Part 29: Progress

6 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

I’ve a little more time to write today as I sloppily eat mushroom stew and chat with my friends. We’re back at Shadow’s home but we’re going back out in a bit. I got the chance to talk to Shadow about the situation this morning and- You know, I probably should just start from the beginning. I keep doing that. It’s easy to get distracted.

We started by separating from Briar, as I wrote earlier. Briar remained behind with Ilharg, and the two of them had already gotten into a conversation about something by the time we left. The Neurdagon Estate is located at the southern end of the noble district, and is easily the largest and most lavish of all the estates here. I thought Shadow’s house was nice (apart from the damage to it when we got here a few days ago), but this estate is something else entirely. The land here is as big as the churchyard back in Ylisse, and that’s saying something. Hedges, flowers, greenery, and marble columns, statues, and benches dot the area, all of which is surrounded by a tall and beautifully imposing wall. If I had not yet seen the royal palace, I would have assumed this was it.

The guards politely allowed us entry as we went to see Taran Neurdagon, the lord of the estate. They all seemed on edge as we passed through, though. It seems that some thieves had been harassing the estate and some of its smaller villas recently, and Lord Neurdagon had even employed soldiers from the League of Storms to help deal with the problem. I counted at least a dozen or so leaguers and perhaps twice as many of Lord Neurdagon’s own men here.

Lord Neurdagon, a hefty man wearing far too much jewelry, gave us the job. The Lady of Coins, a medusa (whatever that means), has been disrupting his business in the minotaur market, and he offered to pay us five thousand gold coins to bring him her head. The job was dangerous, he told us, as the Lady of Coins has a tendency to curse those that get in her way. Others he sent after her end up dead. Rendu suggested that he instead raised the price to seven thousand gold considering how dangerous and dire the situation was, to which Lord Neurdagon agreed. He said he didn’t know where to find her, but our best bet for information would be Stygian Row, the local slums.

We agreed to the deal, though we made sure no coin was exchanged yet and no oaths were made. We only wanted a lead on where to find the Lady of Coins. I and the others have absolutely no intention of harming her. Rather, we want to see if we can help. Taking down the minotaur market is high on our list of priorities, so perhaps our group and hers can work together somehow.

Our next stop was the Siren’s Roost, an establishment meant for those who seek intimate company. Such was not our intention, but it was the best lead we had on the Four Winds. As it turns out, we didn’t find what we were looking for here. The siren at the front door, a beautiful lady with a lovely red toga, directed us instead to the Satyr’s Tail, a rather dumpy tavern not far away. As we left, I asked her if I could purchase company not of the intimate kind. You know… someone to talk to. The siren said such services could be purchased. I think it might help me to have someone to talk to about- Never mind. I just don’t want to burden the rest of them with this. It’s just that I-

You know what? It’s fine.

I’m fine.

Satyr’s Tail. Okay. This place is probably the worst place I’ve been in a while, and I was recently in a cave full of smelly troglodytes. Honestly, this place smelled about the same, but the source of the smell was- Ew, gross! I probably shouldn’t write about that. I think the bar fights here never actually cease. Many patrons were lying on the floor either drunk or beaten in the fight, and the bartender, a gruff man named Julius, didn’t seem bothered by any of this. We split up to cover more ground, and I went to distract Julius as best as I could. I wanted to keep his attention on me so the others could conduct their business without the watchful eye of the one sober person in here. The drinks I bought were basically sour water, though I admit I could get used to it.

While trying to magically repair everything I could touch (thanks to Actaeon for bringing me broken things as I drank), I asked Julius if he knew anything about the Lady of Coins or the sunken ships from the gulf. I meant my ship, obviously, but he didn’t need to know that. No new information about where to find Mother. And no information on the Lady of Coins either. That wasn’t the information he wanted to get involved with.

Clio and Torag had a conversation with a half-orc who didn’t know much either, at least until his tongue was loosened by some coin. But Shadow and Rendu had a bit of fun. They convinced the tavern’s performer, a very tall satyr, to let Rendu play with him in exchange for information. Rendu was fantastic! He’s extremely talented, and the satyr bard knew it. He and Rendu dueled on their lutes, dancing on the stage and on the tables of the bar. The brawling even stopped for a few measures while everyone listened. It was delightful! The satyr then pointed us to a pair of cloaked figures at the back of the tavern who worked for the Lady of Coins.

One of the figures darted away as we came forward, but the other stayed to talk. He confirmed that he worked for the Lady of Coins, which was perfect for us. I told him we wanted to meet with her but he just laughed. So instead, I asked if he would deliver a message from us instead; that message being that we wanted to work together in taking down the minotaur slave market, if she would have us. The man agreed to deliver the message and said the Lady of Coins would send word to us if she was interested.

At this point, we all decided to head back to the Starfall Estate. Torag wanted to do some business over at the Academy Arcanum. Rendu and Actaeon went with him to make sure our minotaur friend doesn’t get into trouble. Shadow led Clio and I back to his house.

Oh, I should mention! We met two nasty people outside the tavern! Their names were Trellis and Septia, and I’m almost positive they are twins. They gave us a potential task. Apparently the wine from the Temple of Khar’shan has gone missing and they’ll pay us handsomely if we investigate their missing wine casks. We politely told them we would look into it if we were able, but we secretly wanted to tell them to spare us their company. Unless something drastically changes and Khar’shan decides she’s bored of udoka jekip m’rith1, there’s no way we’re going to help that temple.

Anyway, we got back to the house and were met by the most appetizing smell! While Briar was brewing her potion, she decided to make us all dinner, too! It is a wonderful mushroom and vegetable stew, a recipe she learned from Herkus the Helpful. Ilharg was already helping himself to a heaping bowl when we arrived, but he happily served us each a bowl as well. I guess he and Briar got along quite nicely while we were away.

I got the chance to talk to Shadow tonight. I’ve felt awful all day about what I said to him this morning. I got carried away and I was afraid I said some very hurtful things to him. Even in my last entry, I scratched out the angry words I had written. So I am very happy we got the chance to talk.

I told him that, while I’m not okay with how he’s choosing to deal with the situation with his wife and daughter – ignoring it entirely, I mean – I had to confess that I’m completely out of line by judging him on it. It’s not my place. He’s hurting just like the rest of us, and if focusing on what is right in front of him is what he needs to do to heal, then that’s perfectly fine. I never should have judged him. The fourth tenet of faith is to bring hope, and I need to do that for him.

I hope I didn’t bother him with this. Shadow asked me why I believe River and Rare exist. Why? I have no idea. It’s hard to say. Faith isn’t something I’ve ever been able to measure. But I think that’s it. Faith is what makes me believe. The logical part of my thinking tells me that Shadow remembers vivid details about so much of his life, including the intricate details of his wife’s face. That cannot be a coincidence. Beyond that, no amount of logic is going to make someone believe or disbelieve something, especially when darkness has such a strong hold over them. I can’t convince Shadow with logic because everything Khar’shan has done to him defies logic. It’s unfair.

It’s his bond with them that gives me faith. Even if he denies it now, he loves his wife and daughter. Real love cannot be faked or erased. Magic exists to alter one’s memories, and there are potions to cause infatuation. But a love that is real is not so easily manipulated, fabricated, or demounted. It’s how I feel about you. It’s been almost a year now, and I still feel it. No one can take that from me. Maybe that’s why I’ve relied on faith all my life. Faith that things will turn out better for me. Faith that I can go on, even when all I want to do is scream and run away. I have to believe in something greater than me. It gives me hope. It gives me courage. Faith is seeing the light with my heart when my eyes only see darkness.

It wasn’t my intention to change Shadow’s mind or anything. I don’t think I did, honestly. I just wanted to offer him my unyielding support. Shadow said he has a lot to think about. I’m here for him, and I hope he understands that. I’ll stand by him no matter what, even if we don’t always agree on things. Losing someone is hard. It’s like my chest is hollow. And it doesn’t get better. It just becomes… bearable.

The only thing I asked for him in return for my support was that he doesn’t make any rash decisions and burn down the house. I meant it as a joke, but he took it a bit too seriously, promising he wouldn’t. While I appreciate the directness, I was looking for a little more candor. Shadow needs a good laugh, and I think I have just the thing. I think I shall tell him a little story later. Something to cheer him up!

Not long after we ate, Torag, Rendu, and Actaeon returned. Honestly, based on how hungry we and Ilharg were, they’re lucky there was any stew left! While they were out, Torag had met with his sister, Kallista, an escort at the Siren’s Roost. She had been covertly working to discredit and ruin the Temple of Khar’shan. Apparently the acolytes there had captured a bunch of Ellandyr children and plan to sacrifice them to the Lady of Dreams at the next day of Burning Sun, right at the end of the Great Games. Kallista knows of a sewer passage that can take us to their temple.

We debated briefly on what to do. Our original mission was to find the missing instruments of Palladia. What we heard in the Satyr’s Tail (sorry, Heath, I forgot to write it down!) was that Boreas, one of the Four Winds, had taken it to the vineyards outside of town. But should we go after the instruments, or work on saving the children from the Temple of Khar’shan?

It was settled on going after the instruments first. They were stolen only last night, and Briar is certain that the children will be safe for now. If they’re being saved for sacrifice on the day of Burning Sun, then the acolytes in that awful temple will treat them well enough for now. I feel rotten thinking that we’re voluntarily leaving them right now, but what choice do we have? If we don’t go after those instruments now, we may lose them forever. They’re very important to Rendu and the rest of us.

Looks like we are leaving now. I hope things go well in the vineyards. I’d rather avoid any fighting if we can.

1 Draconic: “…messing with us” (vulgar)