Campaign of the Month: February 2009

Silent Winter

Gheris' Epilogue, Part 1: A Letter
In which Gheris begins to recognize certain shortcomings

A tree. A single tree. Crudely decorated, painted, cheap baubles and shinies hanging from its lower branches. It was big, strong , quite old with a thick trunk, and although its lower half was scratched and chipped and stained with Creators-knew-what, it was large and shady and… possibly festive, if one were feeling kind. Interestingly, it also showed no signs of shedding its summer weight and dying for the winter – the real winter, now. Granted, it was not so cold in Denerim as it would’ve been farther south, but it was a resilient tree.

But it was one damn tree.

Naessa's Epilogue, Part 2: Companionship
Author's Note: In which I am *ridiculously* sappy.

Posted by jillyfae

Naessa and Falenath had been met by scouts well away from Ostagar, and whisked off to talk to Keeper Darana and Ninnion at full speed. While it was nice to know the Dalish scouts were as smart and observant as they generally thought they were, it meant Naessa hadn’t managed to track down Ferron for a quiet word before she had to be Keeper again.

And there were far too many Keeper things to do. Meetings, and plans, and redistributing supplies and halla and aravel, and deciding what to do with the mirrors, and Grandmother’s things, and taking care of Stennar when she unexpectedly showed up with a trail of horses, and choosing a new travel schedule through the snow.

For all it was glorious to see Darana and Ninnion, and surprisingly satisfying to be getting down to work she was slightly shocked to realize she did actually know how to do, her mind and eyes kept wandering until she could find Ferron.

Every time she looked, he was standing quietly in the back of the crowd, his brown eyes fixed on her, a smile hiding in their depths. And every single time her heart skipped a beat, and she’d lose track of whatever conversation she was supposed to be having for just a moment, before dragging her attention back to her duties.

Ninnion kept teasing her for still being just as crow-witted as ever, successful solo-Keeper or not, but Darana’s quiet smile suggested she’d picked up on the real cause of her former pupil’s distraction. Which is promising, yes? If Darana’s picking up on it, then it’s good news, right? We both meant what I think we meant?

Finally, finally, the day’s work was done, and dinner was over, and Naessa kicked everyone else out of her aravel and sat down with a cup of tea. And sighed. Now, how do I get Ferron in here without alerting the entire encampment to the fact that I want to talk to him in private?

A slight scratch at the hatch inspired an awkward scramble as she hurried to open the door, delighted but not particularly surprised to see that Ferron had perfect timing.

Casidhe's Epilogue: A Sort of Homecoming
In Which Casidhe Settles Old Accounts

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Three weeks after the fall of the Silent Lord

“Hello, Sim.”

Casidhe’s words found Sim’s ears, even in the noontime din of Denerim’s Market District. By the time Sim had spotted him, Casidhe stood within three feet of him. Sim looked worse than Casidhe remembered, all taped-down fat and blotchy skin – but his complexion definitely grew paler when he saw the duelist.

Sim’s winning smile was just the same, if a bit too late. “Casidhe Fionnlagh!” he announced, casting a look around before fixing his gaze on the duelist. Sim’s new bodyguard was nowhere in sight, and the town watchmen had their hands full with other business. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried to pieces!”

“I was off saving the world,” Casidhe replied.

Sim stared for a long moment before bursting into nervous laughter. “Of course you were.”

“Well, my friends saved the world. I helped, though. Or did you not notice that the early winter’s over?” When Sim didn’t answer, Casidhe went on: “I know what you did, Sim.”

“Did what, now?” Sim asked with practiced innocence.

“I know that you murdered our fathers. And your brother.”

Aidan's Epilogue: For Good (Part 3)
Part 3: Homecoming

(This is the last part of Aidan’s Epilogue)

It wasn’t long before the pair really were chatting like old friends. Aidan’s tale was no longer the only thing told. Thatcher began to talk to Aidan about the shape of Frimere when he left, and the state of the castle and his parents. The elf recounted his mother’s concern for him, and his father allowing Thatcher to strike out after Aidan.

“But, how did you travel in the weather?” Aidan asked, gesturing to the melting snow.
Thatcher grinned. “I’m not as young as you, but I’ve still got a fire in me. And I know a trick or two about surviving in the wilderness.”

The elf had been backing up that claim all trip- it was the bounty of Aidan’s bow in the elf’s capable hands and Thatcher’s eyes that they ate at night- but it was Aidan’s tale that the pair kept returning to. The elf couldn’t help by smile and congratulate Aidan on finally pulling his head out of his ass when Aidan described that one night at the elven camp when the pent up stress of dealing with his paranoia and elves made him snap.

Thatcher had been watching to see how the young lord responded to his comment. Aidan just smiled and nodded, clearly agreeing. By the stars, fates and Gods, Thatcher thought, the nobleman had changed. And Thatcher found himself holding back gales of laughter when Aidan started drawing to the close of his tale and acted shocked that caravan girl, Kiera had kissed him.

Aidan had spent far too long describing what she looked like not a moment before. It was rather clear to Thatcher that Aidan had a serious case of repression and denial. Oh, how the elf would enjoy teasing the poor human boy about that! But, Aidan was right. Thatcher wasn’t looking at the old childish boy who wanted to go on adventures and save the world anymore. There was a gravity to his voice now, Aidan was more like the lord he would one day be, than the naive child that he had been only a few weeks ago.

Reality had finally caught up to the kid. In perhaps the most brutal fashion possible. Aidan wasn’t a fool. Oh sure, he made mistakes, but he tried to learn from them. When Aidan had started talking about the Silent Lord, he looked down, away from the elf and the path. He stopped, after describing what the Silent Lord had said, stopped talking and walking.

“There was a time when, perhaps, he and I wouldn’t have been so different.” Aidan said, turning to look at the elf. Thatcher stopped walking too at the crest of a small hill. Aidan looked up at him; Thatcher could see the worry written across his face.

“He wanted to freeze Thedas because he was afraid. He knew, knew, that the key to his demise lied with us- perhaps, in one of those infernal mirrors, he saw his death by our hands. He had blown the threat out of proportion- just like I did. He became paranoid of us, because even though most people didn’t even know he existed, he was convinced that we would kill him in the end. Unless we died ourselves.

I’m pretty silly most of the time, Thatcher. But, his logic isn’t so far removed from how I thought. I had once thought that the elves were out for me- all of them. I could have been him.” Aidan shivered, despite the warming temperatures. Thatcher walked back down the hill.

“But you’re not. You saw the trap he missed. We all die one day, Aidan. We’re not allowed to know how. And if we let it consume us, we miss out on life, and end up dying faster.” The human nodded.

“Simon said something similar, but I didn’t understand then. I think I do now.”

They approached the outlying limits of Frimere in the morning, and Aidan immediately saw that the surprise winter had struck hard. What should have been fields of crops were patches of ruin, with withered frozen plants. Several houses had fallen down, if it was fire or something more sinister, Aidan couldn’t say. The pair walked in silence now, and Aidan felt a twinge of pain. There was still lingering patches of snow and ice, and the trees had long since lost their leaves. It may get warmer, Aidan realized, but damage had been done, this winter would take a lot of effort to prepare for. His people might need him.

The last thought shocked the young noble. My people. Mine. He looked at the few who had come to watch the pair walk back into town. Some of the faces lit up with joy. Others just turned away. And it surprised the Aidan that it was the elven faces that couldn’t seem to bear watching him walk. So, he guessed later that it must have come as a massive surprise to the small gaggle of elves having problems with moving a wooden beam into position, rebuilding a house, when he grabbed part of it and started lifting too.

“Aidan—what are you doing?” Thatcher asked, after the nobleman slipped away from him to start helping the elves. Aidan turned to Thatcher.
“Helping some people rebuild after this disastrous weather. Good friends, what must be moved next?”
The elves just stood there, aghast. “M’lord, you, you don’t need to…” Thatcher cut him off.
“Aidan, your father is expecting you. We really should…” The human cut both of them off.

“He will have to wait a little longer. The unnatural weather may have stopped, but if I’m not mistaken a frame of a house is no protection for the natural verity either. And you could use an extra set of hands—I don’t think the wooden beams care whose hands they are. What needs to be moved next?”

He saw one of the elves throw his hands up and mutter some elven curse. Aidan just raised his eyebrows and wait it out. The man turned away, then back as if he was expecting the pair to disappear while he wasn’t looking.
When they did not, the elf sighed, shrugged and said, “I’ll not be held responsible with your father if something were to happen?”
Aidan replied, coolly, “I will take full blame— as long as its accidental.” The elf sighed again.
“By the Gods… alright, alright. It’s not exactly like we get regal company out here.” Aidan couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I don’t think I’m quite ready for that stuffy castle anyway. Let me be not regal for a little while longer. For now, I’m just Aidan. And you need a house built.”

Aidan worked with the elven family for most of the day. He dragged Thatcher into the effort, and even Kent found a way to make himself useful. The work was hard, but Aidan felt like he had to do this. It was perhaps part honor, a memory of a great older knight he had once fought alongside with. It was perhaps a gesture of thanks, for a young elven mage and leader of her clan. It was perhaps friendly spite, to show an elf rouge that he could be more than a bumbling child. Maybe it was for responsibility, for a great wizard that had lead on with a cool head. And, maybe it was respect- for a certain sarcastic duelist.

Aidan was worn and tired from the travel, plus the hours he spent working on the house. And it wasn’t finished yet- but it was done enough to provide some shelter from the rain. And as he walked into the castle to face the shocked gazes of both his parents, he realized that perhaps that’s why people went on adventures and told tales. It was a shelter from the pounding rain of life. He was in a simple outfit, his armor long since discarded in an entry room. His mother embraced him, and when one of her hands ran over the scars on his back and she started to pull away, he held her ever the closer.

He was home. And it was high time he started trying to take care of it.

Naessa's Epilogue, Part 1: Solitude
In which Naessa thinks too much

Posted by jillyfae

It was still cold. Not as cold, and there was a hint of something warm and soft in the fluffy wide clouds scattered across the sky, but Naessa still felt a shiver every time she took too deep a breath.

She carefully pushed her staff into each snow drift, thudding securely against frozen ground before she took a step, clearing a path for the fragile seeming Falenath to follow.

She was determined, for once, to reach her destination without a new stain across her knees, or a spill of snow down her cloak. I want to make a good impression.

Not that there was anyone she needed to impress.

Certainly not Ferron. He’d known her her entire life, after all, and was perfectly well aware of her ability to walk down a path and try and look at three things at once, and ask five questions, and trip over her own feet. And he still…

Thinking about Ferron, and what perhaps, hopefully, he wanted, and what she wanted, was not going to make the trip back to the Clans go any faster.

How in the gods’ names was she going to tell Ninnion? If there’s anything to tell, that is. What if Ferron didn’t mean what I thought he meant? Normally, when she wasn’t sure what someone meant, she’d ask Ninnion. Bad idea. Especially after all the times she’d teased him about Ashoa. Or insisted she’d never fall in love, never marry. Never have to worry about balancing the needs of a lover or a spouse with the needs of the Clan.

He is never going to let me forget that.

If Ninnion got too annoying, she’d just have to threaten to tell Ashoa how he’d gotten her betrothal present. That was an embarrassing story. Involving theft, and nugs, and a lyrium-addled merchant in Orzammar. Ninnion did not come off well in that one.

Ferron did though.

Not helping.

What was I thinking about?

Impressing the Clans with my new-found steadiness, right.

The Valwe seemed pretty happy she’d faced down mists, and Grandmother, and gotten them all fed and patched up, to the point they’d let her adopt a strange human woman, so they probably wouldn’t mind if their unorthodox young Keeper had muddy leathers.

And Gheris’ former clan could have starring roles in Fen’Harel’s Dreams for the rest of time, for all she cared, the way they’d let Grandmother bully them, and the way they’d abused and abandoned their own. Even if Gheris made it very easy to want to bury her in leaf mold and leave her for the Spiders, that wasn’t a good enough reason for them to have actually metaphorically done it.

There is no way I can take over Keeper duties for the Iar. I cannot be fair to them. I would stick them in the back of every camp trail, ever, and make them eat dust for the rest of time. And Syndelir can… I can’t think of anything nasty enough to do to Syndelir.

Something that makes him deal with humans. And clean up after horses, since horses are so stupid compared to halla.

Naessa slid awkwardly across a patch of well-packed snow, and had to remind herself to slow down and pay attention again. Snarling about Grandmother’s legacy in my head will not get me down to Ostagar any faster.

I should have bought a horse. They may not be bright, but they’re certainly faster.

And warm.

Ferron is going to yell at me.

Naessa was rather surprised to discover this last thought made her smile.

Darana and Ninnion will probably yell at me too, for rushing out on my own and barely making sure we had proper supplies.

That was less amusing.

Not nearly as disturbing as it would’ve been, what, twenty days ago, before the Winter started? Really? Only twenty days? So much has changed. I don’t answer to Keeper Darana anymore. And Ninnion… I can see my life without him there all the time, now. That was impossible, before.

She paused for a moment, letting her magical senses flow back towards the elf behind her, pleased he still felt like a nicely banked coal, no cold spots or hot flares of discomfort or injury. Slow and steady, and we’ll get there.

She sighed softly, enjoying the quiet, and even the snow, now that she knew it wouldn’t last forever. The expanse of white rolling hills was actually quite lovely. And it squeaked a bit, beneath her boots. The sound made her smile again as she wiggled her toes against the leather.

This is probably the last time I’ll get to be almost by myself. How could I resist? Keepers don’t get to wander the countryside with only one quiet elder for company.

We can take care of ourselves, if we have to. Didn’t know that twenty days ago either.

Oriane's Epilogue: Armagnac
In Which Oriane Returns to Orlais.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Three months after the fall of the Silent Lord

“Madame Oriane Mirobelle de Rocfort,” the servant announced, then stepped aside, allowing Oriane into the great hall. She shrugged out of her fur, thrusting it into the servant’s arms without looking at him, striding toward the horse-faced woman on the ostentatious throne. She stopped just short of the raised platform and sketched a perfect curtsy.

“Lady Adèle,” Oriane said in Orlesian. “I thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”

“Lady Oriane,” the horse-faced woman replied. She was bonier even than Oriane, with coal-black hair and a dazzling, false smile. “It’s been too long. I cannot help but wonder what business a traitor’s wife might have with the court of Armagnac that could be so urgent.”

“Indeed, my business is most urgent. I would have come sooner, but your late husband dragged me into Ferelden, then I visited Val Royeaux before coming here…”

Adèle’s smile disappeared. “Late husband?”

“Indeed. Gervais Fèvre Lorrain d’Armagnac is dead, struck down by my husband’s sword.”

In Which Gheris and Casidhe Speak of Mothers and Fathers.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof, from a conversation with Ellanutella

Gheris went to check on Falenath one more time before turning in. She leaned over her sleeping uncle, found his breathing shallow but steady. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw Casidhe in the doorway, watching her. “I’m glad you got him back,” the duelist said.

She shrugged with one shoulder. “Yes. He can go back to the clan now… he doesn’t have to worry about me or Geoffrey any more.”

“Because you aren’t going back.” It wasn’t a question.

“No.” Gheris crossed her arms and went to the window, a darkened street under a blanket of snow visible outside.


She tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. “Good?”

“It’s like I told you before. They’re done with you. You should be done with them.”

She shrugged again. “Things could be different with Naessa as Keeper… I don’t know. I may never go back. We’ll see.”

“Where will you go, then?”

“Do you have a map?”

Aidan's Epilogue: For Good (Part 2)
Part 2: The Journey Home

They left Lothering with the rising sun. Neither the young lord nor the elf had said much to each other, the talk between them was strictly formal, about the route to take back home. Aidan honestly wasn’t certain how to approach the elf, what to say. Should he apologize? Say that he didn’t mean to dash off, tell him that he just sort of got caught up in this adventure?

Should he tell Thatcher that he was wrong- about so much? Tell Thatcher what he had seen, what he had learned? Would Thatcher even believe him? Or maybe ask Thatcher how, by the Maker, he had managed to get to Lothering in the first place?

Ask Thatcher about home? Figure out how bad the winter had hit Frimere, learn how the town was taking his disappearance? Maybe try to see if going home was even a smart move? In the end, Aidan didn’t even realize how much time had passed until Thatcher was sitting on the other end of a campfire and they were a day’s travel from Lothering.

And, finally, it was the elf who spoke first.

The young lord seemed rather shocked by hearing his own name. It made him jump. Thatcher cracked a smile.
Thatcher shook his head, “I don’t know what to say. It’s been weeks since you’ve been home. I have so much I must know, if you wouldn’t mind, I don’t want to… shock… you—“
Aidan held up his hand, interrupting Thatcher. The human saw how carefully Thatcher was picking his words, trying to glean information about what had happened without actually prying into Aidan’s affairs. It embarrassed Aidan to think he had once been that cagey around elves.

“I was a fool about a lot of things, Thatcher. That distrust of you, and other elves, was one of them,” Aidan said, the always returning easy grin on his face.

The word distrust hung in the air, an unanswered question. Truth be told, Aidan still didn’t feel at home among elves, and he had come to the conclusion he never might, but he had been an idiot before. He could at least accept that much. The elves were not the great enemy of mankind he had made them out to be. They were just… well, just trying to make the best out of a bad situation. And he could accept that.

The elf just shook his head, asking, “Who are you? Surely you aren’t the same kid that left Frimere only a few short weeks ago.”
Aidan replied, “I can’t say I am. I don’t know if I’ve become better, but I do know one thing. I’ve changed for good.” The human paused, looked into the fire, and decided he knew where to start after all.

“I’d have never made it if it wasn’t for you.” The elf turned his head to the side, curiosity practically written all over his face.
“You see, that first day, the day I left, was when the blizzards started. I’m sure they were rough back home, but out in the wild- it was a wall of white that chilled and soaked you to the bone. I had… gotten sidetracked, I walked off the path. Then the snows hit, I had to find shelter, and it was those old tidbits of survival information you used to mention on the side, and the rations you packed me that kept me alive that first day. But I knew that I had to find help soon- I can’t hunt or prepare a carcass. So, I waited for a break in the snow and left the cave I had been using for shelter and ran into, of all things, a dwarf!”

Thatcher leaned in closer. The elven retainer wasn’t that old, but knew the start to a good tale when he heard one. And, from the starts of it, Aidan had been busy while he was looking for him. The young lord saw his elven companion get interested in the tale and warmed up to the story telling. Kentrell obediently barked and introduced himself when it came to his part, and Thatcher kept plaguing Aidan for details, how things looked, how people sounded, what things smelled like for the Maker. But the tale was a long one, and it brightened up their nights by the fire, and made the days of walking seem far less tedious.

Thatcher had outright stopped Aidan when he had gotten to the camp with the mirror-copy of the wizard Benoit. Aidan had been describing the battle. The elf had started laughing while they were walking.
The elf managed to say over his laughter, “You can’t be serious, Aidan! That… Lothaire, was the name?” Aidan nodded.
“No man could cause that much carnage. I don’t care if he was on horseback or not!” The young lord just chuckled in return.
“You weren’t there Thatcher. I know what I saw, right Kent?” The Mabari woofed soundly in reply, before darting away from the pair again, off to investigate some great doggy mystery.
“See, he agrees with me.” Aidan said, with a finality that made Thatcher chuckle.
“He’s you’re dog, true enough, Aidan, but he’s not actually saying anything. He’s just excited you mentioned him.” Aidan shook his head.
“Maybe you think so, but Kent has his own way of talking. You just need to pay close attention and remember that he’s a literalist. That rascal is a master of loopholes.”
Thatcher shot Aidan a rather incredulous glance, and let the human continue on with his tale.

It was a night around the campfire when Thatcher slipped in an objection in edgewise.
“A Griffon, Aidan? Come now.”
The human threw up his hands. “Let me finish, Thatcher. If you want the end ruined for you we can cut right to tha—“ Thatcher interrupted Aidan.

“No! Even you must see that it’s a little hard believing that you saw a creature that everyone believes has been dead for years!” Thatcher immediately seemed to regret his outburst.

“I apologize if I offended you, ser.” A moment before Thatcher had been all ears, engrossed in Aidan’s tale, but now he seemed to remember something he’d rather forget, his face screwed up like he ate something that tasted terrible. He took a deep breath and continued on with his apology.
“I was so engrossed in your tale, ser, that I forgot how your customs are usually toward me and my people, and your dislike for sudden movement—“ Thatcher looked legitimately shocked when Aidan burst out laughing.

“Thatcher, have you been paying attention? I told you about the Dalish elf Gheris, right?” The retainer nodded. Aidan reached over and scratched Kent’s head.
“My friend, there is nothing you can do that would put me more ill at ease than what she was like. It was like trying to go to sleep next to an angry poisonous snake. I thought for the longest time she would try to kill me- It kept me up at night, pretending to be asleep, always leaving my sword within arm’s length for when she finally made her move. There is no love lost between her and humanity.”

Thatcher stiffened when Aidan had called him a friend. He gave a sarcastic smile.
“I’m sorry, I must be hearing things. Did you just call me, a friend? There was a time when the only way you would talk to me was through a closed door. And now… after only a few weeks away from home, I’m a friend?”

Aidan shrugged, “We’re getting to that part, Thatcher. Now after we saw the Griffon…”

Aidan's Epilogue: For Good
Part 1: A meeting of old friends.

Posted by Relimited

Even at this hour, there were plenty of people out and about. It was almost a little weird, having dealt with elves for so long to see people whose ears weren’t pointed.

Aidan found his hand reaching up and checking his own ear to make sure it was still rounded. He let out a soft chuckle and gave an awkward smile to someone who was rushing past him, off to do something incredibly important judging by his speed. Of course he was still a human- but these past few weeks, so much had changed.

He wasn’t the same kid he had been before the winter struck. Before he could seriously contemplate the issue, he heard a playful bark from beside him. Kent wanted to get going, all this waiting around didn’t suit the Mabari at all.

“Yeah, I know,” Aidan said, “You want to get going- got it. We’ll go to the blue bottle and grab a bite to eat before a nice actual bed. Honestly after that escape, I don’t think I could possibly sleep.” Kent just sighed in his own way (it was a low pitched whine) and they quickly set out.

Aidan ducked into the Blue Bottle, and was quickly greeted by a rather large common room lit by blazers on the walls and a massive fire place in the corner, sending a pillar of fire and light. It disoriented him for a second, it was bustling with people of all shapes and sizes, a far cry from the cozier tavern he had grown used to back at the Bannecrag. He shook his head, smiling at his own silliness. He had taken on a lord of some outer dimension, and here he was afraid of a few people!

He strode as confidently in as he could manage, found the inn keeper and quickly did his business. It seemed surprisingly easy, unlike that first time in the fort where he had once almost traded his bow away over a grievance that he didn’t even start. He had changed.

He found a small table in the corner where he retired with his meal and a mug of water. No ale. Never again- even if the innkeeper had shot him an odd glance when he asked for just water. His lips twitched as he thought about that rather interesting night- and the resulting hangover. He had ordered a double portion of food, and Kent wolfed down his half. Aidan ate more slowly, absentmindedly giving the pleading dog more from his half, watching the fire burn and thinking about all that had happened over the last few weeks.

“Please ser, I need to know!” A pleading voice somehow shook Aidan from his thoughts. It sounded vaguely familiar, like he had heard it before. He was surprised he heard it over the din.

“And I’ll tell you not again, elf, yer kind ain’t welcome ‘ere! Now get goin’, afore I need to ‘elp you along with me boot!” a rough voice answered, rather strongly, Aidan didn’t need to listen very hard to catch it over the general din.

“It’s only a simple question! Have you, any of you seen him! I must know!” The “elf” exclaimed, this time louder, pleading harder.

Aidan rose, positive he had heard that voice before. He had to know who it was. Kent cocked his head to the side, that ever inquisitive look the pup gave him when he didn’t quite follow what Aidan was about to do.

“Kent,” Aidan bent low whispering in the dog’s ear, “Watch my back. Keep quiet about it. And if I draw my sword, come to my aid. But not a moment before!” The Mabari gave a tiny woof, that old sign of agreement.

Session 17: The Rest Is Silence
In Which the Quest Ends.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

Naessa shuffled awkwardly behind Gheris. “Are you… will you be… um…”

Gheris looked down to see Kent nudging her hand with his huge muzzle. She also saw Aidan wincing. She petted the dog, eyes returning to the pile of ashes that had once been Gialinn Clíodhna. “I buried her a long time ago.”

“All right, then,” Naessa said with an uncomfortable shrug. She didn’t think that Gheris sounded convinced, or convincing, but this wasn’t the time to linger. “Ready to try following the heart again, then? Or does anyone have another idea?”

“No,” Aidan said. “We have a job to finish.”

Simon nodded. “Onward, then.”

The ice heart’s glow led them down another long, mirrored corridor which suddenly ended in a solid obsidian wall, its polished surface gleaming in the ice heart’s cold brilliance. The stone set in Gialinn’s ring had also begun to shine with the same pale light.

Aidan looked around at the others. “So. Do we knock?”

Gheris smirked, then tapped the ring against the obsidian wall. The tiny clicks seemed almost hollow. “Magery, yet again. When will it end?” She glanced back at Naessa and Simon. “How does this work, Keeper? Mage?”

Glaring at the wall and glowing artifacts, Naessa said, “Well, it’s a ring, Gheris. Generally, you put them on your finger?”

Gheris sighed. “I am always the test subject in these situations…” She slipped the ring on as the group tensed up in anticipation. It fit her finger perfectly, but she didn’t feel any different… still, the obsidian wall seemed less imposing, now. “I think I can open it,” she said. “And I think the Silent Lord is on the other side.”

“Then this is almost done,” Aidan said, looking down at Kent with a faint smile.


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