The three returned to Aleto and Teman departed from their company there. He had to go about his business and catch up with Devlin. Oren was happy to be back in his hometown and at his parents again. It was the safest he felt in a while. His parents let them rest and get a good couple of meals in them before asking for the finer details of their excursion since leaving Avo. Oren’s mother recalled hearing about a Lady Nattan from her father, she had some relation to the Drémore Kingdom, but other than that she was not certain. After describing the events at Erridda, Oren’s father showed some concern that he had not indicated earlier.
“Son, you saw that the Velgrey’s were banished from the Enchanters’ guild. However, it had not so much to do with books we did not hand over. There was suspicion that our ancestors had abilities similar to ours, but the Enchanters could not prove it. Our family chose to keep the skills hidden and have never written about them.”
“That is fine, but what is your concern now?”
“The books were correct about the fracturing of the Drémore Kingdom. Time has distorted such things since then. But the story passed down in the family goes that the Velgrey’s were far more powerful once upon a time. When the Enchanters chose to remain neutral in the conflict, the Drémores came to our family for help. We did help them, loyally and dutifully, but not to the end. We surrendered to the rebellion and were allowed to live in exchange for our holdings. The Drémores took the Velgrey surrender as betrayal. Following that, the Drémore’s made several attempts to assassinate the remaining family with varying success.”
“So if they mount an attack, you fear they may come for us out of petty revenge? But then why not just kill me back at Erridda?”
“I don’t know.”
“Mother, what do we do now?”
“Well, from what I can gather Casapan is still alive. He is the one that probably created whatever that thing was that called itself Lady Nattan.”
Oren and Martell left his parents for the evening and made a quick stop back at the shop. The shop was doing quite well and Devlin had made good on the delivery of books from Abbysta. From there, the two headed back to Oren’s house. Outside his house someone was waiting. When they got close enough Martell recognized her as Rowenn. As they walked closer the two could see she looked like she had been in a fight or roughed up. At the sight of her bruising, Martell rushed over to embrace her sister.
“What happened to you?”
“The Knights of Tethinger. They said that Priestess Tabia of Varelle had come to them demanding that they join her in the assault on Wind Gait Stronghold. They told her they needed proof she was a priestess of Varelle. A group snuck over to the temple demanding to see the body of the Tabia or at least her ashes. There was no body to show because she was not dead. I had spoken to Tabia and warned her before she headed to Tethinger Hall.” Martell could see how Rowenn was holding back her emotions while trying to explain.
Oren opened up the house and ushered the women inside so they could talk more talk with privacy. He went over to the hearth to light a fire and to start some water boiling. He felt some tea may make the next couple hours pass more easily.
Rowenn continued, “The Knights did not believe my words. How could they forget that I had helped them with their discernments for joining the order? Or that I had been there when they were knighted. They kept saying they knew we had a secret chamber and this was all a ruse to get them to do Varelle’s bidding again.” She paused for a little bit to collect her thoughts.
Martell hugged her sister and tried to speak something that would comfort her.
“That was when the abuse started. They tried to have me tell them the secrets of the temple; as if the pain they inflicted could break the vows I took. They had no idea of the binding we priestesses go through when we take an oath to be the goddess’s servants. I couldn’t say anything to them.” Rowenn was at tears at this point. “They left me there beaten in the temple. I was there for hours before I got up the strength to move again. The temple is now sealed till Varelle tells me how to open.”
“I am sorry,” Oren spoke. He was trying to understand what would have turned the Knighthood on the temple like that. Or what have warranted that type of response from a request for man power.
“The Knights, the elder or senior ones at least, cannot turn down Tabia’s request.” Martell spoke up, “They will have to serve or commit someone in their place. Rowenn, do you know how many she was given command over?”
“Part of the rituals for entering the Tethinger order is that your name is written on a slat of wood. The slats of wood are held by the Varelle priestesses till the knight turns forty. At any point the priestess should be able to call on the knight whose name is written on the slat. In exchange, Varelle offers a talisman that protects against illness and poison. After the fortieth birthday, the talisman is yours to keep, but it does not seem to help anyone other than the person it was given to. If you fail to answer the call, the talisman can make one fall ill. It has been several hundred years since anyone has put the negative effects to the test.”
“I don’t know if Tabia knows the help she is asking for means constantly watching her back,” commented Rowenn.
“Rowenn, we need to tell you about what happened after we left Avo. Maybe you can shed some light on what we can expect.”
After a couple hours of catching up, Rowenn had a better understanding of the events. She was still puzzled as to why Varelle would have a grudge with the Drémore Empire. To her, something was missing in the records Oren had seen. She was convinced that she would need access to her temple and its records to have a clear answer.
Martell concurred with her assessment, “But Rowenn, how do you get back in? You said you locked it such that Varelle would need to reveal to you how to regain access.”
“Indeed, I need her guidance. There is another way in, but I was never told. I need a quiet place to pray and await her response.”
“I can get you a quiet place in the morning if you want to rest here tonight,” Oren offered.
“That is nice, but where will you sleep?”
“Out here near the fire. Besides I am going to read some more tonight. I have a feeling my skills need more practice if we head back with you to Avo.”
“Oren, I thought you had enough with traveling and wanted to get back to your shop,” teased Martell.
“That would be ideal.” He paused in thought for a moment, “The world is telling me to go see where this goes. It also may be more exciting than sitting and hearing about it second hand.”
The following morning Oren took Rowenn over to his parents and made arrangements for her to have a quiet space. Martell met up with him a few hours later at the Cloak and Frog.
“So this is where it began?” Oren mused.
“Yes, well really, it was at your shop where my life started to intertwine with yours. It was a good hunch I had about you…after I calmed down.”
“Yes, I do recall there were a few accusations being thrown around.”
“And with good reason. Someone under my protection had died.”
“I do not think it was your fault. I went with you down to the Drémore Forest and now have returned safe from harm.”
“True…” Martell got quiet.
“Do you think about it still?”
“I think about everyone I have lost at one point or another. She was not the first death I experienced, but a rare one…to have occurred not on the battlefield. Part of me wants to blame not going with her to the graveyard. But I know I would have made the same call every time. She was not a child. Also if I had gone with her I might be dead as well.”
Oren moved in closer, embracing her. “I don’t envy your past…your future is another story. You do not have to carry these burdens alone you know. When we are done with this you are welcome to stay with me if you can handle a quieter life.”
“You talk as if this is simple. These things are never simple. After this you will have a reputation…whatever the outcome.”
“As will you. I plan on ignoring it to the best of my ability, hopefully with someone at my side.” Oren spoke plainly.
“That is a good proposition; I will be there to see how it plays out.”
The two had been reminiscing for a while longer when Rowenn came in. She wove her way through the crowded tavern over to them, interrupting, “Hello, I now know where the entrance is, but we can not to go back there yet. We should adjourn to a quieter place to discuss this in detail.”
Back at Oren’s house, Rowenn was finally willing to talk with them. “The key to the secondary door is with Tabia, from what I could discern of Varelle’s message. The key is a necklace she is wearing. We need to find them, and hopefully meet up with them before they get to Wind Gait.”
“Did you get any insight as to where they currently are? It could be quite a wide area to search for them in. Or they might still be in Avo.” Oren prodded.
“They have left Avo, or at least should have, based on what Tabia told me when I last saw her.” Rowenn replied, “They should have left two days ago. They are to meet up with some other people at the base of the mountains, and follow some old road through them to the stronghold.”
“That does not leave us much time then does it? Let us prepare this afternoon and set out at first light.”
“I will leave you ladies here at my place tonight. Meet me at my parents in the morning. I need to talk with them and will then spend the night at their place.”