned that there was a winery here and they might be able to export the wine. It was all mere speculation, but it was enough for Eston to back off.
The following week, Rowenn continued training with Oren learning to protect himself with spirits. Midway through the week they started trying to travel using them. This was a far more complex concept for Oren. The idea was for the spirits to first envelope him and then carry him the desired distance. The problems stemmed from the spirit needing to make physical contact and Oren still maintaining control. This put into perspective for Oren how easy creating a shield actually was. The training alternated between the two techniques, as the transportation was taxing and often left him spending half the day recovering from the influence of some of the spirits.
Oren spent one afternoon cleaning the main hall as one of the spirits had decided the place was too dirty. Rowenn was amused and pleased with the results, but it was a day of training lost. A second encounter had led to Oren practicing combat with his staff as the spirit had been itching for a fight, but there was no threat down in the subterranean halls. For that exercise, Rowenn was content with nothing being broken.
Martell returned at the end of the week. She had brought back a suit of armor in much need of maintenance. When Oren asked why she had not bought something in better shape, she responded that they were all inferior. This one, when she finished cleaning it up, would be better. He held a spaulder in his hand looking at the craftsmanship. It looked no different from any other armor plate he had seen before. He tossed it back to Martell and that is when it hit him that the metal felt lighter than it should. Not thinner or less sturdy, but the actual weight felt off when it was in motion.
During the third week in training with Rowenn, Oren finally had to take a break to attend to matters at the trade house. He went with Eston to the winery to try and barter a deal for wine. The idea being this was a trial to see if they could sell it up in Aleto. The owner was more than thrilled with the idea of expanding. After some haggling over price, Oren left Eston to take care of the logistics. The hope was to have the wine ready to move by the time the next caravan came through.
After the third week, Oren was able to travel about three feet using the spirits. This was not something that would progress as quickly as the shielding technique. He would need more practice and a lot more patience to travel a distance much further. The ring’s ability to help control the spirits was near useless in the transportation. It seemed to agitate them more than anything; as a result shortening his travels.
The armor Martell brought back was cleaning up nicely. She said she picked it up from a merchant that deals in rarities and antiques. She had seen the armor several years back and was not surprised he still had it. Most people would look at it and think nothing more of it. Years of dirt and tarnish had hidden the art and craftsmanship the blacksmith had put in to it. Now, as it came together one could see the shine of the metal and the scroll work design in it. The breastplate had a giant oak tree on it; the shoulders had a lion etched on the left and an eagle etched on the right.
Both Martell and Oren had a growing concern caused by a lack of contact by agents of Casapan or Dawsil. No one had seemed to notice the absence of Rab either. Eston said it was common that help came and went so he was not surprised by one person just up and quitting with no notice.
It was on the fourth week, returning from a day of training, that Oren received an invitation from Lord Hirameki of the Tethinger order. Martell was not familiar with this person, and unable to shed any light on if this was someone that may be able to help them. He accepted the invitation with note that Martell would be joining him as a personal guard.
Oren arrived in as formal attire would be expected from a merchant. Martell made a fancier show, wearing the breastplate from her restored armor under the Velgrey Tabard and one of her swords at her waist; she had chosen the rest of her outfit to highlight the white and blue in the Velgrey Crest. They were greeted at the entrance by a page. He was caught off guard by Martell’s presence, and then relaxed seeing Oren. He led them into the order’s hall.
There were no servants; rather the initiates would work through ranks of menial tasks till they reached a point at which their training for knighthood would start. This period was dependent on skill and initiative taken by the initiate. Also factored in was age, as no one under ten would be given a mentor directly. The mentor chose who he or she would train so it was in the initiate’s best interest to gain favor with one of the knight’s early on.
They joined Lord Hirameki in a dining room. According to Martell, there were numerous rooms like this so that business could be handled in more intimate settings than a grand hall. Hirameki was seated, flanked by two other knights, Vaughn and Siira, as well as his student Clovis.
“Thank you for accepting our request,” Oren opened with. He was not certain the reception he would get. He was thinking of a tactful way to approach to the topic. “To be clear on my motives, I am here for matters other than trade.”
“I had assumed as such with the Velgrey name,” replied Hirameki. “Though if you are here for an okay on Martell being under your employment, that is of no concern to us. She left the order of her own accord. There is no hostility needed on that front.” Oren could tell he was being sized up. Hirameki was trying to lead the conversation to topics where he was prepared to address.
“Thank you, sir,” replied Oren. “No, our business is in regards to old lingering issues. Do the names Dawsil or Casapan mean anything to you or your peers?”
“I recall we had some dealings in the past suppressing a Dawsil. But he was killed and the matter was considered settled.” Siira spoke up. She looked to be the elder of the three knights present. “If I know your lineage properly, it was a grandfather of yours that helped us in the matter.”
“That is right,” Vaughn chimed in. “Big campaign with King Hannon, some of the lords and even an enchanter got in on the action. I think Casapan was his master or something like that, and was proven to not exist. Something about them having found the name in records somewhere and then pretending he was still around.”
The group discussed past events for a while as food was served. The meal was nothing fancy or elaborate but was a pleasant change from daily fare. The servers weaved in and out among the dinners as conversation continued.
“I don’t know the details of the past, but there is potential that they or their agents are not dead.” Oren finally cut in. “I was assaulted earlier in my visit to the city. I am not certain for the exact reason. Lady Martell was able to rescue me from the incident. However, I found this note with one of the assailants.” He handed over the note from Commander Erridda. The three knights each took a look at the note.
“That is quite disturbing,” spoke Hirameki after reading, “if there is someone that has infiltrated the city then we need to have the town guard alerted and they can flush them out.”
“Agreed,” Said Siira, “But how do we know who they are or who this Erridda is? Have you a description or location they operate from?”
“Indeed, that is a good question. I do not think we could help if you do not. Though stories of Casapan and Dawsil relate to a harsh fight, the two of them would be quite elderly now…if they were still alive.” Vaughn opined.
“That is all possible,” Martell spoke up, “Except that Casapan was an Enchanter. Many of them have ways to prolong their life. This would not be the first time one lived over a hundred years and still was young.”
“Again, we would need some sort of proof to devote resources.” spoke Hirameki, “By all means, we will keep an eye out for anything that would threaten Avo. However, our services to the kingdom are already stretched thin with rumors of Channelers being able to overpower some of our most seasoned Knights. Martell you know of this and it is why we need new tactics. But to launch a campaign through the Vales to hunt out rumor is not possible. For all we know someone else has located these names and is reusing them to spark unnecessary fears.”
Oren took in what they were saying and the subtext was clear to him. Martell was about to speak when she instead reached down a hand and grabbed one of the initiates that had been working as a server. “Oren, check your belongings. I think we have a thief in our midst.” She held on to the girl while Oren checked his belongings. He was missing his purse but nothing further.
“Hand it over,” commanded Martell. The girl returned it to Oren. “Lord Hirameki, we must be going. I will leave this urchin to you. If things have not changed too much, she will be punished rightfully by you. No need to bring the city in to these matters.” She paused a moment before adding, “However, if things have really gone the way I fear, do not praise her too much. She was caught.” The two got up and made their way to leave.
“Martell,” Lady Siira spoke up, “Obedience and faithfulness are still main tenants of Tethinger. Do not presume you know what has and has not changed. You abandoned your appointment.”
“Lady Siira, the order has stopped the initiates from seeking the wisdom of Varelle. That would give me pause to anything that now transpires in these walls.” With those words, the building gave a slight shake. “Obedience and faithfulness are just as common in thieves as they are in nobility.”
“Silence,” commanded Hirameki. “Let us not continue this any further. Oren you and your guest must be on your way.”
“As you wish,” Oren calmly spoke.
The two made continued from the dining hall to the entrance. For the first time of the visit, Oren realized what was missing inside this building. There were no spirits anywhere, not in the corners or shadows. Even the empty rooms they had passed while headed here had not even the faintest sign. It left him to think about how they had done that.
It would be later that Martell would inform Oren that Varelle was the name the Tethinger Order referred to Rowenn’s goddess as. Varelle’s name was not to be spoken within the halls as the building had been a former temple to Latl, the god who was the contrast of Varelle. The story was the Tethinger Order had taken over the Latl temple for Varelle, but in order to forge peace in the halls, they were sworn never to mention her name there.
Outside the Tethinger halls it was still a while before they spoke again. Martell had clearly been shaken by the confrontation by Siira. She would have never called her departure abandonment.
“The problem is I raised issue to my mentor and my fellow knights. When outside of the hall, each said I was right in my concerns. My mentor, I understood him staying. It was his life and the order would take care of him till his death. In the end, I am the only one that left. The rest are still there. I bet at least one of them used me as a step in promotion. They were never shocked by my stepping down and each question I asked before I walked away they had an answer for. Not good reasons, but answers.”
“So two of us against whatever is lurking out there in the strongholds? I like those odds. Though I will be relying heavily on you.” teased Oren. “In another week, Rowenn will have taught me all she can. My mother thinks the threat is still real and that they will approach again in my sleep. She also has been going through the collection of books and found nothing they should be after this badly. No mention of anything that would grant power or insight that could not be gotten elsewhere.”
“You are funding this expedition Oren.” Martell was perking up a little. “Where do you want to lead me to this time? Erridda? Back to your place in Aleto? ”
“Back to my place in Aleto ultimately. But I think we need to check out Erridda first if we want some peace. We will pass near Abbysta which is near the original Erridda. We should look into there before going further into the woods. We still do not know if the letter is a reference to the holds and if it is which one.” It was then that Oren realized he had left the note with the Tethinger Knights.