The Cataclysm of Ultana

Chapter 3 - Part 2

Eastaria

- Part 2 -

The third morning in Eastaria arrived a bit earlier for the group then they appreciated. Startled awake by Cyrek, he shared with them that he had just received a message through the Aegian network that the unlicensed sorcerer who had set off the alarm may have been discovered. As it was 4am and they didn’t appreciate the incomplete report at such an early hour, everyone went back to bed to get as much more rest as they could. At 7am, Cyrek received another message that the unlicensed sorcerer had been arrested, but decided it was best to not share till 8am when everyone was in the breakfast room and more awake and alert for the day. After Cyrek and Marcus retrieved breakfast and everyone was congregated, discussion began on what the plans for the day. As all had different places they wanted to explore, they broke into pairs and went their separate ways.

Before departing, Marcus returned to his Phillip Phelden costume, snuck out through his widow, and met Malva outside. They headed to the Keep where Kosopho was staying. Outside the Inn were guards who they asked to take a message to Kosopho, saying they had arrived to practice for the Festival. After waiting for some time, they were greeted at the door by a pants-less Kosopho, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. In a deep, groggy voice he asked “What are you doing here?” followed by a deep cough and spit, eliminating the morning phlegm from his throat. ‘Phillip,’ aka Marcus in disguise, cheerily greeted the half-clothed man and explained they had come to practice for the festival. He made sure Kosopho notices the wink he gave. Kosopho stared at Marcus then turned to look at Malva. “Well, I don’t do anything important without my pants, and I make a point of never putting on pants till after noon.” Phillip over eagerly assured Kosopho that they could return later at a time that was more convenient for someone with as great a talent as himself. As Phillip gave another exuberant wink, Kosopho’s confused face glanced from Phillip to Malva a few times. Stopping at Malva he asked, his voice matching the confusion in his stare, “Are you guys together?” Malva, stone faced and deadpan, returned, “We’ve been passionate lovers these last 12 hours.” She rolled her eyes and walked away as Phillip followed soon behind, leaving a very perplexed Kosopho standing in the door way.

At the same time, Ryo and Drakon made their way to the Cat and The Cradle, another local inn, in hopes of learning more about Herric. On their way, they walked by some construction and saw that a platform was being built. They discussed what was possibly being set up; Drakon shared that he thought it was a gallows perhaps to assassinate the rogue spell caster Cyrek told them had been arrested. As they lingered a bit longer than anyone else who had noticed the construction, a nearby guard called out and walked over to them, asking what they were doing. Relieving the guards concern of any foul play, they walked away and headed again towards the Cat and the Cradle. When they arrived at the inn, an elderly woman who introduced herself as Erix greeted them. Drakon thanked Erix for her welcome, focusing all his charm in her direction. He claimed great ignorance, explaining he had never been to a city this large before and asked if she knew what the construction was that they passed on their way to her fine establishment. Erix, won over by the young, but large, man’s flirtation, confided that in all her years in Eastaria, a rogue spell caster had never been executed by hanging. The accused was a tiefling named Jara and would be killed that day. Rumor was that Lord Moriar himself may even make an appearance. Drakon took advantage of Erix’s chattiness and asked her if she’d ever heard of Herric. “Herric?! That’s not a name that’s been spoken of for quite some time. He used to be the captain of the guard but Lord Moriar exiled him after his son Jon was killed. If you want to know more about Herric, you could ask any of the guards, or Johali. He’s been part of the guards for years and may know where to find Herric. But I’d be careful boy, most don’t take kindly to talk of elves, begging your pardon sir,” she said awkwardly glancing at Ryo. Thanking Erix for her hospitality, Drakon and Ryo departed the inn.

The third pair left the Silver Spoon Inn and headed to the library. Walking behind Cyrek, Persephone continued to play the role of dutiful slave and servant to the royal Cyrek Peariner. As they passed by the temple, they noticed a lot of activity, but did not stop to investigate. They walked up the steps to the massive library and once inside are greeted by a librarian seated at a desk in the main entrance. With the advantage of his station to back him, Cyrek announced that he wished to research architecture and was particularly interested in looking through any books on fortresses. The librarian at first appeared happy to help till she spots Persephone standing behind him. Her hospitable demeanor turned cold as she said in disgust “She is not allowed in here.” Cyrek attempted to argue back, asking how one of his standing should not be allowed to have his slave at his side; what would happen should he require her assistance? The librarian adamantly responded that slaves were not allowed in the library, especially ones as unwelcome a species as this one. She could remain in the coat closet, out of sight, during Cyrek’s stay. Cyrek conceded, and as the librarian turned to show them the way to the coat closet, he shrugged his shoulders, signaling to Persephone that he tried. While Cyrek had debated with the librarian, Persephone’s attention drifted to a large painting that hung on the wall behind the librarian’s desk. She noticed a plaque at the at bottom with the engraving “In honor of Jon Wynrett.” Her eyes roamed upward as she took in the massive painting only to stare into the striking, deep, blue eyes of a young man. Her attention drifted back to the conversation as she overheard that she was sentenced to wait in the coat closet. She started to follow Cyrek and the librarian, but could not shake some strange connection the painting and turned to look back at it. Before the librarian could notice their delay, Cyrek cleared his throat to get Persephone’s attention; she snapped out of her daze and turned with a quick look back before she headed into her temporary prison. The librarian called over an assistant and told him that he was to stand guard in the coat closet to be sure the slave didn’t steal anything. The assistant sighed, his annoyance of his task quite obvious. Cyrek and the librarian left them to sit and wait.

The assistant librarian sat in a chair and pulled out a book and began to read. Persephone glanced around the room, trying to decide how far she should go in discerning the assistant’s attitude towards slaves. Taking a chance, she broke the silence and asked him what he was reading. The assistant librarian paused in his reading, and slowly lifted his head, his eyes narrowing and a slight sneer formed on his face. “What do you think you are doing, half-breed? Here is how things will go. You will remain silent and I will sit here completing the aggravating task of babysitting. If you speak one word, I will tell the librarian that I caught you foraging through the coats and then we will see what will happen next.” Percy’s eyebrows raised in response. She pursed her lips, and wandered towards the lone window in the closet, putting some distance between herself and the assistant, hoping that the view outside would help the time pass faster.

Meanwhile Cyrek settled into a desk and flipped through a pile of books that had been brought for his perusal. Hoping to learn something about the Keep, he flipped through book after book, but found nothing about the Keep, it’s level of security or any insight into how he and his companions could sneak in. Giving up, he walked back to the library entrance to retrieve Persephone.

As she stared out the window, movement across the street caught Persephone’s attention. She saw a very well dressed Aegian priestess walking down the street followed by 4 sentinels who were dragging an old tiefling. He appeared bloody and beaten. She had no time to look further and discern if he was even conscious as Cyrek’s voice was heard outside the coat closet thanking the librarian for her help and saying he would be on his way once his property was retrieved. Gritting her teeth and rolling her eyes, she turned away from the window, and walked towards the entrance. The librarian assistant quickly closed his book, anxious to return to something much more worthy of his time. “She behaved herself. Thank you for your patronage sir, have a nice day,” he said and then quickly walked away before he could be assigned any other menial task.

Cyrek and Persephone walked out of the library and crossed the street towards the market but stopped when they spotted Malva and the disguised Marcus as Phillip Phelden. Cyrek and Malva share where their morning’s wanderings had taken them. Marcus, still in character, asked Cyrek in a haughty voice, “Who is the mutt sir?” Unable to take any further verbal abuse, Persephone growled, “Good lord, can I speak now? Marcus, cut the BS.” She took a deep breath to calm herself down. Quietly, she updated them on what she witnessed from the window in the library. As she finished, Drakon and Ryo joined the chance meeting. Drakon confirmed what Persephone witnessed, sharing what they had learned from Erix. Marcus became visibly disturbed by the news.

As they were standing around, they notice a guard captain walking towards them and recognize him as Johali. Johali stopped and greeted the group, and when Ryo started to ask him questions about Herric, he asked Ryo and Drakon to turn aside. Quietly, he confessed that he did know where Herric was. “This is to stay secret and must not get out.” Glancing at both to make sure they understood the gravity of his statement, Ryo and Drakon both nodded in agreement. “Herric may have been exiled from the city, but he didn’t go very far. You can find him about half a day’s journey in the woods. But if you go, be wary, there has been reports of strange noises in the forest.” Before Johali took his leave, Drakon quickly asked him about the tiefling that had been captured. “That scum will get what he deserves,” Johali muttered, and then walked away.

Still troubled by the news of the tiefling, Marcus told the group that he was going to go to the barracks and walked away before anyone could question the wisdom in that decision. Malva followed after him. As they arrives, they saw High Priestess Calcima and Lord Moriar exiting, followed by sentinels and one bedraggled tiefling. As they watched the tiefling’s death march, they followed closely behind. Malva, concerned with Marcus’s behavior asked him what was going on. “You’re hiding something Marcus.” “Do you remember when we rescued the slaves, Malva?” Marcus asked quietly. “Do you remember the man who was bleeding from his ears and died? He died because I couldn’t help him. I won’t allow another person to die because of me.” As they arrived back to the gallows, they rejoined their companions. Marcus stared anxiously at the tiefling on the platform, eyes darting all around, trying to figure out if there was a way he could save him. As a Priestess stood up to the podium and explained what had taken place, her voice grew quiet as a different voice, a stranger speak into Marcus’s mind. Marcus hardly noticed that Lord Moriar had now taken his place at the podium. Trying to discern the location the voice was coming from, Marcus finally gave up his spastic searching around the podium only to lock eyes with the tiefling, who was looking directly at Marcus.

LISTEN! We don’t have much time. I hear the voices too! They told me that you would come. A long time ago they entrusted me with a ”/wikis/jaras-scroll" class=“wiki-page-link”> scroll that I never could read. I know that it has something to do with the Lost Crown! Go to my shack and on the roof you will find the scroll under a loose shingle. You CANNOT let them find it. LONG LIVE HOUSE PROTEX!"

As Lord Moriar declared the teifling death sentence, High Priestess Calcima made her way to the front of the stage. “Jara, for your crimes, you have received the penalty of death.” She pulled an 8-tipped star from her cloak and held it over the teiflings head. As two priests walked up from behind the High Priestess and stood on both sides of the teifling, Calcima again spoke, her voice deep and threatening. “And now, you will be vanquished into oblivion.” A beam shot from both priests’ hands, from one a beam of light; from the other, fire. The beams collided as they attacked Jara’s body and he instantly screamed in agony. His skin blistered then melted, sliding down his body as his screams were still heard, echoing through the crowd. As his skin melted away and his body began to crumble, his soul made it’s final escape and was captured into the star Calcima had been holding over his head. The final remains of the tiefling collapsed into a puddle of flesh.

Marcus wanted to let out a deep scream, but kept his reaction hidden. He turned to Malva telling her he had to leave; he had to find something immediately. Cyrek attempted to rally the group, suggesting that they should return to the Silver Spoon Inn, but Marcus would not be deterred and Malva joined him as he walked away from the crowd. As they walked back to the Silver Spoon, Ryo shared with Percy and Cyrek what they learned from Johali how Herric was living in the woods.

Meanwhile, Marcus and Malva rushed as fast as they could without drawing attention to themselves and arrived in the slums of Eastaria. In the not too far distance, Malva noticed a troop of guards heading in the same direction and warned Marcus. Finally they arrived at the shack Jara had sent Marcus to and searched for a way to get on the roof and find the loose shingle. Furiously searching, the guards drawing ever nearer, Marcus finally found the loose shingle and the bag Jara described hidden beneath it. Time running out, Marcus and Malva made a clumsy retreat, Marcus tumbling off the side, but managing to escape the notice of the guards who had arrived at the front of the house.

Sneaking off into the slums, they returned to the Silver Spoon. Still dressed as Phillip Phelden, Marcus cautiously walked around the Inn and entered via the window to his room. Alone and back in his natural appearance, he investigated the bag he just put his life on the line to rescue. Inside the bag was the scroll Jara told him about, which he removed and opened. As he opened the scroll, he saw a piece of paper, but as he continued to unfurl the parchment, he realized that the paper within its protection was completely blank. Taking a quill and ink, he made a dot in the bottom right corner to see if the paper took the ink or if it possessed any magical qualities. He left a black smudge on the paper, but nothing else appeared. Confused and disappointed, he removed the paper and replaced it with one from his own collection and put Jara’s paper into one of his own scrolls. Taking Jara’s scroll and the counterfeit paper with him, he joined the group congregated in the meeting room of their suite.

He heard Ryo asking Malva, “Where is Marcus?” as he came around the corner. They all turned and stared at Marcus, and he shared with them that he heard the tiefling speaking to him in his mind. Jara begged him to go to his home and retrieve a bag he had hidden in his roof before the guards discovered it. Ryo asked Marcus what he found and Marcus showed them the scroll and opened it exposing the blank piece of paper. Persephone began to doubt that Marcus was telling them the full truth, as, upon inspection, it appeared the paper was much newer the scroll. As Cyrek asked Marcus questions, her distrust grew and she asked if that was really all he found. As Marcus assured her it was, she voiced her doubts accused him of lying. “Ah, so now the one who has long stayed silent decides to speak,” Marcus criticized. “Maybe that’s when you should listen,” challenged Persephone. Marcus scowled then left the room only to return with his personal scroll that contained the original paper. He opened the scroll confessing that the paper inside was the original one he rescued, but, “There’s not much difference,” he said, “it’s still blank.” Everyone appeared confused but did not notice that Malva more closely inspected the paper, as it did not appear to be blank to her eyes, but had mysterious writing that she was unable to read. Keeping this to herself, she listened as Ryo asked Marcus if the teifling told him anything else. “Only that I must save the scroll for the Lost Crown and the House of Protex.”

Unsure of what else to do, Ryo suggested they go to the forest to find Herric. As it was mid afternoon by this time, they all decided it was best to wait till the next morning. Their meeting adjourned, Marcus disappeared, having cast invisibility, and spoke to Malva’s mind that he would be waiting to speak to her in her room. Suspicious, Percy watched Malva as she walked to her room, but decided that if by chance Marcus was involved, it was best to not further perturb him that evening. Instead, she went to her room and quietly meditated, a pair of striking blue eyes making their way back into the forefront of her thoughts.

Making her way to her room, Malva closed the door and as it locked in place, Marcus removed his invisibility. Once again removing Jara’s paper from the scroll, he asked Malva if she could see anything on the paper besides the black smudge placed there by his own hand. Malva responded that she could see much more than a smudge, but in fact she saw that it was covered in strange characters. She confessed she could not read the characters, but, if he left it with her for a few hours, she should be able to recreate its appearance. Marcus handed her the counterfeit blank piece of paper, returned to his invisible state and left her to complete the task at hand.

As the next morning dawned, they all arose early to prepare for the days journey. Departing Eastaria by the West Gate, they were warned by the guards on duty to be careful. Many frightened travelers had recently passed recounting strange encounters in the woods. Their warnings heeded, the companions passed through the gate and headed towards the woods.

Surprising all of them, perhaps even herself, Persephone struck up a conversation with Cyrek. “Cyrek, you grew up with the Wynrett children, did you not?” “I did, yes Percy. I am closer in age to Lady Lecell whose brother Jon was about 10 years our senior. He was always a kind gentleman. Lecell loved him dearly.” “So you were old enough, perhaps to remember when he died? What do you recall?” “Ah, it was terrible, a very distressing time indeed! About 20 years ago, we received news that Jon had been killed by an elf named Elred Leoycin, a member of the guard to Raelyn Selene, Queen of the Elves. Elred was arrested but before his execution, he vanished. The Wynrett’s were promised that if he was found they would turn him over, but that promise was never fulfilled. The elves argued it was because they never discovered Elred’s whereabouts; the Wynrett’s accused the elves of being half-hearted in their attempts. The situation became incredibly tense.”

As they continued their journey into the woods, Cyrek asked Ryo what he remembered of that time. Ryo responded, “I grew up in Castion, the home of Raelyn Selene. I remember Elred and disliked him not only for what he did but because he brought such shame upon the elves reputation.”

Intrigued by their responses, Persephone asked Cyrek another question. “And how well did you know him Cyrek? Had you actually met him or just knew of him?” “I knew him well enough. He always seemed different from his family. He was religious, genuinely interested in the cares of the people, and not just of the people of Eastaria, but of Ultana as a whole. In fact he was serving as an ambassador to the elves at the time he was murdered.” “Which is why his murder was so detestable,” muttered Ryo.

After about an hour passed, Ryo stopped the group, announcing he could smell smoke. Peering ahead, he saw what looked like the remnants of a campfire. Moving in front of the group as they cautiously made their way towards the campfire, Ryo was first to see an abandoned site including an overturned wagon and a horse lying in its blood. Bags were tossed around, ripped open and a trail of blood, the source of which likely a body being dragged, led into the surrounding forest. Checking on the horse, Ryo was able to tell that the time of death was about 5 hours before their arrival. Ryo left the group to investigate the murder scene and followed the trail of blood into the woods, only to be greeted by a loud roar. Following the sound of the roar, he came upon a giant troll covered in blood. Spotting Ryo, the troll started to run at him. Ryo retreated back to the group, yelling out a warning of the troll’s imminent arrival.

The group battles, one after the other attempting to kill the gruesome creature, but he wouldn’t go down easily. The troll attacked back, managing to cut Persephone who immediately began to bleed. The warriors continued to fight back till finally Drakon made the final blow and cut off the troll’s head. Thanks to the help of both Marcus and Cyrek, Persephone’s bleeding stopped and her wounds were healed. After taking a moment to regroup, they all walked into the woods in the direction the troll came from. Not too far from where Ryo first made contact with the troll, they discovered a cave and as they made their way in they became increasingly aware of a terrible stench. As the smell grew more and more disgusting, they finally arrived in a large room and discovered its source: human remains. Covering their noses, they searched the room and found the troll’s recent kills; the remains of one young, tattered and, now, disfigured, blonde woman and half of another body. Ryo checked the woman’s body for any signs of identification and found an invitation to the Festival addressed to Celra Truebrew. As they investigated the cave, they all found different artifacts, but most notably, Malva found a gold ring that, once she placed it upon her finger, she felt a weird sensation that only grew as the day went on.

The smell became overpowering and they all made their way out of the cave and returned to the campsite where they discussed what they should do next. Cyrek shared that based upon his observations, he believed the travelers were on their way to Eastaria for the Festival hoping to meet Lord Moriar and win his favor through their numerous gifts. Malva spoke up and shared that she recently had a dream in which she saw someone who looked like Persephone wearing a ring, one just like the one they found on the young woman’s body, and Cyrek kissing her hand. Having taken the ring from the body, they kept it in their belongings, wondering if Malva’s dream was perchance a premonition of future events. As they considered what to do about the remains of the campsite, they noticed rain clouds ahead. Expecting the rain to clear away the debris and blood, they left the campsite having done little to clean the remains of the troll’s devastation.

After walking about another hour into the forest, they spotted what looked to be a footpath that someone attempted to cover up. Growing slightly concerned, Ryo warned everyone to keep walking on the path but to appear as non-threatening as possible. Herric, he believed, lived not far off. Taking note of Ryo’s warning, they all walked with extra caution. Not much time passed till Ryo motioned for them to stop; a man was hiding on the path ahead. In elfish, Ryo called out, “Mellon, (friend).” As the man only slightly stirred, Ryo continued to call out. “I am a friend of Raelyn Selene.” A voice challenged back, “Few can make such a claim, so I’ll ask you once, who sent you here?” “Johali told us we could find you here,” replied Ryo. “And Lord Hector suggested we find you as you may be able to help us understand the Keep in Eastaria.” Slowly, the lone figure stepped out from hiding and before them appeared an aging elf, whose appearance drew them to the obvious conclusion that he had been living in the woods for some time. Ryo continued to speak to Herric in hopes of winning his trust. “Lord Hector has sent us on a mission. We believe Theycian, Lord Moriar’s head guard, is in league with some lowlifes we’ve come in contact with. We’re still not sure if the Wynrett’s are working with them or not and seek to find out their allegiance.” Herric gravely replied, “ I gave my entire life to the city of Eastaria and the Wynrett’s, why do you think I would betray them?” Marcus responded, “The good of Ultana does not rely on Moriar Wynrett. Moriar has been blinded by his hatred. I’m sure you of all people have seen the damage of the decisions he has made because of his hatred.” Heric appeared thoughtful, then told them that they could follow him and turned to walk further into the woods till he lead them to a well concealed cottage. Turning so they could hear him, he says they are welcome to come in.

“What do you really need?” asks Herric. Cyrek explained they needed to know how to get in and out of the Keep without being noticed. “I don’t recognize this guard you speak of, Theycian; his name is new to me. But I can tell you that there is a secret tunnel that connects to the Temple and it’s somewhere in the kitchen. I don’t know where exactly though. The sewers are also an accessible way to get into the Keep.” As Herric shared, he took out a piece of paper that showed a diagram of the Keep. The group all studied it intently, trying to memorize the blueprint. “As far as guards are concerned, Lord Moriar’s personal bodyguard will be very difficult to bribe. All the doors will be locked at all times, so you’ll need to access a key. Certain housekeepers should have access to keys as well. The only people who stay in the Keep are the Wynrett’s and their guards. But keep in mind that they’ll be hiring more security during the Festival as well.” Taking in all of Herric’s insight, Ryo asks, “Does the name Truebrew mean anything to you?” “No, I don’t recognize it at all. If it’s a noble, then it must be a new family that has or is trying to make a name for itself.”

Trying to keep Herric talking, Ryo asked Herric what he knew of the last 20 years that he coul share with them. “How well did you know Jon Wynrett?” Ryo asked. Sighing deeply, Herric’s voice took on a melancholy tone, “Jon had been in Castion for almost a year when he was killed. He had been sent there by his father and was making progress in the elven and human trade policies.” A shadow crossed Herric’s eyes and he grew silent for a moment. “I don’t want to talk about Jon any longer.” Just as they started to wonder if Herric would speak anymore, he shared further, “But Lord Moriar I have known since he was born. I helped teach him to walk! I saw many of the house of Wynrett born and raised in my time. His daughter used to be more like Moriar was as a young man, but things have changed and there’s no hope anymore.” Herric visibly became more tense as his hands clenched at his side. Moved by the obvious sadness over the city and its inhabitants, Marcus asked, “What, sir, is your hope for Eastaria?” “What I hope for Eastaria or what I hope for myself?” queried Herric. “Both,” responded Marcus. “I want my life back and I want vengeance done for what was wronged and on the one who wronged Moriar and I.” Herric was no longer able to hide his agitation and began to lose his composure. His voice cracking and gruff, Herric abruptly ended the conversation. “It’s time for you to leave. I’ve said all I will, you need to go and leave me be.” Some of the group appeared to want to keep asking questions, but Persephone spoke up from a corner where she had been silently observing, “I think we should honor his request and leave.”

The group gathered their belongings and headed out of the cottage, but Ryo and Persephone remained in the cottage. Studying the two elves that stayed behind, Herric glanced back and forth between them. Persephone remained silent as she watched Ryo and Herric converse, observing Herric become more and more tense. “If you knew there was a Wynrett in the room, Herric, would you share more information that could help us?” asked Ryo. Wide eyed and caught off guard, Herric made a quick glance at Persephone, till, glaring at Ryo he asked, “Does she know?” “No,” Ryo responded emphatically. Attempting to show no outward reactions, Persephone remained silent, though inside her mind was spinning as the cryptic conversation played out in front of her. Once more Herric stared at Persephone. “You need to leave. NOW,” he growled. Grabbing Percy’s arm, Ryo dragged Persephone out of the cottage.

Only as the door slammed behind her did Percy react, shaking Ryo’s hand off her arm. Frozen for a moment, not sure what to do next, Percy stared at her companions. Unable to walk away without some answers, she in turn pulled Ryo off to the side. Speaking in elfish, she demanded to know, “What did he mean, ‘Does she know?’” Ryo attempted to deflect the question, saying it was nothing and they should leave. “Ryo. What does he mean?” Percy again asked, her voice stone cold. Ryo looked at Percy, shaking his head. Looking at the ground he confessed, “He means he knows who your father is.” Immediately, Persephone started to walk towards the cottage only to be jolted in her attempt as Ryo once again grabbed her arm, keeping her at bay. “Don’t Percy. You’ll find out soon enough, I’ll tell you myself even. But now is not the right time.” Startled, Persephone pleaded with Ryo, “Ryo, I have wondered my whole life who my father is. If the truth is what I have come to believe it is, it seems he should want to tell me, not keep the truth from me.” Attempting to dissuade her, Ryo continued to argue that now was not the time for her to pursue talking further with Heric. “I have waited so long and if a chance to know the truth is right in front of me, why should I wait?” demanded Persephone. “Just…trust me,” responded Ryo, now pleading. “We have been together for only 2 weeks and you speak of trust?” spit back Persephone. She fought off his arm and made her way towards the cottage. Observing their interaction from a short distance away, Drakon noticed Ryo’s attempts to stop Persephone and her determined strides toward the cottage. Recalling Herric’s threatening tone telling them to leave, he stepped in front of Persephone, attempting to stop her as well. As she brushed off Drakon and managing to escape his attempt to pick her up, she made her way to the cottage, opened the door, and walked in.

While all this was occurring, Malva and Marcus were standing off to the side in their own conversation. Since their walk to the cottage from the cave, Malva had noticed the strange sensation she first felt when she put on the gold ring growing stronger. A lightness had overcome her and she felt compelled to use magic. Using a spell, she felt a weight lift off of her, her body physically feeling lighter. Looking at Marcus she saw he was wearing a silly grin and asked him if he felt different somehow. Marcus responded that he did not but asked Malva, while grinning, how she felt. Trying to explain to him the lightness she felt, Marcus encourages her to jump. And she does! Malva’s jump took her almost 3 times higher than any of her normal jumps ever did before. Stuck between observing Malva and Marcus’s interactions and Malva’s subsequent leaps, and Persephone and Ryo’s confrontation, Cyrek and Drakon look on, confused by all the chaos going on around them. Only when Persephone fought off Ryo’s attempt to stop her, did one of them finally move from their frozen observation point.

But all this Persephone was oblivious to as her mission unfolded before her. Hand shaking, she turned the doorknob and walked into the cabin. As the door closed behind her she suddenly realized she didn’t know how to ask the question that could lead to finding out something she had longed to discover her whole life. She saw Herric sitting at his table nursing a drink, a bottle close at hand. He appeared tired, worn out by the company’s arrival, his thoughts elsewhere till he heard the door close and then jolted alert and stared at Persephone. Wishing to show she meant no harm, Persephone set down her staff and walked closer to Herric. “Sir,” she attempted to speak calmly, “I apologize for my return. I know you have asked us to leave, but I had to come back.” As Herric made no move, she felt safe to continue. Suddenly, in her head, Persephone heard a voice unmistakably that of Marcus, say to her, “Ask him if Jon Wynrett is your father.” Momentarily gritting her teeth, she shook her head as if to eliminate the voice from inside and ignored Marcus’s mysterious intrusion. “Sir, I was in the library in Eastaria and saw a painting that has haunted me since that day. It was of a young man whose eyes were very captivating; eyes that look exactly like those I see when I look into a mirror, and I cannot shake their stare. This has been a mystery to me my whole life, but sir, I believe you can tell me. Is Jon Wynrett my father?”

A moment of silence passed between them till finally Herric sighed and looked down at his half drunken cup. “There are rumors,” he said, “that what you say is true, only rumors. But I can tell you, yes,” deep sadness filling his voice, “ you do have his eyes.” “How can I know if it is true,” she asked. Herric looked directly at Persephone as he responded. “You can ask Elred.” Unable to hide her confusion, eyebrows furrowed, Persephone asked, “And where would I find Elred?” Herric paused. “You could see him now as he’s standing right outside.” Stunned, Persephone took a few faltering steps back. Speechless, she turned around and picked her staff from off the floor. Still struck mute by Herric’s revelation, she walked toward the door; as her hand rose to clutch the doorknob, Herric’s voice broke through her cloud of confusion. “Persephone Selene,” he said. Frozen at the door, Persephone was unable to move or react. “I will give you and your party 24 hours and then I am going to notify Lord Moriar that Elred is in your party.” She ingested his words of warning, and opened the door.

Outside, Ryo remained standing where he and Persephone had argued just moments before. As the last of Persephone and Herric’s conversation came to an end, Ryo looked at the cottage one last time, turned and walked away, disappearing into the forest.

Click Here to continue to Part 3 of Eastaria

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