Part 67: Betrayal

Shadow immediately set off to try to find the Lady of Coins, angry at her disappearance, while the rest of us patched each other up. Clio and Torag were both breathing a little hard, having been injured by the hydra. But a few quick spells later, they looked much better! I resummoned Leo and apologized for letting him get harmed. He just said, “That is One’s duty, child.”

We thought about briefly resting here while Shadow looks for the Lady of Coins, but Actaeon let us know that she may not be very pleased with us. Actaeon, back on the Gjallarhorn, was uneasy about the plans we had made with regards to her. The plan, remember, was to instate the princess as the new queen, not her ladyship. But the plan turned sour. I had voiced my concern that betraying her trust was unseemly of heroes, but we ultimately decided to do what would be best for the war. 

I should have been more resolute. More like Actaeon, really. He took it upon himself to inform her that she may not be safe with us. She took the information as if we had already betrayed her, and promptly disappeared, abandoning us in the dark.

I feel miserable, Heath. Though she’s gotten herself into a very dark line of work, I don’t judge the Lady of Coins. She is someone who knows what she wants, just like us. There was a time when I thought we could become friends. If anything, at least friendly with one another. Why didn’t I speak up when I had the chance? We’ve betrayed her. I don’t know if she was hurt, or angry, or both.

As I write this, it is imperative that I make it known that I do not blame Shadow, or Torag, or anyone else for their fear and distrust of her. She’s withheld much information from us. She is a thief and a liar and has to survive. She is not blameless either. And yet, I still had the thought floating around in my empty head that we could come to an understanding. We could find common ground. I’d invite her back to the Gjallarhorn and we’d all have drinks together, celebrating our victory over the evils of the Lady of Dreams. 

She trusted us, Heath. She told us how to get onto Talys undetected. She warned us of the dangers of the underwater passage. She mapped out the temple for us. How could I do this to her?

I’m getting hung up on this. Let’s move on.

Father lost the trail of the Lady of Coins, so we proceeded onward. The passage here led up to the barracks and the jail cells of the temple. Rendu and I disguised ourselves as some of the amazons we fought earlier, and brought Father (transformed into Mother… a girl… Auntie Shadow?) as a prisoner. The two women guarding the jail were surprised to see us and one took us to the cells. Once we were alone, Shadow slew her and I took on her form to get her partner out of the way. Then Clio laughed and-

Oh, I should explain. Clio put a flower on Shadow so she could see and hear what was happening with us while the others snuck a different direction. She observed Shadow and Rendu trying to get into the jail cells to find the princess. Shadow was having trouble with the lock and Rendu, panicking about the sheer amount of blood from the poor girl, decided to… clean up the blood. But he chose to do it with… you know… bodily waste. Shadow claimed he couldn’t help because he was in a girl’s form and couldn’t… you know… aim

So Clio started laughing! Understandably so, but it distracted the amazon with me and she came around the corner to investigate. Torag was around that corner, though, and between him, Clio, and myself, we took her down. 

Shadow eventually got the door opened and found a malnourished but resolute amazon girl, the princess Xoti. Xoti had been imprisoned for 13 years now, her survival given to her by an oath from her mother. In the past, the three sisters of the queen Sotera betrayed her and killed her, but not before she made them swear an oath to let Xoti survive until she came of age. But the fake queen forgot about her, and Xoti was training herself to fight for her revenge. We freed her and gave her that opportunity now.

Actaeon, at the other end of the barracks, found a forge with another Jancan worker, Steros’s father Bront. Bront was pleased as punch to be freed and we left him to barricade himself in the forge until we could guarantee his safety back on the Gjallarhorn. He was extremely grateful and let us take the newer equipment he had created, much of which we gave to Xoti so he’d be protected. 

Going upstairs to the top of the temple, we found ourselves face to face with Queen Sotera, the fake queen and a medusa herself who took on the slain queen’s name and persona. She mocked our attempt for the throne and invited her sisters and warriors to kill us. 

I put out a spell of light to make things easier to see as my friends fought against the queen and her comrades. Actaeon and Torag, having taken control of a pair of war dinosaurs, charged at the queen, only to be held back by her spells and might. Various queensguard came to her aid and rained arrows down at us. 

But the worst of all of this was when the Lady of Coins reappeared, taking aim at Shadow with her bow. “You should not have plotted against me,” she hissed.