Part 28: Slaves

6 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

Shadow, You’re not the man I thought you were. When you found me, I was confused and distraught in the temple. I’m sure that must have been a difficult time for you when your family was taken away. Difficult as that was, you helped me. You went out of your way to make me feel hopeful, someone who took on the face of his dead husband because he was too scared to be himself. You built me up when I was at my darkest. You comforted me every time I needed it. And you accepted me when I showed you who I truly am.

But you betrayed me today. You betrayed me today when you betrayed River and Rare. To give up hope so freely, to give into Khar’shan’s twisted machinations, and to sweep aside everything you know and love? How can you be so selfish? And now you want to burn down your home because no one knows your name? Is changing your name really going to solve your problem? Of course not. You’re not solving anything, you’re running from it. What would River think? When we find her and Rare, when we save them, do you want them to come home to ashes and ruin? All because it’s easier for you right now?

Yesterday morning when I was finally brave enough to show you what I really am, you got angry. You told me to not disappear. But your family disappeared, and now you’re just going to accept Khar’shan’s explanation that they were never there at all. If I disappeared, you wouldn’t even care, would you? If I were to die tomorrow, would you mourn? Or would you just pretend I never existed, too? Mi si malai ekess siofme wux vur si tepohada vi tonopar1? What about Briar? Or Actaeon? Or Torag, or Clio, or Rendu, or Dia? Are we all so easily forgettable?

I can’t trust you. I can’t trust your judgement. I love you, but I will not accept this. I promise, I won’t tell River what you’ve done. When I finally meet her, I’m going to lie. I’m going to tell her you never doubted anything. You were strong, and you fought faithfully to protect all of us, all to see your wife and daughter again. And, Shadow, no matter what happens, I promise you will see her again.

6 to Wakening Sun, Voelis

Heath, just ignore that section I wrote. I crossed it all out. I’m frustrated and terribly angry with my friend. He has given up. I know that feeling, though. The scars on my neck and wrists are testaments to that. But hope is what keeps me going. It wakes me from my recurring nightmares of Ylisse. It makes this Heath-less world bearable. I don’t know, Heath. After these last few days, I would have told you that our group is coming together. We’re all becoming more and more a part of each others’ lives. All except for Shadow. He is alienating himself, putting himself on an island, away from us. But I’m not giving up on him.

The conversation happened this morning. He had a bad night and destroyed his daughter’s room. Clio attempted to contact River but the spell didn’t work. There are a dozen reasons why that could be – the probable reason being that Khar’shan simply isn’t allowing it to happen – but Clio and I think Shadow never had hope it would work to begin with. He had already decided River and Rare are not real. I asked him if he loved his wife and his only response was “I have no wife”, as if a failed messaging spell was all the proof he needed.

Briar cast a spell to speak with the plants on his estate, but even the plants don’t remember River or Rare. That doesn’t mean anything, though, because they didn’t remember Shadow either. To me, that’s a textbook definition of a curse. The people of Ellandyr don’t even seem to notice this house. It is bewitched somehow because there is more than enough evidence that Shadow’s family is real. His ring, his Hunt’s banner, this house itself! This isn’t some fabricated reality, but Shadow is beyond reason.

I understand his point of view, though. Khar’shan is in his head. To him, it’s easier to accept her lies, say “I have no wife”, and start over. Wanting a new start is not a bad idea, but avoiding the problem is. Running from one’s past is kind of my specialty so I think I’m more than qualified to say that. Clio said it best when she scolded Shadow. She said we all have our own demons to battle but we are supposed to be a team and help each other. He doesn’t realize how much he’s hurting the rest of us.

But I’m done writing about it, Heath. I care about him, but I cannot reach out to him if he doesn’t want me to. There’s much to write about and I have to move on.

Oh, and I should mention, Briar cut her hair! It’s extremely cute and she looks very fetching! I guess she drunkenly tried to cut it last night and Clio had to finish the job before Briar woke up. Together, they made Briar look amazing. Ah, it feels good to finally write something happy. And there have been plenty of good things to happen today, Heath. Let’s begin.

After some bread rolls and crossbow bolts being thrown about (by me at my trainee, Torag), the party decided what to do for the day. Dia came over this morning to deliver some news. Apparently the Temple of the Five was robbed last night after the party at the theater. The instruments of Palladia were taken. This changed our plans significantly. Something else has come up, too: the wine from the temple of Khar’shan has gone missing, and they’re offering serious money to whoever brings the thieves in, dead or alive. Here’s a quick rundown of what we want to accomplish:

  • First, Clio spoke with Mikhaila last night and found out that there are three noblemen involved with the minotaur slave trade, named Ainieas, Orestes, and Kepheus. They are proud of what they do, too, and are not subtle in their work at all.
  • Next, there is a nobleman named Taran Neurdagon who may be worth speaking to. His friends are being turned to stone.
  • Actaeon’s armor might be in the city. Last we heard, the leader of the League of Storms, Gaius, had it. And Gaius is in the city.
  • Shadow informed us of Candle’s request that we look into the strange people in the burial grounds. Apparently she and Shadow have a bad feeling about them, and they only show up at night.
  • We have the new information from Dia. We need to recover Palladia’s instruments. Rendu was adamant about that one, and no one could disagree.
  • It might behoove us to investigate the missing wine, though we are all certain that the Children of the Night would sooner sacrifice the thieves to Khar’shan than give up the money for their delivery. If we find that wine, we might have to think of a way to save the bandits. Handing them over to Khar’shan is surely a death sentence.
  • Lastly, we need to prepare for the Great Games. I’m not sure how we prepare, but my plans so far are to keep borrowing Clio’s crossbow and occasionally shoot arrows at Torag. He’s already adept at dodging. I want him to be a master at it!

There was a lot of talk of how to deal with the problems of the Children of the Night and other shady folk and I started getting uncomfortable. They kept saying horrible things about slitting throats and killing people. I don’t want to think about that ever again. I hope it doesn’t come to that. If anything, I can be certain I’m not going to be carelessly killing people. Only those that threaten the people and the Emerald Isles will be the ones I… Ugh, I don’t even like writing it. I know our quest to protect the people will often cause us to fight those who would harm the people, but I’d like to find diplomatic solutions wherever possible.

The plan is this: today, we split up and cover more ground. Shadow is going with Rendu to the temple to see about the burglary. Rendu needs to go to the temple anyway and Shadow is an excellent tracker. Clio and Briar have some extra shopping to do before they want to go to Neurdagon’s estate and interview Taran. And Torag, Actaeon, and I are going to inspect the minotaur slave market to see if we can figure out what’s going on down there. Maybe there’s something we can do.

This went off much differently than we expected. I haven’t really had the chance to have adventures with Torag or Actaeon yet, so I was really looking forward to this. Everything that happened was definitely not what we had in mind. We wanted to disguise ourselves to do this, so I came up with an idea. No one knew Actaeon’s face, so he finally left the helmet behind for a while. I placed a beautiful cloak and a button-up shirt on him and magically cleaned his pants and boots. For Torag, I dressed him in what I could only guess was the attire of a noble’s slave. And I became an elf I saw once in the marketplace back home.

The market was exactly as awful as I expected. A dozen minotaurs, all in various states of mistreatment, were shackled in cages. The slave master, Maximus, was surprisingly forthcoming to us. Though, to be fair, we pretended to be rich and powerful people, and we looked the part. I was Belthasar, Actaeon was Lord Philoneus, and Torag was our haughty slave whose name someone as kingly as Lord Philoneus and his faithful servant Belthasar could not be bothered to remember. Actaeon had me do the talking while constantly looking at his nails and pretending to be somewhat bored. It was perfect rendition of a rich noble! Actaeon’s acting is fantastic! Torag was the wildcard, though. He kept growling and growing impatient, and I had to threaten to beat him every now and then. I’m sorry, Torag! I would never actually hurt you! (unless I managed to hit you with Clio’s crossbow)

We learned some awful things about the minotaurs’ situation here. They’re forcibly put under oaths of service so as to circumvent the law forbidding slavery, and this was usually done by putting a knife to the poor minotaur’s head and telling them to swear or die. New slaves would be coming in next week, too. Something else that surprised us was that the slave master himself did not hold the oath contracts. Those belonged to certain nobles in Ellandyr, with King Acastus authorizing Maximus to transfer these oaths to whoever bought them. Our party discussed killing the oath contract holders in order to free the minotaurs, but that doesn’t seem like a likely solution now – which is fine by me because I didn’t want to kill anyone! Killing the slave master would solve nothing. Essentially this means that there is very little we can do about the market right now. Oaths are binding, no matter what.

We saved one minotaur today, though. His name is Ilharg, and he makes Torag look tiny! It’s very funny, actually! I interviewed Ilharg a bit as part of our act and learned about his oath and that he just wants to go home. He was pretty expensive, but Actaeon, Torag, and I pooled our money together to buy him. The oath transferred from Taran Neurdagon, the same person Clio and Briar wanted to meet.

Ilharg’s face changed into a hearty grin when we went back to the Starfall Estate and revealed ourselves to be the heroes of the heartlands that he had heard so much about. Actaeon released him from his oath immediately. I think we honestly all expected him to turn and leave, but when he found out about our plans to get rid of the minotaur markets, he volunteered to work with us to make it happen. We now have inside information on the market!

After a while, the others all returned about the same time. Clio and Briar had a lot of success in the marketplace and Briar delivered to me what I ordered: supplies to keep learning the fey language! Briar also apparently had a spirited argument with the shop keeper in the academy arcanum. I can’t see why, though. That tiefling girl was so very polite to me.

Rendu and Shadow told us their tale. They found out that the temple’s acolytes had been magically put to sleep when the burglary took place. The acolytes suggested that the Four Winds (a group of feyfolk in opposition to Palladia) are likely the culprits. Rendu and Shadow each said some prayers to Palladia and Kiora respectively before following the tracks Shadow found. They led outside but were lost pretty fast. Perhaps they went to the theater? Or somewhere else? But they had a new lead. That lead, unfortunately, would lead us to a place called the Siren’s Roost, a brothel near the temple district. Everyone seemed pretty uncomfortable with the idea of going to a brothel, something I found very funny. Remember when we accidentally went to a brothel? Those ladies were so polite! Maybe too polite. It was hilarious to see your face, Heath, when that tall one started clinging to you. The food was excellent, though, but I think we overtipped.

Ilharg, as our new insider, gave us some interesting information. Apparently Taran Neurdagon was connected to more than we originally thought. Our plans to talk to him turned into a necessity. He had more oaths from the minotaur market, and has recently put out a bounty on the thieves’ guild. Their leader, the Lady of Coins, is in the business of destroying the minotaur market, possibly using the freed minotaurs for an army of sorts, and her tactics for this often result in nobles suddenly turning to stone. We might be able to work with the Lady of Coins to make this happen, so long as we can be sure she won’t turn against us somehow.

So we made a new plan. We’re going to go to the Neurdagon estate and talk to Taran. We will take up his bounty and learn what he knows about where to find the Lady of Coins. Then we meet with the Lady of Coins and find a way to work together. This might work. It’s our best lead right now on what to do. Later tonight, we might look into the strangers in the burial grounds. That depends on how things go, I suppose.

We’re setting off towards the Neurdagon estate. Briar is staying behind to start brewing up some potions. Ilharg is going to remain behind with her. Briar seems nervous, but Ilharg is very confident and friendly. I’m glad we were able to save him from being a slave. That must be very hard to be away from your family like that.

And that’s exactly how Shadow feels. I understand that. I just don’t get why he won’t fight for it anymore.

1 Draconic: “Was I just an idiot to think you and I shared a bond?”