Returning to Glister

5th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After the fight at the falls I felt so nauseous and weak that I was instantly transported back to the courtyard off the inner keep at Redgarden. I felt like I was eight years old again, trembling and crying after being worked over to the point of retching, the contents of my stomach voided and desecrating those hallowed grounds upon which every Redwyne man had learned how to handle a sword. While we all rested I closed my eyes to avoid eye contact. Back then I wished to become invisible so that I could escape my father’s anger, now I just wished for everyone to forget what I did.

We broke up camp when the sun was high above the trees. I noticed David and Quentyn having a chat out of earshot of the rest of the group. When Quentyn came back he had a look of concern on his face. It strikes me that it’s been a while since he’s smiled. He was probably never groomed for governance and rule and I suspect he’s finding it hard to keep track of all the moving parts. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

The prisoners were bound to one another by the waist and their hands were tied together. Mateo’s mind seemed to have completely collapsed under the weight of losing the bloodstone. He keeps talking to himself, rambling on and on about how he failed, how he failed his master. The other Sembians seem genuinely surprised and worried at his behaviour. They try and rationalise it to themselves by saying that the mercenary life broke him, like it breaks so many others. I’m not going to argue that living as a sellsword doesn’t come with a heavy price that not every man can pay, but I am fairly certain they know something else, something more, is wrong with Mateo than they are admitting openly.

I had suggested that Jago talk to them to see to what extent they had been aware or even complicit in the theft of the bloodstone. Jago has a sense for people, if anyone could get to the truth of it, it was him. The conclusion was that they had only been aware of the theft when they had already been under way. Mateo had mentioned taking something that would allow them to set themselves up whenever they would get to Vaasa in the North.

We marched throughout the entire day until night fell. We made camp a few hundred steps away from the river. The prisoners were tied to a tree, away from the rest of camp, and Godric and Widukin were tasked with their guard. Having observed them throughout the day, I was surprised at how resigned they were to their capture. They did as they were told, answered when questioned and were only interested to learn whether they would likely be executed once we got back to Glister.Perhaps these are misconceptions, but I was raised to believe that without too many exceptions, Sembians were duplicitous, dishonorable people, prone to infighting and eager to lie, cheat and manipulate for the smallest advantage. I saw no such thing in the way these Sembians behaved today. They owned up to their desire to leave. They admitted to learning about the theft while on their way. But never did they seem eager to turn cloak on Mateo.

Once camp had been established we took Mateo apart from the rest and tried to interrogate him. He had been sobbing and moaning to himself until David slapped him back to responsiveness. After that, he kept on rambling the same thing over and over. He could no longer hear his master and because of this he would fail him. No question was answered with any degree of satisfaction.

I took out a copper coin and held it firmly in my hand. I had prepared for this moment and the magic inside of me was eager for release.

Detect Thoughts
Zu hon faal zu se faal hadrim.
(I hear the voice of the mind.)

As the magic flowed from my core, its tendrils started to pick up the snippets of thoughts of the people in front of me. I noticed the disjointed, chaotic mind of Mateo, and I registered Jago standing behind the Sembian against a tree in the distance. I homed in on the whirling chaos of our prisoner’s mind and his thoughts started to come into better focus.

While I was focusing on his thoughts, trying to make sense of it all, something happened that I can’t quite explain. I noticed another presence somewhere off at the periphery of his mind. Just as I tried to figure out what was going on, Mateo calmed down and engaged that presence in conversation. Soon he was instructed to stop thinking about the bloodstone, about his master or any of the plans he had for the stone. An iron discipline kept his mind unyieldingly clear of any useful thoughts.

In the end, what I had been able to discern from his thoughts, before the gates to his inner monologue shut down, was that Mateo is of no small intellect, which means a strong logical and analytical core doesn’t protect against the abyssal influence coming from the demon in the bloodstone. It was also clear that the demon had approached him in his dreams to guide his actions. It was clear that he was forced into the theft. That which coerced him terrified him in a way he could not put into thoughts nor words.

Quentyn convened a council with myself, David, Jago and Ser Fosco to determine what punishment would be befitting a man who stole a precious jewel from the lord’s keep. We purposefully obfuscated the nature of the bloodstone from Ser Fosco but I don’t think he was fooled into thinking it was an ordinary gemstone, since David passionately pleaded for mercy on Mateo’s behalf due to the influence that had been exerted on him by the demon. I wish the magic of the hon faal hadrim had not fizzled out by that point, because I dearly would have wished to gauge Ser Fosco’s thoughts on what must be a confusing situation.

Initially it seemed as if David was arguing against punishing Mateo completely, stating that he could not be held accountable for his actions due to the influence of the demon. He took great offense against my suggestion that you put a rabid dog down despite the dog being innocent to the influence of the malady. A man is not a dog, he argued, completely bypassing my point. I put it in simpler terms; regardless of Mateo’s culpability, he was too dangerous to be allowed to stay. The demon had consumed his mind so completely, in such a short amount of time, that I could not abide the situation David was arguing for. We settled on banishment, which could be tantamount to a death sentence; if the trolls on the Thar wouldn’t get him, the coming winter surely would.

The matter of the remaining Sembians, who didn’t strike me as complicit in Mateo’s plan and had been only been guilty of leaving Quentyn’s domain without his leave, sparked an interesting debate. Ser Fosco and I agreed that the lord’s justice was absolute, barring any fealties he might have sworn. Quentyn doesn’t owe any fealty as far as I am aware, considering the unbound nature of the region Glister finds itself in. The conclusion of the conversation was that whatever punishment Quentyn would decide to dole out, it should be consistent. So if theft is punished by flogging, or dismemberment, or exile or death, it should always be that way.

While the rest of the group was sorting out who was going to take which watch, I once again slid into obscurity and rolled myself up in the blankets I had brought. The last few moments before sleep took me was spent deciding which spells I would prepare the next morning. I was still carrying Mateo’s green sword with me that I wanted to examine. I would need the proper divination spells for that, but I decided I would try and see if I could pick Old Gustav’s brain first. Perhaps he could explain the nature or the origin of the special alloy, which would help significantly in my research.

6th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

With the exception of some commotion in the middle of the night, the source of which I couldn’t be bothered to discern considering how quickly the ruckus had died down, I slept the night through. I woke up feeling much refreshed as the residual nausea had faded away. I realised that morning that I’ve come a long way from the frail and frightened young boy back in Redgarden Keep. I have struck out on my own and have been forging my own path. I do suspect I still have a tendency to make sure I make use of other people’s comforts to sustain myself. I wonder if it is time for me to move out of the keep and perhaps take up residency on The Gift. Get a hut of my own. I am conflicted. It would be the right thing to do in order to develop myself as a man, but staying at Wizard’s Hill would develop me as a mage and councilor.

Because I had a full night’s sleep in considerable better comfort than most, I woke up early enough to study my spells. I ate a simple breakfast and I got a moment to observe the prisoners. They seemed in remarkably better spirits than the previous day. The Sembians seemed calmed by the fact that they felt it unlikely they would be executed, and Mateo was still unyieldingly quiet, unwilling to betray more of the plans his master had for him. In order for me to try out some self-sufficiency in possible preparation of a move away from Wizard’s Hill, I helped to clear the camp. Buried rubbish, extinguished the campfire and helped people tie packs to their backs.

I did not like it. I liked helping, of course. It was the distraction that I disliked. A solution to the problem of how to protect the stone from further thieves and intruders was beginning to form — nothing that I am currently ready to put down to parchment — but I was not able to concentrate on it. When it comes down to it, I feel like my intellect and talents are wasted on mundane tasks like preparing daily food, patching a thatch roof after a storm, or keeping a home tidy. I have always had the good fortune that the people around me recognised this, but how long will I be able to be useful to Quentyn? And more importantly, at which point will he assume me part of his retinue?

We started our walk and only paused on occasion to alleviate our feet, have a bite to eat, take a piss or remove a pebble from our boots. I accidentally snagged my traveler’s clothes on a branch it reminded me again that I should take my clothing to get patched at the looms on The Hoof one of these days. Perhaps I can then also commission that robe that I was mentioning before. I have been thinking about the herald I would want to have it adorned with; a black bird in flight across a red field, carrying a golden cornucopia in its beak.

At dusk we reached the Newmark and noticed the camp of the settlers having shrunk significantly. We also noticed a plume of smoke coming off from across the Smallwater in the west. It seemed that in our absence squire Croga and Godric’s brother had made good on their promise to start work on The Gift. The plume of smoke was probably a combination of cooking fires, campfires and perhaps some mud ovens. We crossed the moat with the ferry and made our way to Wizard’s Hill. As we passed Creighton’s home, I made a stop to get an update on the progress. He told me that many of the settlers had been lead to The Gift where they found a habitable hill a few hours walk west. They had started to clear the hill of vegetation and trees but decided to leave a remarkably venerable oak tree to remain at the top, dubbing the settlement Oak Hill. He also mentioned that several of the loggers and woodcutters working for the Widow had been helping the settlement out in return for some of the lumber being dragged down to the Smallwater and floated downstream to the mill.

I was pondering the possibility of going over to Oak Hill to see if I could possibly be of service in clearing the land using some of the levitation transmutations and fire invocations I have at my disposal when I walked into the keep. I asked Mund if he had some spiced, mulled cider and he surprised me with some wine! For a change, I must have looked the fool instead of him as I thanked him for it and hid the wine away in my room. The wine, you see, would come very much in handy in the divination spells I was preparing for the following day.

As mentioned earlier, I wanted to visit Old Gustav before trying to divine the nature of the green sword we lifted off Mateo and so off I went to the longhouse. Glister proper was calm and quiet. The only noise came from some of the farm animals and the sounds coming from Corben’s smithy. He was probably working hard supplying the settlers with nails, tools and other assorted metalworks to help them cultivate Oak Hill. I found Old Gustav surrounded by a few of his daughters and I sat with him. I was given some food and a drink by one of his daughters, probably in thanks for coming to sit with the old man. Honestly, I don’t quite understand why more people don’t come to him. He’s got a wealth of knowledge and sage advice! Sure, you might have to endure some of his ramblings and occasionally guide him back on track, but it is absolutely worth it.

As I showed Gustav the sword and asked him if he recognised it, knew anything about it and knew what kind of metal gave off such a green hue. His face lit up and he started to talk. As he spoke, I realised that with Chauntea’s blessing I would grow old like him, but that even she could not prevent my mind from withering the way Gustav’s had. The prospect of my mind failing me the way my body fails me is not one I relish. I should think about ways in which I can preserve my mind through old age. That, or stave off old age altogether!

After hours of listening to Gustav talk — sometimes interesting, sometimes amusing, sometimes frustrating — I had to conclude that it was getting late and that it was unlikely he would share anything useful. I now know all I wished to know about the green hue of the carapace of the Tharassian dung beetle who thrive in the acidic excrement of the Thar trolls. Supposedly, the green of their carapace matches the colour of Mateo’s sword quite closely. I decided to walk Gustav and his daughters home and then retired back to the keep. I would have to find time to properly divine the nature of the sword on the morrow.

7th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

This was a difficult morning for me.

Yesterday we had a heated debate regarding Mateo’s guilt, where David and I had found a compromise; Mateo was not innocent, but Mateo was also not deserving of death, instead he should be punished with exile. We had both given our recommendation and our sagest advice to Quentyn, but we had done so coming from a place we could be live with. We found had established some sense of moral hegemony within our group.

Today, during breakfast, David once again found it necessary to undermine Quentyn’s authority. He started by asking Quentyn whether he had been schooled in statecraft and diplomacy. He then proceeded to explain the concept of the three estates, essentially claiming judicial and authoritarian independence from Quentyn’s rule. Since he and his ward Zacjeni were all there was in terms of religious representation, he asserted he represented the first estate.

I admit that I lost my temper again, but that didn’t last long. After catching some air, I found solace in the realisation why David had kept undermining Quentyn’s authority. He thinks that he represents divine authority in Glister, which is, of course, patently absurd.

I have read about this notion, and it’s a fairly elegant system in areas where there was a divine hegemony. The Zhentilar, famously, abide by this system. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in areas of religious pluralism. How could it when no one religious dogma holds authority over another? I pray to Chauntea and I don’t recognise the moral or divine authority that David represents. I’m sure that Moloch agrees with me. Who knows, perhaps Widukin is a follower Mielikki the Forest Queen and Haëlla sings the praise of Selune the Moon Mistress.

See, for the three estates to work, they all have to accept each other and the role each plays. That also means that the roles that are being played are agreed upon. Do you think a follower of Bane and a follower of Illmater will be able to agree on matters of divine authority? I think not. And why should the second estate, in this case represented by Quentyn accept their authority? He’s not a follower of Illmater either.

The only thing we know is that the third estate, the good people of Glister, myself included, accept the second estate. Everyone, with the exception of David, is willing to submit to the lord’s rule and justice. Not all of the third estate is willing to be ministered to by David as the second estate, since not all of them share his ideals and beliefs.

Finally, Jago and Ser Fosco arrived and I returned back inside. Ser Fosco was looking for leave to join the settlers at Oak Hill, and when he left the conversation turned back to the bloodstone. The option of destroying the stone briefly came up, but I cautioned against it, because I argued that it was likely that the only reason why the demon could be imprisoned in the stone was due to the flawless nature of the gem. If that was to be compromised it would likely mean the demon’s escape.

David offered to bring the gem to his monastery in Illinvur, where his order could likely offer better guardianship over it. So far, this seems to be the best solution I’ve heard. The only thing I can offer is to restore the Deamonsbane lockbox and perhaps expand its protections to obfuscate the stone and dampen the demon’s influence. It would be fitting. It would also require me to develop my skills in artificing. I was taught the rudimentary basics of artificing at the Circle of Magi and I think I could manage, but it would be a costly investment of my time and resources

Not to mention part of my own essence.

Leave a Reply