Chapter Ten, Part Seven
Over the storm, Claire hears Arturus’ feminine voice shouting something about Evenliir.
“What is he doing? He is much closer to the keep then to us. They will hear him and . . . ”
She runs to Melias and Orjulun.
“That transexual friend of yours is shouting at the top of his lungs right at the front gate! Something about ‘Evenliir’.”
“I warned you!” Rastorn hisses, then shoves his spellbook into his pack. “He, She, it isn’t stable!”
“Oh my, she must be attacking him right now! We have to go and save him!” Percy shouts. He hooks up the last piece of his armor and places his new helmet on his head as he charges toward the road leading to the keep.
Rastorn dashes deeper into the forest on a diagonal path toward the road leading away from the keep, while all the others step toward Claire, to see for themselves. They neither see nor hear Arturus.
“Why can’t I see myself?” Arturus asks herself. Rubbing her hands over her she can feel it has changed. When she feels her chest she shouts aloud, “I have breasts! What in the Nine Hells is going on?”
“Percy!” Melias shouts. “The last time you charged in so boldly, we almost all died!” He hears Arturus shouting and frowns. Arturus knew what she was volunteering for. In Melias’ opinion, it was her choice to put her neck on the line all by her lonesome. Rastorn running off in the other direction is what he finds disconcerting. He muttered to Orjulun and Claire, “I’m going to follow . . . er, protect Rastorn.” He races after Rastorn as quietly as he can manage.
“Where is the old Wizard going?” Claire asks Orjulun, as she readied her crossbow.
Percy stopped when he heard Melias, but when he heard Arturus scream again he bolted toward the keep. “Attack me, you evil trickster!” he challenges, as he swings his two-handed sword in a figure eight around his body.
Rastorn makes his way to the road forty yards into the woods and stops. Watching the keep intently, he slides one hand into his robe.
Orjulun looks at Claire and shrugs his shoulders.
SeLiem finally stops talking, but waits to see what the others will do.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Orjulun says, “Arturus was supposed to keep quiet and just have a quick look around. I guess we should move a bit closer just in case we’re needed, right?”
“I’m willing, but won’t that give our position away?” Claire asks.
Orjulun rubs his chin, then glances at Melias and then Percy as they run in nearly opposite directions. He shrugs again, then jogs after Percy. When Claire and SeLiem follow, he increases his pace until they are all in a full sprint.
Melias approaches the road near Rastorn, but remains behind him and out of sight.
Arriving at the front gate, Percy stops swinging his sword and loudly whispers, “Arturus, where are you? Are you hurt?” There is no sign of anyone attacking, but he remains vigilant.
Rastorn notes Percy has not been attacked, so he saunters up the road and out of the forest.
When Claire reaches the gate, she peeks inside. Looking up and around and down she sees no enemies nor obvious traps so she steps through. Seconds later she steps back out and says, “The place is empty. A bunch of abandoned buildings. If she’s not out here, then we can assume Evenliir is hiding in one of them.”
Melias runs deeper into the forest, then emerges near Rastorn. He has his bow and arrows ready, but lowers them a moment before Rastorn spots him.
The rain gives Arturus’ position away and Percy approaches her, while Claire, Orjulun, and SeLiem wait at the gate. Orjulun pulls his wand and Claire levels her crossbow toward the keep. SeLiem places his hands on his hips and looks left and right, unsure what to do.
With a blank expression on his face, Percy walks toward Orjulun, then stops and looks around.
“Where are we?” Percy asks. “What sort of magic can teleport the entire party from all different places to one place? Or did we come one at a time? Oh, I see Red, Lil, and Arturus are not here yet, so I was just the latest one to be transported, right?”
“Between the Cleric and these two fighters, I’d say this whole party is bonkers!” Claire remarks, with more than a little joy. “Fino was right, this should be fun!”
Percy looks at her. “And who might you be, young minstrel?” he asks, with a bow.
“Well, I think I can see Arturus’ silhouette over there in the rain, so he’s alright, but I see no sign of any attackers. Looks like a false alarm,” Rastorn says as he and Melias join the group. He furrows his brow and points when he spots SeLiem wandering around inside the gated area.
Of all the peculiarities displayed in his fellow party members, SeLiem’s disinterest is the most unsettling to Melias. He decides he has to figure a way to get what he assumes is a Cursed ring off the Cleric’s finger. He calls out to everyone from his position near the rear. “Percy, Arturus, Orjulun, Rastorn, Claire – regroup at our rally point, the lean-to. We need to give this a little more thought.” He looks at SeLiem and says pointedly, “We don’t want you to come with us though, SeLiem. Don’t you follow us back.” He turns on heel and starts back toward their modest dry spot.
SeLiem shakes his head at Melias, then sits down.
Melias peers over his shoulder and notes SeLiem is actually doing what he was told rather than arguing or doing the opposite. Pausing, he looks at his feet and sighs, then waves Percy to him. “Look, Percy, I know this is going to seem weird, but we need to bring SeLiem with us and if we tell him to come with us, he will refuse. Frankly, I’m stumped at why he’s willing to stay when I’ve told him not to follow us. It’s unpredictable and frankly getting to be rather annoying. See, he’s got a Cursed ring on that makes him argue with everybody. Better we leave him out here and go in the keep without him rather than have him bounding about doing all sorts of stupid things because he’s Cursed. So, if necessary, we will need to manhandle him back to the rally point. Then we need to take that damned ring off his finger. Do you think you can help me with this? I promise, as soon as we take care of that, I’ll fill you in on everything.”
Claire trudges back to the lean-to. To her, all the strangeness is entertaining, but unproductive. She decides to follow Melias’ plans, since he seems the most lucid right now. He was a bit daft earlier, in her opinion, but fine now. She stays near Orjulun, who has yet to say or do anything in the least bit odd.
Rastorn is happy to return to the lean-to. He has no idea why Arturus and Percy had suddenly gone crazy and he doesn’t want to be a victim of the same sorcery. His ideas had all been ignored, even though he felt he was often proven correct after the fact, so he decides to let everyone else plan what they will do, as long as it doesn’t involve him doing anything more dangerous than anyone else.
Arturus has no clue what Melias is talking about and is very confused by what is going on, but she follows the group. As they near the lean-to she says, “Since no one is shocked to see a woman amongst us, I’m assuming someone knows her. I’m Arturus,” she says and bows, although Claire cannot see her.
SeLiem stands and walks toward the Manor.
Seeing this, Melias shouts for someone to keep him from getting too close to it.
Without needing to know why, Arturus complies to Melias’ request and races back to head SeLiem off. “Hold it there! I don’t know why, but Melias doesn’t want you near this thing, so hold up here for a moment!” he shouts.
SeLiem looks in Arturus’ direction, then looks back at the manor, then toward Arturus, then he runs towards the manor.
“Let’s try not to use deadly force this time,” Melias shouts as he rushes to help Arturus subdue SeLiem. “Come on, Percy, we could use your help. I have a feeling this isn’t going to be easy.”
“Deadly force? I’ve never used deadly force on a companion before,” Arturus says as he dives for SeLiem.
Since Arturus is still invisible, SeLiem finds it impossible to avoid being tackled. Percy and Melias jump on after and soon they are hoisting the Cleric up and away. SeLiem says a magic word, but they keep a hold on him and are too much weight for the Levitate to work. All it does is make him lighter and easier to carry. They take him back to the woods.
“While this is fun, SeLiem, would you mind staying still? What’s with the blatant refusal to listen?” Arturus asks. Then she asks, “How can we drop this invisibility spell?”
“You honestly don’t remember – do you?” Melias asks, as they secure the rebellious Priest. “I’ll summarize. We left the city the willing participants of a Teleport spell. We showed up at the ocean, close to Dumas. We found a ship that was breaking up and attempted to rescue those still alive from some sea-faring creatures, but there were no sailors left alive. We found some treasure and you tried on a girdle that changed your sex. SeLiem, on the other hand, tried on a ring that makes him want to disobey everyone. But it’s a smart curse, or so it seems. It seems to know when we’re deliberately trying to control SeLiem with misdirection – that’s the only conclusion I can draw from my experiments on the matter. We have come to this place by way of a riddle map, and that,” he points to the gate in the distance “is Taber’s Keep. This is where the people from the wanted poster fled seeking something, perhaps The Cube of Power. You had Invisibility cast on you so you could head in and check it out. By getting too close, you and Percy have apparently lost some of your memories.”
Melias pauses for a moment trying to remember if he’d forgotten anything, then slaps his hand over his mouth. “Damn, in all of the excitement, I forgot to mention before! Red was left behind at the city – on purpose. You see, she was to investigate Lil’s mysterious death. I didn’t want to burden you all with it before, because I was afraid it would detract you from our mission. Please forgive me.”
“Oh Kurosaw, that’s a lot. If it was coming from anyone else I’d disbelieve it. Coming from a brother, especially you Melias, I fully believe. I wish I wasn’t a girl though, but I do have nice boobs now. I can’t wait until we camp so I can further check this out.” Arturus says, as he begins to reappear, the spell ending.
Percy has subdued SeLiem, but still doesn’t understand why or what is going on, even with the explanation.
Rastorn chuckles, content in his belief he was proven right.
“Can anyone identify the parameters of the spell Percy and Arturus are under? Maybe then we can get rid of it,” Claire says, never looking up as she writes more slanderous notes about SeLiem and Percy. “Then people would stop losing their memory.”
“Hold – did you just say Lil was killed?” Percy shouts at Melias, as finishes binding SeLiem to a tree. “We need to avenge her death!”
“What we need to do is get inside that keep as soon as we can!” Rastorn shouts. “Or did you forget the part about us saving the world?” He lowers his voice and says more calmly, “Priorities, Percy, priorities,” as he kneels in front of SeLiem and ties a rag around his mouth.
Orjulun asks Melias, “When did this happen? How long did you know about this? What happened to her?”
As Orjulun and Melias discuss Lil’s murder and Percy listens in, Rastorn whispers in SeLiem’s ear. “I am going to take something from you, but I will let you borrow something, in exchange. Sounds, fair, right? SeLiem, this is going to hurt. A lot.” He slides a ring from his finger onto SeLiem’s left ring finger, then tightly holds SeLiem’s right ring finger, the one with the magic ring on it. Pulling his dagger, he slices SeLiem’s ring finger off. He lets the ring fall to the ground, but catches the finger and smashes it tight to where it had previously been attached. A small quantity of blood sprays, but he holds the finger tight against the wound and stops bleeding. All the blood is soaked into a rag he held.
SeLiem swoons and passes out from pain and shock.
Percy, who had remained near SeLiem while he listened as best he could to Melias, shoots a puzzled look at Rastorn when SeLiem passes out.
“A Necromantic spell,” Rastorn assures him, “He will be out a short while. Have no fear; I will watch him as he recovers. Go. See what you can learn about poor, beautiful Lil Forestdweller and let me know what secrets the Elf hid from us.”
Percy looks at SeLiem and can see he is still breathing and looks well, so he walks closer to Melias and Orjulun, to better hear their discussion.
Claire knows a little about Lil’s murder and listens to Melias while deciding what to share. She knows Fino had the Thieve’s Guild spies find out all they could about Lil’s death, since she was with the group he was spying on – the group Claire travels with now – and he had shared a romantic night with Lil just before she was slain. Claire was present when Fino received the report. It said Lil Forestdweller, a Half-Elf female Druid who used to be a member of The Company of the Gem, was found murdered a few days prior in the church of Raim in ASU. Claire sets down her journal, after completing the passage, ‘and the twit of a Cleric was silenced by the Necromancer, much to the joy of those present’. She stands and tells the party, “Lil was found in a locked room with no windows and her throat slit in the church of Raim. When they cast the Speak with Dead spell on her, she told them she was grabbed from behind, with her eyes and mouth covered for as long as was needed to kill her. She assumed they were after the money she had with her to hire a priest to bring her party back from the dead. She was also prepared to pay for the Teleport spell to get to the burial site. The money wasn’t found. I planned to write a song about it, but instead I ended up here.” She looks at Arturus, then Melias. “Could you tell that idiot to give me my Potion of Gaseous Form? He doesn’t seem like he’s going to use it.”
“He probably doesn’t remember he has it, Claire,” Melias says. “Yes, Percy, Orjulun, I believe everything Claire just said is true. I’ve only known since hours before awakening each of you for the Teleport spell. I deeply regret holding the secret from you, but I couldn’t afford having Percy get us on a sidetrack. We have our own mission. We must trust Red will make good for us in the investigation. Fino has promised Lil’s deceased party members will be retrieved and taken care of properly. With those bases covered and virtually no return path, we’re pretty much stuck with my decision on the matter – as difficult as it was to make. I truly found it hard to decide what was best for everyone involved – as I am not your leader. It was with heavy heart and painful determination that I decided to keep the secret from you all until it was too late to deviate from our fate.”
Briefly, they are all distracted by the sound of SeLiem snoring.
Rastorn smiles, until they turn back to face one another.
Melias squats and draws a rough map with a stick in the dirt. “Look, the way I figure it, Percy was afflicted with this memory problem about here.” He points to a spot near the mossy wall. “Arturus, if you could be so kind as to point out where you recall becoming aware of your surroundings?”
Arturus points to another spot not far from Percy’s, near the mossy wall.
Melias nods. “SeLiem and Claire both walked through the gate without being affected, so as long as we give wide girth to the mossy wall area, we should be alright to enter. What do you say?”
“Damn it, I want that back,” Claire tells Melias. She exhales loudly, then says, “Try burning off the moss, maybe?”
“What for? I personally don’t want to get anywhere near it. Let’s just avoid it and follow the path you and SeLiem took earlier into the keep grounds,” Melias suggests. “And if your potion is so damned important to you, just ask him for it. It’s not like he’s a thief.”
“I am low on spells, but it seems fairly safe inside. As long as we proceed cautiously, I am all for waiting until tomorrow somewhere out of this downpour,” Orjulun interjects.
“I’ll lead the way!” Percy announces, then straightens his armor and checks his weapons.
“I hope you are correct, Melias, because I have no desire to walk around in a daze like those two,” Rastorn answers from where he sat with SeLiem.
“Whatever,” Claire says. “Arrianna, Arturus, whatever the sod you’re calling yourself, could you please give me the potion you’re carrying? The milky-looking one? I need it.”
“I’ll stay near the middle of the group, as we enter,” Rastorn announces. When they look away, he slips his Ring of Regeneration off SeLiem’s finger and back onto his own hand.
Continued in Chapter 11 next week!
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