Waking up

A sad entry to the New City

Waterday, Illusion week, Fire season - morning

What's by now quite a large group arrives at the Zebra pens mid-morning, with a small cart in tow: while it's covered, everyone is acutely aware of what's under the blanket, especially since the cart will not go down the tunnels, and from this point onwards the contents will have to be carried by hand. As they approach the entrance to the tunnel to Gimpy's, a tall figure steps out and greets them - most of the group have met Krogar Wolfhelm, and for those who haven't, he's easily recognisable by his distinctive headgear.

"Good morning," he says wryly. "I've been - shall we say forcefully requested? - to give you any assistance you might require in whatever it is you're trying to do. I gather an escort to the White Ladies, and persuading them that your business with them is of the highest priority, is the first thing to do, though separate messengers were sent there, and they should be expecting you."

"Good to see you again Krogar." Graylor warmly welcomes the Windlord. "A pity it isn't under better circumstances. Yes, we do have to get to the White Ladies and some of us have to visit Duke Raus. He was a sponsor to the young unfortunate and needs to be told before the ceremony starts. Irnar here will represent me while I am absent."

Egil nods politely at Krogar, "Morning. We'll be coming with you. Not so keen on visiting the Duke but I'm supposed to be showing this one around the patch," he gently pushes Yaren on the shoulder "and, apparently, the man in white wants some swords between himself and whatever is coming for him."

His sullen face widens into a smile, "When this is all over we might get a chance for a couple of bevvies, eh?"

"Or even before it starts," Krogar agrees. "If I'm purely here as an extra sword, then it may well be the usual, "hurry up and wait", and considering who made the request for my assistance, protecting healers will almost certainly be part of my duties. Shall we go, then? I take it those of you visiting the Duke will need no help in finding your way, but my keeping an ear out on the winds for messages from you might be useful?"

"A couple of table beers for starters will be ok, but we don't want to get too much in our cups. I'm not high on the list to win legionnaire of the year and getting pissed before we start this thing won't help."

"Perhaps we should get Abul to the temple and find out what the White Ladies need first. If they need nothing of us, then you can have your drink and we can meet back at the temple at the appointed hour." Graylor acts as the sensible voice of reason. He looks round the group and realises that there are no Hereward Devotees present. "As to the idea of wind messaging, I'm afraid none of us here can perform such feats. We will have to rely on Shanks' pony express," Graylor responds with an apologetic grin.

Krogar doesn't quite roll his eyes, but the patience is perhaps a little too obvious. "Yes, I know none of you are up to Dorinda's standard with the wind. She's quite good, but naturally a Wind Lord can do a great deal better, hence the title, and my offer."

"Oh, yes of course. My appologies," Graylor's embarisment is obvious. "It's been a long time since I have been in the company of a Windlord and I've forgotten what a real wind master can do."

Graylor sketches him gracious bow. Then turns to the Herewardi.

"You know where you are all going. So let's move out."

Abul's body is gently lifted from the wagon and reverently carried through the tunnel to Gimpy's. Arriving at the stairs Graylor is grateful that he heeded Irnar's advice to strap Abul to his stretcher. It would have been horrible for him to have slipped off during the climb.

Krogar holds a hand up to pause them, before they climb up to the tavern. "Let me just check the lads have got it right..." He listens to the sounds upstairs for a moment, then nods. "Fine. Let's go."

As they enter the back room, they notice that the usual Lunar clerk who monitors comings and goings through the "secret" tunnel is fully occupied with several very large and very young adventurers, who are loudly expressing their shock and bewilderment at having to fill in paperwork in order to go and be Heroic. Krogar and his group can simply walk past, without the clerk even having time to look at them. As an additional precaution they leave Gimpy's in two groups, spaced a few minutes apart.

Yenda leads the small group going to Duke Raus' house. She leads because Graylor has never visited the place and Jamal's grief has taken him inwards, he is barely aware of his surroundings and hasn't spoken since leaving camp. She knocks and waits for the servant to open the door.

"Good morrow Jalmal Bin Jaran al'Awara." He greets them. Jamal barely nods in response. "I am afraid that the Duke isn't receiving visitors this morning."

Seeing the lack of response from Jamal, Graylor smoothly takes over the conversation. "I am Graylor Bladedancer and I have the pleasure of being Saha to Abul. We come today with sad news about Abul that the Duke should hear."

"I will make enquiries. Please come with me and I will show you where you can wait."

As soon as the servant leaves to find Duke Raus Gralor turns to Jamal gripping his shoulder tightly. "You must talk to Raus. You need to snap out of this silence. I will help but you know the Duke and must start."

Jamal nods silently, his head downcast. It is in this position that the Duke finds him.

"Welcome Jamal and friends. It always lifts my heart to see you." The Duke pauses, seeing the long faces he drops the happy persona. "But methinks that it is not happy events that bring you to me. Lady Jakkana warned me that sad news would be arriving today, but not from whom. Tell me, don't leave me in suspense!"

"I failed him." Jamal haltingly manages. "I was supposed to be his father and I failed him. That childhood fear that I was determined that he should master. Turns out that it was real after all, and that he had a right to the fear." At this point Jamal breaks down and cannot continue. Graylor steps in smoothly.

"Last night, when they were returning from Pavis, Abul and his companions were beset by trolls. They dealt with them bravely and were about to continue back when a Death Lord appeared and started giving unlife to the corpses. One of them was attacked by Abul and somehow was able to break Abul's medallion. At that moment six Jukhar appeared and attacked Abul. He bravely killed one and injured another before they overcame his defenses."

The Duke turns pale and he seems to buckle, fortunately collapsing backwards into a chair. Graylor pauses a moment in his retelling. The Duke signals a servant to bring him a stiff drink, which he downs in a single gulp. Over the initial shock he asks Graylor to continue.

Graylor feels compelled to warn the Duke. "Unfortunately there is more, and worse news." Mentally Raus braces himself before waving Graylor on.

"Last night we were summoned to act as witnesses to Abul's deeds and ensure that he went to the correct afterlife. He was duly released as a good Hazar. We thought that the best had happened for him. Until this morning, when we have found out that his soul was trapped and he has been prevented from taking his appointed path. This is something that we Humakti will not stand for and we intend to follow Abul, release his soul and punish those responsible. It is also the intention of some of Abul's companions to attempt to give him a second chance at life. Jamal has come to ask for your blessing in this endeavour. I would like to speak with the Lady Jakkana as she may be able to help us find the path that Abul took after his judgement."

First the Duke asks a servant to bring Lady Jakkana, then he questions his visitors about Abul's final actions. When Jakkana arrives she looks tired and strained.

"Lady Jakkana." Graylor addresses the woman. "I believe you were there last night at Abul's trial."

"At Abul's.....?" She, too, turns pale. "So that was who it was. No. No, I wasn't, but I should have been. I knew I was being called, called to do something, but I couldn't go, couldn't move. I'd thought it was some terrible dream. But if Abul is..." She buries her face in her hands for a moment, then looks up again. "What happened?"

"His amulet was broken," Raus answers gravely. "Demons came for him. Worse yet, they tell me that despite him being judged as a good Hazar, his soul went down the wrong path, and is trapped. Though how such a thing could happen...."

"Spolite Witches. It's got to be. The same ones who made that amulet. Blocking me from doing my duty, trapping him. Those foul witches, I'll bone them alive. Just wait till I find out who are responsible and they will pay, painfully." As Jakkana is warming up to her subject she is again cut off by Graylor.

"How about settling for rescuing Abul's soul. Just as a starter!" Graylor offers. "Others are with Abul and the White Ladies preparing to go after his soul. It the job of my fellow Legionaries and myself to effect the rescue of his soul. The only problem is that we have no guide into the Carmanian paths of the dead. We need to know which door he took so that we can follow. Will you help us?"

"If my lord allows it, I will." She looks questioningly at Duke Raus. "Remember that we are talking about the scheming of Spolites here. It is our duty to thwart any activities of those heretics."

The Duke looks thoughtful for a while before answering. He studies the men and women waiting for his word. "Very well I do give my permission. But, look after her Jamal and Graylor she is unique and I would be very upset if she were hurt. Further, I have resources and some influence in this city. If they can help you then they are at your immediate disposal."

He holds Jamal's shoulder, providing some comfort. "I know the Legion needs a low profile. So if my name can open doors and access needed resources then don't hesitate to use it. I was fond of Abul and would like to see him get revenge for what has been done to him."

Seeing Graylor distracted, by a sudden breeze that has blown into the room, Yenda speaks up.

"These Spolites have to be organized, but I wonder how much of last night was preset and how much was reacting to circumstances? You see the demons finding Abul was preset, those demons were tasked to find him the instant he took off his medallion. Likewise the demon that came to the Courts of Silence was one of the same demons, carrying out its instructions. Could one be capable of taking a mythical role and usurping your place Lady Jakkana?"

"I don't know, but I guess that it could be possible." Jakkana admits.

"If all the actions so far were preplanned then the Spolites are in the same situation as us. They have to generate a ritual to enter the heroplane and get Abul. In which case it is a race to Abul, with them having the advantage of knowing where he is. If the subsequent events after Abul's death were reactionary then we are almost certainly going to be arriving second. No that's the wrong question." Yenda looks annoyed with herself. "We are almost certainly going to be there second. The real question is: will they be expecting us? The only information that the demons could have given their masters is that Abul was with a bunch of Humakti in Pavis, and everybody knows that Humakti don't go messing with the dead. So I would think that there would be a good chance that the party being sent to retrieve the amulet from Abul will not be expecting hostile company. What do you think Lady Jakkana?" Yenda asks respectfully.

"I do not know...." Jakanna frowns in thought. "Spolite witches are cunning beyond measure, and if they know enough to block me, personally, and to usurp my role in particular, then they already know more than I would prefer, somehow. You may well be right though - they will not expect Humakti interference."

Graylor rejoins the conversation. "We shall soon see if it is enough. Everything is ready in the Temple of Healing. They only await the arrival of the final guides for the quest to begin. Already in place are a Heortling psychopomp, a real-world tracker and a sprit-tracker. We will then add a Carmanian psychopomp, and the love of a father and the love of a good woman all overseen by Humakt the Separator, who should know if a soul is on its proper path."

He pauses a moment thinking if there are any other guides he could reasonable include. As there aren't he continues.

"My lady, if there are things that you will need to fulfill your role, now is the time to get them and we will carry them to the temple."

"My Lord it has been an honour to meet you. Abul has often spoken glowingly about your kindness and generosity and his words were not misplaced, if anything they do not do you enough credit. We will send you word of how we fare as soon as we are able." With these gracious words the visitors take their leave of Duke Raus and help Lady Jakkana prepare to leave and accompany her to the White Ladies. As they leave Duke Raus' house Graylor offers Jakkanna his arm.

"What's that!" she looks suspiciously at his arm. "I'm not some feeble old lady that needs your support, nor do I need your protection!"

"You mistake my intent." Graylor replies quietly. "I merely seek to enhance our reputations. If you take my arm then I am no longer the hired muscle and beneath notice. I am a companion of the formidable Lady Jakkanna and must therefore be formidable too. Your reputation will be enhanced by having a young, virile, handsome man on your arm."

Under Jakkanna's withering look Graylor concedes, "Well, youngish and not too unpleasant to look at."

This brings a smile to Jakkanna's face and she takes the proffered arm. "Under those circumstances, how could I not!" she murmurs quietly.

The journey across Pavis to the temple of the White Ladies is uneventful, perhaps because of Krogar's precautions, perhaps because of Benlan's white robes, and perhaps, sadly, because the sight of a body being carried to the healers just isn't all that unusual. They're a little cautious, going around via Crook Street and Holy Street rather than straight across City Court, but it isn't far.

Unlike their last visit, it's now daylight, and the main doors are open, with a young initiate greeting visitors and assessing patients - Neela, who Irnar has met before. A worried mother and whining small child are sent off to a side room, and then it's their turn. Benlan starts to explain, but Krogar intervenes. "We're expected, I believe."

Neela nods. "Yes, sir. I'll take you to Mother now." She turns the sign on her desk round to display a red X rather than the harmony rune, and leads the way further in to where Oreena White is waiting for them.

Irnar raises a smile for Neela, but even he doesn't feel that flirting is appropriate in these circumstances. He follows Neela closely as she guides them to Oreena. He squeeses her hand in thanks as he steps in front of everybody.

"Mother. I love that title!" he starts before anybody else can speak, relying on his natural charm to deflect any anger at any breach of appropriate protocols.

Neela giggles nervously. "But she...."

Oreena silences her with a quick smile and a shake of the head.

Irnar bows low and reaches out for her hand, kissing it gently. "I know that you have it in your power to help my poor friend back to life. For that I will be eternally grateful. I know that you will have been briefed by friends of a lovely lady we both know. But what I don't think you know is the determination of our sable friends to come with you. You see, they have discovered that some entity has violated the sanctity of Humakt's path for the dead, by ambushing Abul's soul, and they want to fix it. Their plan is to join you and guard you on the way. When they find the perpetrator they will bring him to justice and free Abul. They will then guard everybody on the way back."

"We knew Abul had been ambushed and trapped, yes. That was emphasised as a reason for urgency, not that that lady is ever half-hearted about anything." She smiles fondly. "The sables, though, I didn't know about, and the extra support could be useful."

Irnar smiles warmly at Oreena and sketches a florid bow. "And now dear lady we are at your service. Is there anything that you need to perform your miracle?"

"Not my miracle, but Benlan's, we hope. I provide the sacred space, and the backing, along with any advice I can give. He will be the one to find Abul and bring him back, and what he will need is a guide. We know the path Orlanthi go down. We know the ways of the Praxians. But the Carmanian path is little known here, even without the problems of traps. Benlan will need a guide, who knows that path, and a tracker, to show where Abul left it."

Yaren coughs, "I am a guide and I know the way to the Sword Bridge down many of the paths the dead travel to get there. I can also find lost souls, which seems to be the best way forward here. If you don't know where he was taken then he is definitely lost and I can help find him. I could just use some swords around me to help bring us all home again."

Egil glares at him "and...?"

"and what?"

"And how much will it cost? I know you Issaries lot, never do something for free that you can get paid for. That's your cult motto isn't it?"

"The price can be paid by the boy and his father if and when we return, think of it as a no win, no fee situation."

"I suppose it's the best we can do but if Jamal thinks your head is the price he wants to pay I won't be able to stop him."

Oreena nods her head to acknowledge Yaren. "Thank you Issaries, the call of the Lightbringers has not gone unheeded I see."

"We might be able to get a Carmanian psychopomp too," Irnar adds. "Krogar, could you contact Graylor and see if he has got anywhere?"

"Sure." Krogar walks to the window and whispers into the breeze that has appeared around him as he walked. Just as suddenly as it appeared the wind has gone. Returning a few moments later, Krogar listens intently, then smiles.

"Yes they have the assistance of the Lady Jakkana. He says that she knows the Carmanian paths, good and bad."

"Excellent, then between Yaren and Jakkana knowing the soul paths, Seeker-of-Righteous-Death who spotted Abul's disappearance and Egil and myself as real-world trackers, I would say that we have most bases covered."

"Then we may as well finish preparing the ritual area, since there seems to be no reason to delay, and every reason not to. Bring the lad through, and Neela, go and welcome Lady Jakkana, and bring her here as soon as she arrives."

She pulls aside a curtain to reveal a larger room, from which the feel of magic radiates, then pauses and looks round at the Humakti present. "Do not try to use any magic on here, especially Death magic, unless I or Benlan instruct you to do so. The consequences would not be good."

Benlan lifts Abul's body and carries him through the doorway, placing him on a bed laid out in the centre of the room. "I prepared him as soon as I could," he says. "All the major injuries are healed, and deterioration is only minor so far."

Oreena and Benlan go round the room together, activating various runes and inscriptions on the walls, and Jakkanna and Graylor arrive while this is in progress. Oreena pauses in her work to greet them. "Our last assistants, then, and we can start making sure all of you are properly equipped for your tasks. Lady Jakkanna, I take it you have whatever ritual items you may require for your role? Issaries, we have some items here that may be of assistance, since yours is a role we know well. For you others..." she looks round at the group. "White armbands for all, to show you are guards and assistants to the Lady. If there are other items that may help in your roles as guides or guards, we may be able to assist a little, but I would expect your own equipment to be more appropriate. If there is suitable magic you wish to use, now would be the time, but no death magic."

"Ah..." Benlan is clearly reluctant to contradict her, or to take control of what will be his quest. "If you need death magic, really need it, I'm used to working with it, I'll cope. Just warn me!" He's now in the fuller flowing white robes of a full Priest of Chalana Arroy, rather than the practical white tunic and breeches that are his more normal attire.

"Benlan, I salute you." Are Graylor'f first words, and he does so. "Is this the feeling you get when you enter our temple, a gut wrenching antithesis of your whole being? Wow, and you have done it many times. This place is so full of intrusive, bright, wholesome life!"

"No, dear lady, I would not profane such a place with death magic." Graylor reassures Oreena. "It may be needed on the otherside but not here. I can offer my Truewind and Honour magic if that would help your preparations?"

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