Shadows Rising

An Act of Penance

Teenagers are so annoying...

Quickly, the group began to make their way up to the top floor of the catacombs. Just before they reached the main floor, Xylia convinced them that it would be a good idea to remove the arm bands that they had received from the paladins prior to descending into the deeper levels of the catacombs—perhaps, she thought, they might come in handy later.

They quickly came to regret their decision to remove their armbands. Upon entering the main entrance hall of the catacombs, they were immediately placed under arrest, their wrists bound by a powerful magic. Allela, a powerful priestess, accused them of grave desecration and for being the cause of the unholy disruptions in the catacombs. Immediately they blamed Grunt, although Allela told them that they were all responsible for each other. Remulus attempted to cast a spell, but the magical bonds around his wrists prevented him from casting it, and its effects immediately rebounded upon him.

They were led to a small dungeon area located in the main barracks just outside the entrance to the catacombs. Remulus, Grunt, and Alleon were placed into one cell together, and Ennet and Xylia were placed in an adjacent one. Grunt attempted to pick the lock, but a powerful spell prevented him from doing so (it also administered a slight shock, no doubt a magical deterrent built into the locking mechanism.) Alleon tried to teleport out of the cell, although he too was unable to leave the cell, and he was punished in the same way that Grunt was.

Realizing that there was no way to break out of the cell, Remulus and Grunt decided to lay down and take naps. From the neighboring cell, Xylia implored Remulus to use his connection with Emlia to get them out of prison. Out of frustration, Alleon attempted to throw Remulus across the room, although he was also magically prevented from doing this (and punished accordingly.)

Growing even more agitated, Alleon attempted to bribe the guard, but bolts of electricity shot out from the walls and shocked him. Eventually the guards came to fetch them, and they were escorted into a large room where Allela was waiting for them.

Allela told the group that the act of grave robbing cannot go unpunished, even if they helped to restore order in the catacombs. She also expressed her suspicion at Remulus, because of his apparent friendship with Crulamin prior to his arrival at Santa Cora. Alleon attempted to threaten Allela with the specter of war, given his position in the Elf Queen’s government. However, Allela informed Alleon that she had already spoken with ministers of the Elf Queen’s government, and that they approved of any action that she was planning on taking against him.

After a brief explanation of the events that initially brought the group together, Allela told them of their fate. They were to accompany a young minor named Norman Carter and to make sure that he arrived there safe and sound. To make sure that they completed their task, and didn’t corrupt the child, she sent one of her most trusted paladins, Exeter, along with them. As she told them this, they could hear the approaching sound of screaming coming down the hallway…

In preparation for their trip, all of their items were returned to them and they were given rations for the journey to Myrken. As they approached the gate of Santa Cora, Norman began to wail uncontrollably—Remulus attempted to calm him down, but Norman kicked him in the knee. Somehow they all knew that this was going to be an incredibly long and painful journey.

After walking for some hours, the group found a clearing in order to spend the night. Norman complained bitterly about being hungry, and Remulus offered him some of his rations—Norman, however, spit the rations back into Remulus’ face. Grunt and Ennet slipped away in order to find firewood and set traps for food.

After getting the fire started, Norman began to demand a soft bed to sleep on. Ennet and Grunt began to fashion a makeshift bed for him, and Remulus successfully performed a ritual of calming and peace, which had the effect of reducing some of Norman’s complaining.

After everyone had eaten dinner, Norman demanded a bed time story. Each of them took turns telling a part of the story, and when they got to the end, just as Norman was falling asleep, Remulus told such a terrifying conclusion that Norman became terrified. It took Remulus, Alleon, and Grunt two more hours to calm Norman down again—eventually, though, he fell asleep.

Eventually the morning came, and after having eaten breakfast, the group began to pack up in order to continue on the journey to Myrken. Suddenly, Xylia heard a noise off in the bushes—when she went to inspect it, she drew the attention of several dire bears, which began to menacingly approach the group.

They all drew their weapons, and probably a couple of them hoped that Norman would mysteriously disappear during the fight…

Comments

Ennet’s Thoughts;

There are several things I would like to point out:

1. Xylia, little Miss Goody Two Shoes, was the one who got us arrested in the first place. She convinced us that it was a good idea to remove the arm bands. And look where that got us landed! Arrested! I was very put off by that.

2. A child?! An annoying bratty child! I swear, twelve hours of hard labor would have been better.
Also, although I know I should be grateful for getting off without any physical pain and that we get to walk free, I can’t help but point out that there are several things wrong with this horrible punishment. One, we could just kill the kid and the paladin and get away. Two, the kid will probably drive us insane and thus make us try and kill the kid and paladin. Three, it is resting on the basis that any of us are good with children. Seriously! Have you met our group?! An egotistical high elf? A shopaholic dwarf? A gnome who is afraid of bowls? And a kriffin’ dark elf?!?! The only one who might be remotely good with this child is Xylia, and even then I think she might be close to wanting to kill this kid, too.

3. Grunt and I tried to build two beds. The first one we were going to stuff the still warm pelts of the rodents, that Grunt had caught, with leaves, and then sew them shut as to make soft, warm pillows for the kid to sleep on. However, the brat refused and had the nerve to look sickened. When you live long enough to know the luxury of a warm bed, you don’t say no, even if it consists of dead, still-warm, skinned creatures. The second one was just a pile of leaves. Not imaginative, and certainly not as comfy.

4. Remulus deserved less sleep. He scared the kriffin’ child with a horror story! Hello! Its called a bed-time story for a reason! I swear if he falls behind due to lack of sleep and exhaustion, I will not go back and get him! I am sick of playing baby sitter.

5. Xylia messed up again, she caused the kriffin’ dire bears to attack us! She was the one who couldn’t take any care for stealth! Seriously! Am I the only one who knows how to do anything right?!

An Act of Penance
 

Xylia’s Thoughts:

I do not care about Norman’s innocence. I doubt he has currently or has ever had any innocence worth protecting. I do care, however, about Exetor’s opinion of us, since he has the ability to cause us some significant trouble down the road.

If not for that one small fact, Grunt’s health and safety would be significantly compromised. To put it mildly.

If not by me, then by Ennet, and if not by Ennet, then by Alleon, if not by Alleon, well, I have a feeling Remulus attacking Grunt would be a sight to see. A comedy for the ages. A gnomish cleric bouncing off a chuckling dwarf and the gnome squeals and pinches and tries to do any damage at all and completely fails. More likely, he will lecture Grunt’s ears off in the name of the holy. But I’m on the side of Allela here. Remulus’ ‘holy’ is somewhat compromised. Guilty as charged for being a small part of the corrupting influence.

One thing I am NOT guilty of is out being arrested. They would have arrested us whether or not we had them on. Taking off our armbands had nothing to do with it, I am certain, and Grunt’s tomb-robbing everything to do with it. We now have, in our packs, armbands that will make us look more credible if ever again we are trying to gain entrance to an area guarded by goody-two-shoes all dressed up in armor. And when we travel anywhere less preoccupied with the “good” and the “light,” we can take them off. This only has a very high chance of backfiring. But it can’t hurt to have around. At least, that’s the idea behind it.

Back to my original point. Was is truly wise, Remulus, to end the story that we began so well with a human-sized rabbit that can speak? I am not a young boy, but I also was frankly disturbed by this tale. “Oh goodness I’m late” can join the ranks of famous vaguely menacing lines spoken by vaguely menacing villains in vaguely menacing stories and the frankly very menacing reality of my life, at least in the new direction it has taken after meeting this strange people who hopefully, I won’t have to deal with for too much longer. When we finish this foolish task and rid ourselves of this foolish boy, I have very little intention of going anywhere other than straight back to the Opal Lakes. Though, knowing the perpetually confused state of being of our gnomish companion, I cannot say I’m surprised. Nor was I in any way surprised when Alleon’s telling took a definite turn for the darker. The only thing that did, even slightly, surprised me about this entire trip so far was that Grunt’s beginning of the tale was actually very appropriate to the situation. Who would’ve guessed?

No matter how much trouble Norman caused, though, I can’t help but feel we got let off too easy. A day or two of punishment (though of the mental sort) seems unusual for the clerics and paladins of Santa Cora. I would have expected something more under the category of….boring. I almost suspect that there’s more going on with this young boy than we’ve been told. They assured us he wasn’t possessed – and while I can’t blame them for wanting to get his screaming a good distance away from the city, I can’t fathom what they meant when they said that he had some potential as a cleric. But I, at least, have learned my lesson. I have no intention of poking my nose into these cleric’s business where they don’t want me to. I can only hope that Grunt has, as well.

Back to the matter at hand. I really should pay better attention to the here and now, but dire bears are their own topic of frustration. Humans are such fools, to pervert nature as they have with these dire creatures. There are creatures of darkness, there are unnatural creatures, there are unnaturally large and aggressive creatures. All three are found in the Queen’s Wood, I can attest, and some beasts fall into the category of all three. There are even some elves (and here I will point the finger of blame firmly away from wood elves and at the drow, or, it might surprise some non-elves to learn, even at the high elves) who are guilty of creating those creatures. But to take something that originally was an intelligent, not unusually aggressive, frankly, normal creature and twist it so? Elves have more respect for nature than that. Humans are their own downfall, I have observed, and this incident only strengthens that opinion. And, Ennet, I see no reason that I would be to blame for the presence of attention of these bears. A wood elf would be by far the best choice to approach any normal animal, and there was little doubt that these bears were aware of our presence long before we were aware of theirs. Maybe next time you’ll take a moment or two longer to appreciate my attempt!

An Act of Penance
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