The Watcher managed to convince his fellow adventurers to accompany him to the guest room, to talk over what each member had discovered so far about the fellow patrons of Ascanor. Suspicious activity was on the tongue of more than one of the party members as each brought forward evidence that was concerning. Mingling amongst the guest in the grand Ballroom illuminated many concerns over Ascanor lodges security. The patrons loyalties or dark dealings, was also questionable. As the adventurers made their way to their rooms, Ecthelion kept his distance from the Watcher, still angry at the Watchers decision to evoke a strange premonition on the entire party without their consent. It had been a grave disrespect to the paladin in particular, mainly because of his history. Ecthelion had told the people he trusted? How his father had sold his sister Saera, to a demon. The deal had been made to prolong Ecthelions mother’s life. Ecthelion still today had trouble blocking out the images of the attack that occurred Solku, Katapash, all those years ago.
The unsanctioned of divination the Watcher, drudged up all those bad memories which had taken months of meditation and prayer to Sarenrae, for Ecthelion, to finally put the memories behind him. It had been his mechanism for coping with his sister’s disappearance, confronting all forms of evil wherever they may lie, in the hope one day he would find and slay the monster responsible for kidnapping, his twin sister Sawra. The event had forced Ecthelion to kill his own mother Ilyena and father Epstien due to the taint in their blood, as passed from the contact with the lower planes signed with blood. It was Echelion belief that killing his parents with a weapon blessed by Sarenrae herself, perhaps Sarenraes holy fires could purify his parent’s souls before the taint ever set in. It was not something that the halfling easily got over. But it was the reason he now adventured. Every beast, outsider or abomination was purified by his light. Every disease cured lead one step closer to a cleaner Golarion.
Ecthelion was sure many of his fellow adventurers did not understand the true extent of his devotion. But how could they understand a man so devout in his beliefs he killed his own parents. How could they understand his religion, his beliefs and values? With the exception of Lancel, few in his party were devout. None would be prepared in Ecthelions mind to kill a loved one to save their soul from hell. Pharasma would not judge Ecthelion’s actions lightly when it came to her judgement of him in the eternal boneyard, but Ecthelion knew Sarenrae would save him from damnation. She was his light, his warmth, his beacon in the darkness. She would heal those whom need healing. She would offer swift justice to those whom deserved it. He would not subject any soul to live out an eternal servitude to a demon. He could still remember the wicked creatures face when it ripped his sister from the material plane. Those whom he once he called parents faces over time had disappeared into the light. There spirts absolved of their sins. But now the halfling knew his parents faces would return in his nightmares. He would not rest easy tonight. And it was the Watchers fault.
As the party reached the guest room at the lodge, Scarlett noticed the door was not locked. Scarlett remembered specifically locking the door. Entering the room with caution as they spread out into the room to ensure there were no hidden surprises, the adventurers found several notes that had been placed on their beds. The notes read as “My friends, your investigations place you in grave danger. Beware the wolves who watch the woods. They see all, but leave no traces. Some secrets are better left uncovered. Leave Ascanor before you too fall prey to its curse”. Taking a moment, discussing the implications of the notes the adventurers took the time to have a heart to heart. It was the Watcher whom would speak first.
The Watcher began with speculating that agents of the Whispering Way could be in the stables here at the lodge. While peering through a window of the stables with a clairvoyance spell, the Watcher had seen two men in dark cloak figures praying next to candles. As he watched the barely lit room, he saw the figures dip needles into a black liquid vial and then put them on a bracelet concealing them from plain view. The watcher had heard stories from Ecthelion about how the way communicated with whispers. That they did not communicate face to face, rather they transferred their dark philosophies via whispers. They never speak loudly, making their exact details of their dark philosophies harder for outsiders to decipher. “After briefly reading their minds – another scowl came over Ecthelons face – I believe they have a connection to the Whispering way. The two men are praying or chanting secrets in their mind. They also chant of something called that Anaphexia. I do not know how this is connected to the Carrion Crown you spoke of in Lepidstadt, but maybe this Anaphexia has some sort of significance”. Many of the party members began to rub their chins with quizzical expressions. The Watchers information had only begged for more questions and investigation about the lodge to be asked. Several adventures were locked in deep thought, searching their minds to remember anything about the Anaphexia. But even with their collective knowledge, they had nothing.
With that in mind Lancel offered “My father Elmore Dane, fought agents of the Whispering way in his youth. Members of the dark cult were planning on obtaining a rare extract only found in a stillborn fetus of a dead dragon. My father and his friends prevented them from obtaining the extract, even managing to subdue a few of the way members alive. However it was only when my father had knocked out a way agent the man began to foam at the mouth and went into wild convulsions. Soon the Whispering Way agents eyes turned blood red and his entire jaw began to dissolve right infront of my father. It was later found the Whispering Way use an elixir to prevent their enemies from stealing their members’ secrets, even after death. Elite cultists typically imbibe deathgag elixir as part of an elaborate initiation ritual when they are promoted to high-ranking positions in the cult. Thereafter, when the users fall unconscious the elixir triggers, releasing a fatal poison that throws him into wild convulsions. So we must be careful in how we subdue these men, otherwise we shall learn nothing from them“.
“Are we sure they are the traitors?” Scarlett speculated. Ulli suggested a wait and see approach. “We have time. They best way to catch err wolf is to err set a trap for it”. Lancel and Ecthelion shook their heads. A wait and see approach would not work. Ecthelion in particular had been tracking the Whispering Way for more than two months, only to have been left asking more questions. If this was a chance to get ahead of the cult the halfling would take it. “We cannot wait. We cannot trust Estovion either, to do the right thing. If the servants of the lodge are working for Estovion, or acting alone hiding these dark occultists, we must impose our own justice upon them and the lodge itself. Keeping in mind the innocent lodges guests must be kept safe from any volence that may ensue. There is no harm if these men have nothing to hide to simply question them, armed and prepared should they try anything funny”. Alika gave Ecthelion a trouble look. “We should not act outside the confines of the lodge authority. They have lived here for many years. We should approach Estovion and question him about these so called Whispering Way agents before storming off and arresting these men without raison d’être, or without legal authority. The lodge here is a community in their own right. They have their own codes and laws. I would not like to spit in Estovions face by imposing our authority upon the lodge. We are not the wardens here”. “Speak for yourself” Ulli replied.
“So what do you know of these men“, Carrow said, to force the Watcher to re-present the facts. The watcher turned looking out the balcony to the open courtyard. To his right he could see the hedge maze, to his left the stables. “I am positive these men are agents of the Whispering Way. Our investigations have led us this far, to the lodge. We know from what Ulli learnt from the Silverhides that someone indeed here at the lodge is a traitor, not only to the werewolves, but to human kind as well by falling into undead depravities. You ask me why I believe them occultist, why are they hidden away in a stable from the rest of the lodge’s guests. Why do they chant about dark things? Why do they speak of the dead? Why do they have books with symbols written in blood?” The Watcher knew his last statement was not entirely factual, he had only seen them write something in the book with their own blood. “Why do they only speak and communicate via gestures or whispers? Everything Echtelion and Lancel had told me of the Whispering Way suggests these men’s involvement. They think of death and killing. I do not wish to spend a night sleeping in Ascanor knowing that these men could kill us in our sleep. Especially if they learn we are here to bring them to justice for the deaths of Ecthelions friends and their invisible hand that nearly lead to the destruction of Lepidstadt”.
“Why not set watch” Ulli offered. “Deal them morning” he followed up. “If they make a move wer will know about it”. “Well we have been travelling all day, and I myself am quite fatigued from the ritual I used to restore Ulli’s mind” Alika said looking quite tired. “And have them escape” Lancel suggested, banging his fist against a nearby wall. “I am with you Ecthelion, let us confront them with due haste, despite what the others say“. “If the Watcher speaks the truth, Sarenrae will illuminate their intentions to us. We will just have to have a chat with them, amnd let them explain their strange behavior” Ecthelion added. The cool night breeze flowed in through the open balcony doors as the watcher began to tie a rope around the balcony’s fence. “Well, let us not walk back through the lodge so heavily armed” the Watcher suggested. “You keep causing trouble’ Ulli said. “This will bite us in the ass like a hidden wolf” he further added.
Ullis words fell on empty ears as Ecthelion, Lancel, Carrow and his puppet Lilth, Alika and the Watcher made their way off the balcony’s 10ft drop to the courtyard. Scarlett simply thought to herself “You fool’s. You seek out an early grave with such behavior. You jump to conclusions without evidence. But your actions may prove a good distraction to search Estovions office for clues for information about patrons of the lodge. His records or journal would surely have information on the comings and goings of the lodge“. A smirked crossed Scarlets face. “I‘ll be down in a moment“, she called out to her friends whom were making their way silently as possible across the courtyard to the stables. Scarlett slipped on the ring of invisibility and slipped out into the main hallway, without even Ulli noticing until the door shut. Ulli constantly shaking his head also had other ideas. He would slip over to the holding pens and free the two pups Yeselda had told him about. “I cover you from here” the ranger called, sticking close to the rope. Ulli thought to himself “Will be lucky if the whole dam guard does not come and kill us all for causing such a ruckus“. He notched an arrow and gave the rest of the group a nod, informing them that he would be ready when the breached, covering anyone that tried to escape. As the party lost sight of the ranger in the darkness of the night Ulli snuck across the courtyard to the holding pens.
At the door of the stables, Ecthelion and Lancel could see the large lock on the door. The Watcher and Alika moved to cover the windows. Carrow stayed back away from the main door, not wanting to get caught in a melee confrontation were his psionic abilities would not be as effective as he hoped. Carrow knew he could not focus his mind properly when dodging swords or arrows. But it was dark tonight. Carrow had already spent a large portion of his power reserve dominating or influencing the minds of the guest and patrons of the lodge at the grand ballroom. He had learnt allot more than he had anticipated in one night. “Just like puppets“, the doctor thought to himself. “Kill anything that tries to hurt the others” he told Lilith. The dolls eyes blankly stared back at him, not even blinking.
“Where was Scarlet when she was needed” Ecthelion thought. Not wanting to wait for the rogue Lancel began to kick in the door, trying to dislodge the lock. Instinctively the Watcher dropped a card from his deck of illusions through the window. Alika conjured a glowing arrow that would allow the paladins to see in the dark stable. Ecthelion flicked on his goggles of dark vision, waiting for Lancel to kick in the door. Carrow and Lilith focussed their minds, ready to unleash devastating psionic blasts or impulses when the enemy appeared. One kick, two kicks from the paladin did not break the lock. Ecthelion tried to ram it with his shoulder to burst open the door, bits of wood splinter off the door and the hinges buckled but the door was still attached. Alika decided to call forth her friend Bazoozu the owl bear.
The candles in the stable were put out as the first bang on the door. Both of the Anaphexia agents attacked the illusion of a druidic woman conjured by the deck of illusions. As there blades struck the woman’s form hitting nothing but thin air, the monk assassins knew it was an illusion. They changed tactics drinking enlarge potions to shock the intruders and get advantage. Unable to see anything due to the darkness of the stable the Watcher tipped some marbles in through the window, hoping one of the monks would trip and be easily subdued by the breaching paladins.
Finally the door gave way as Lancel dropped another shoulder into it. The hinges snapped and Lancel sprawled into the dark room, with Ecthelion quickly following behind. Lancel could not see the intruder. Ectherlion however could. He saw the monks had drunk potions to enlarge their size, wielding rapiers that an icy frost covered there tips. Ecthelion charged at the first assailant only to be struck in the shoulder. The rapier was like touching icy, it left a burning sensation in his shoulder and made his body quiver with a chill. The other figure followed up the attack. Ecthelion could see that they had been martially trained to anticipate their compatriot’s attacks and press advantage. Ecthelion knew if they managed to surround him or if he lost his footing he would be in dire trouble.
An arrow came screaming through the window from Alika’s bow illuminating the room with light. As soon as he could see the enemy Carrow tried to brain locked one of the monks while Lilth loosed a blast of her own psionic sonic kinetic energy. The monk managed to shake off Carrow lock and contorted its body in the same motion as to dodge most of the sonic blast. One of the Anaphixia agents gets in behind Ecthelion, flanking him. What is worse, the light in the room faded. The room goes dark again as Alika’s arrow enchantment fades. The pair Anaphixia agents began to simultaneously strike at the halfling with lightning fast strikes. The halfling takes a hit to the shoulder, forearm and abdomen. Ecthelion calls upon is lay on hands and closes over a wound before launching his own assault, striking one of the dark cloak men across the face. Lancel moved into support his halfliung friend whom was in trouble. A little brash with his attack Lancel takes a blow to his chest puncturing his lung (critical hit). The young paladin had misread the range of his attackers reach. Lancel began to cough up blood, spitting it on the ground as his lungs fill up with blood. “Gods dammit” he said, despite the consequence his words may have with Iomedae.
Lancel decided to heal himself and Ecthelion of some of his wounds, releasing a channeled burst of positive energy. The burst also healed the two assassin monks, whom pelted Ecthelion with lightning fast razor like punctures with their rapiers. But Lancel knew the numbers were on his side and if they could hold out against the monks long enough with him and Ecthelion engaging them, sooner or later the combined magic of Alinka, the Watcher, Carrow and Lilith, the party would overcome the enemy. Alika shot an arrow scoring a hit amongst the carnage, with another arrow imbued with light.
Carrow brought forward an aversion in one the Anaphixia monks mind. Despite the monks training and disciplined mind, a deep fear instilled in the man from a young age to an accident underground, resurfaced in the assassins mind. The man was pulled beneath the ground and enveloped in darkness, coughing up dirt as he was buried alive. Instinctively the assassins thoughts turned to “I must get out of the dark…. or I will die”. The impulse that his brain sent his body was to flee or risk certain death. Lilith let loose another sonic kinetic blast. This time the second monk did not dodge it, as his larger than normal size slowed down his ability to react. Outnumbered three to one, the monk began a flurry of blows with his rapier, hoping the flurry would be enough to drop one of the paladins. The room went dark again as Alika’s imbued arrow of light disappeared again. The Watcher had covered all the windows, preventing any escape except for the front door were the large owlbear stood guard. In the pitch black, with the fear overtaking him that he would be buried alive, the second monk made a dash for the door. However Bazoozu, Alika’s owlbear was there ready to intercept. Ecthelion landed a blow on the monk in the dark as he moved to run past, able to see the monk in the dark with his dark vision goggles. Bazoozu also scored a hit with his claw. Outside the stable the monks mind relaxed again as the light of the continued flames around the lodge prevented the aversion to darkness from taking hold once more.
Growing n confidence the paladins moved in on the remaining monk in the stable. Both scored two hits each as they flanked the man. With his ritual sacrifice of cutting his tongue off the man would have screamed if it was still attached, as another one of Ecthelions hits opened up a large gash on his abdomen. Lancel cut he monk across his forearm and outer thy, with is longsword. Carrow concentrated focusing on the monk whom was afraid of the darks mind again. This time the Doctor sent a de’javu impulse through the Anaphexia assassins mind to continue to run, while Lilith, the blank emotionless doll tried to set the monk on fire. It was a cruel vindictive way of killing a person, but he doctor thought it appropriate after hurting Ecthelion so bad. They could question his body afterwards.
By this time capturing the two men was no longer an option. Instead Ecthelion and Lancel decided they would use the two Assassins journals and find out what they could about what they were doing at Ascanor. With the monk outside exposed Alika took her time and slotted an arrow through one of the assassin monk’s leg. Inside the stables the remaining assassin monk hit Ecthelion once again, but he as holding his own concentrating on defense while he continued to heal his wounds. Lancel could feel his entire right lung was now full with blood. The paladin started to have trouble breathing. He knew someone would have to clear the lung of blood before he could heal it properly. Bravely, with little guard for his body, the paladin moved in. Lancels second hit dislodged the assassin monks head from his body, decapitating him.
Filled with the urge to run, the second assassin monk headed for the gate. But not before Bazoozu hit him again with another claw. Alika followed up the owlbears attack hitting the fleeing man in the shoulder as he ran with another arrow. Lilith could see the assassin monk heading for the gate. Carrow adjusted her psionic strings and changed her tactic. She instead conjured a wall of ice psionic energy infront of the half opened gate. Around the interior of Ascanor guards came rushing. Cries of alarms began to fill the air. Several whistles were blown and hounds with masters in toe came rushing towards the stables. The interior of the lodge also began to light up once more, as patrons lit candles walking out of here balconies to see what all the fuss was about. Carrow forced another impulse into the monks mind. “Run little poppet”, with another feeling of de’javu. The monk ran again, straight into the sonically created ice wall. Bazoozu gave the monk the remaining killer blow, running up to the monk and tearing out his neck with his powerful beak.
During the battle Ulli snuck across the courtyard over to the holding pens. The ranger had come prepared. He tossed some stolen raw steaks off Yharlocs plate in the grand ballroom to the two hounds that guarded the door. They began to growl at each other as they fought over the steaks. Moving up to the Ulli bent the lock enough so he could squeeze through the door. He knew Delgros was a more than average ranger so he took the time to remove any wolf hairs snagged on the doorway from his coat. He would deal with the tracks latter.
Inside the holding pens Ulli could see quite crude holding pens, sleeping draughts, herbs and chains kept the beasts inside quite docile. To his right the ranger could see an ettecap that had its poisonous glands removed, looking at him as if to communicate. Elsewhere there were two cells with large tarantula spiders. It looks as though somebody had been brushing the spiders daily to remove the nasty hairs that shot at hostiles, which left an irritating rash and in rare cases could blind if they connected with the eyes. Two large dire wolves, several boas and a dire boar, a baby Qurupecco, a dozen or so wolves and foxes, and a few goblins that had been gagged were also held in the pens. The other cage Ulli had not searched contained the two natural werewolf pups Yeselda had told him about. The two pups were in their human forms, by the looks of them, they had been staving and had little strength left in them. They did not whimper, they simply moved to the darker corner of their cell as they smelt Ullis presence. Ulli could tell from the look of them Delgros had regularly beaten them to be more docile, taking there will to fight out of them. “A cruel fate” Ulli thought to himself momentarily. Ulli lit his bullseye lantern and began to search the room for the keys. He knew Delgros by reputation. The man was a risk taker and often liked to torment the creatures he captured. The keys would be close by, definitely in sight of the cages.
As he searched the room, Ulli could hear outside the faint sound of clashing metal. He knew the people whom came with him to the lodge were fighting someone. But he did not care. The people he travelled with did not listen to him. Their fates were their own. They did not respect the woods as he did. Or the authority of the denizens that inhabited it. “They walk their own path”.
Finally he found the keys to the cells and moved to open the cage. Before he opened the cage he tossed in a scarf of Yeseldas to the pups. Immediately the pups picked up the scent. “Don’t you bite, Yeselda sent me. I help you get out”. Unsure whether the werewolves knew common tongue Ulli waited a moment. The bigger of the two children came out of the corner, dragging his shackled chains behind him. “You’re here to help us? How can we be sure? The other man says the same thing, leaves open gate only to have us try to escape, so he can beat us more”. ”Smell” Ulli said. “That is Yeselda Sain, daughter of Kavaka scent. You should also be able to smell her scent on me. She sent me to help”. Ulli pulled out four vials that Yeselda had left him. Two were lesser restoration potions which would help the pups get there strength back. The other two were vials of cure light wounds, to remove any bruising or surface damage that had been done by Delgros.
“Drink” Ulli said. “They give you your strength back”. The two pups drank the potions. Ulli then tossed them the remaining steaks. “Eat’n’don’t bite me”. The ranger moved closer and began to unlock the shackles. “You follow me, I help you get outside of wall”. The two children nodded. As they moved outside the cells the oldest of the two children said to Ulli. “The man with the glasses came to take our blood regularly. He kept talking about a red moon. He constantly read the two books locked inside that cupboard over there”. “Did you catch this man’s name”, Ulli questioned. “Estovion Lozarov” the pup replied. “So Estovion does have something to hide? I am sure the werewolves would be allot kinder to me and perhaps even consider Yeselda a candidate for the Highthrone, if I give them the secrets of Estovion and how to blackmail him. Finfally they have a chance and eliminating the last threat in the woods with the lodge out of the way”. Ulli pushed the thoughts aside; he would have to consider what action to take after he read what Estovion had been researching and why he had been extracting blood. But first Ulli had to get into the cupboard to get to the books. Ulli grabbed a nearby crowbar and wrenched the cupboard open, snapping the lock. Inside sure enough were two tomes. Ulli had hardly read anything in his life, but knew they were probably important, so he tried to make out what he could. “D.E.S.N.A R.E.D.M.O.O.N.R.I.T.U.A.L and V.I.L.K.C.A.R.I.S”, the letters made no sense to him, as he could not read. Instead Ulli put them in his backpack.
Ulli then said to the two werewolf pups, “Stay 10 paces behind me at all times”. He moved over to the two tarantula enclosures and damaged the locks. The two creatures unlike most of the other animals were not shacked. He bent the door enough as to leave a large gap. Ulli knew enough about spiders that he knew the two tarantulas would eventually try to fit through the gap. With how he damaged the locks, the doors would snap open easily enough. “A going away present for Delgros” he thought to himself. As he made his way to the door, Ulli could hear whistles and shouts of alarm from the inside of the walls. His friends had stirred up more trouble than he had wished. Ulli would have preferred the guards to be there lazy useless selves. The guards at Ascanor, put too much faith in there hounds to detect intruders, which is why Yeselda had always managed to elude them, and sneak in undetected.
As he squeezed through the door he looked around. Across the courtyard he could see Carrow and Alika attacking a man in a black cloak. Rather than come to their aid the ranger motioned for the two werewolf pups to come through the bent door. Ulli felt for his back pocket to get the other present Yesleda had left him. He pulled a small pouch off his belt. Opening the pouch he grabbed a handful of the dust and began to sprinkle it on the ground. Yeselda used the dust to cover her tracks when avoiding Yharloc. She made plenty of the stuff back at Ulli’s house, often travelling to remote parts of Underwood to collect ingredients. The two children gave Ulli a confusing look. He replied “To cover tracks”. With that the children gave Ulli another look, Ulli knew they understood what he meant.
Ulli lead the children towards the back of the holding pens, keeping to the shadows while moving. “Stop!” the ranger whispered to the pups. Up ahead was a sole guardsman whom was patrolling the rear of the walls while the rest of the men moved towards the gate. Above him Ulli could see the grappling hoof on the fence Yeselda had left on the outside of the wall for the children to limb down. The ranger shook his head. He had no choice. He notched two arrows and drew back his bow. Letting loose the arrows he quickly fired a third and fourth arrow. The first two arrows hit the man in the chest, the third in the inner thy and the last through the neck. The man keeled over backwards clutching his neck. Ulli quickly moved over to the Ascanor guard he had just shot, covering a forty foot open space in a matter of moments. He dragged the man whom was gurgling on blood, dragging him outside of the nearby lights. He grabbed a dagger from his belt. “Sorry friend no choice“, the guards eyes looked in terror at the statement. Ulli thrust the dagger into the guardsman’s heart and with a twist he stopped gurgling and moving.
The two pups behind him gave him a sadistic glare, as though they got some enjoyment out of seeing the man die. Ulli put his dagger back and pulled out a small journal book of his drawings. Flicking through the book, he stopped at a picture of a hybrid werewolf. “Change” he said, showing the pups the picture. The two children began to grow teeth, claws and fur, as they transformed into there hybrid forms. Ulli grabbed the last piece of equipment he would need. Ulli used a rope with an attached grappling hook and tossed it high up onto the wall. “Climb” he whispered, giving the rope a tug to make sure it was secure. The two pups made their way up and over the wall. Ulli could hear them land in the grass as the dropped down. Looking through a small gap in the fence, Ulli said his final words to the pups. “Leave, head back to tribe. Head to Yeselda”. Ulli knew Yeselda would have left an obvious trail for the pups which they could easily follow with their scent. He climbed up the rope pulling the second grappling hook off the wall and then his own. He scaled down the wall and rolled when he hit the ground.
All that was left fr Ulli to d was dispose of the body. He moved over and dug out his arrows. He then and went and sprinkled some more of the dust around the area the ups had climbed up. He dragged the dead Ascanor guard’s body over to a nearby hick set of shrubs, tossing the body in there as to camoflarge it. Ulli knew that sooner or later the body would be found by the hounds or the guards. But hopefully he had camouflage it well enough to buy himself at least a day. He pulled out another jar of dog piss and some rash berry extract, Ulli knew dogs hated the smell off and tipped it around the area, before sprinkling some more dust. Back over in the courtyard he could see Estovion and his friends were having a chat. Several of the guards clutched there weapons anticipating a fight.
Meanwhile back inside the lodge, Scarlett invisible was listening to conversations around several doors. She could hear Corvin reciting some new poetry. She head some noise of grunts and moans of pleasure from Markiza. Whoever was in Markizas room with her was not her husband. Surely it was not Lancel she thought to herself with a wicked grin. The two remaining rooms were Silivions and Cilias. Listening at Silvios door all she could hear was the man writing something. She opened the door gently enough to peek inside. Silivio was writing something down. Ecthelion will help us” Silivio said to himself out loud. Not wanting to press her luck any further she closed the door quietly. “So what has the halfling promised you“, Scarlett though to herself before sneaking further down the corridor. Moving onto Graydons room, Scarlet listened again at the door to judge the distance of whereabouts Graydon was in the room. She opened the door softly, turning the latched. The door creaked as it opened. “Whose there” came a voice from inside. Rather then close the door, Scarlett simply let go, allowing the door to swing open of its own free will. She grabbed her mouth and held her breathe stepping to the side of the door. Cilias moved to the door and looked out either side down he hallways. “Nothing but the wind” Graydon said to himself slamming the door behind him. “Close” Scarlett thought to herself as she exhaled, shaking her head in relief.
The final room was Estovions. She crept through the library and looked around for the books Estovion had been reading in the grand ballroom. Scarlett spotted them resting on a nearby desk. She looked at there spines once more. Most of them had something to do with desna, spirits or history f he shuddered. One of the Desna books had a piece of paper sticking out of it. She pulled the paper out and read it. “Halo of dreams” (see other post), popping it back into her back pouch to study in greater detail later. Moving up to Estovions door Scarlett managed to catch the last few words of a conversation between Belik and Estovion. “You did as I asked” one voice said, Scarlett knew it was Estovions. “Yes” came a swift reply, positive it was Beliks. “I do not trust these new comers, keep your eyes out. Spread the word to the other servants’ that I will offer good coin for anything they hear about them”. “Yes warden’ Belik replied. With that Scarlett could hear the porter moved towards the door, as she saw his shadow underneath it approach.
Once again she concentrated on her breathing, as she had been taught by the mantis assassins. It was important to control ones breathing when pursing a quarry, as more often than not it was a mistake when this close to a prey that often gave an assassin away. She moved to the side as Belik turned the door handle, knowing her movements will be quashed by the opening door. Belik walked straight passed the assassin whom had a small inclination to gut the halfling then and there for intruding in her room. If he had saw or found something that he was not supposed to, he would have told Estovion then and there about what the assassin was truly doing in Ascanor. She fought the impulse to stalk the halfling and kill him in a back room. Instead she turned and listened to the door once more, peeping though the key hole.
Estovion walked around the room frustrated, irritated and upset. His cool demeanor was now more like that of and overworked overscheduled mason, whom was worried about completing his assigned job. ’They know…. They know” Estovion muttered to himself. “I don’t know how they know but they know”. Estovion walked about the room flustered, babbling to himself. He had taken off his glasses more then once. He had pulled at his hair. The man was worried about something. Whatever it was he had done well to hide it from his porter. “He is good at deception” Scarlett though to herself, this was not the same man she had seen in the lodges hall. His whole body language had changed. While peeping through the keyhole Estovion moved over to a locked box and opened it. “I must destroy any evidence of my involvement, I cannot risk such information falling into the wrong hands” Estovion said to himself, sighing ever so slightly at the fact he might just get out of whatever trouble he was in unscathed. Scarlett smirked, “the walls of Ascanor do have eyes” she whispered under her breathe. As she did Estiovion picked up a book out of the box and tore several pages from it. Moments later while Estovion watched the paper catch on fire, he heard whistles from the guards and shouts of alarm from outside. He pulled back the curtain window and had a look outside. Down below in the courtyard a fight had broken out amongst the new guests and some men in dark cloaks. “Oohh no… they know” Estovion said to himself once more. “They know about the Whispering Way and my deal with Auren Vrood” he said under his breathe, too soft for Scarlett to hear. “I must see to this… game face… game face… you are just the warden of the lodge”, his paranoia was reaching a boiling point.
Estovion took a moment to recompose himself, looking hard in a nearby mirror. He practiced putting his plain emotionless face on once more before heading towards the door to deal with the problem outside. As he opened the door, Scarlett invisible put a folded piece of paper of the door latch, to prevent it from locking when Estovion shut the door. Estovion walked straight passed the assassin oblivious of her presence. Scarlett looked back and waited for Estovion to be out of sight before she opened the door and made her way into Estovion’s room. Scarlett jammed the paper into the door closing it behind her. The paper would ensure she did not lock herself in the room, and had an escape route besides leaping from the second story balcony.
Looking around the room Scarlett did not see the journal that Estovion had torn several pages out of. However she did see his chest had been locked which was opened before. Before she tried to open the lock box, Scarlett retrieved what she could from the fireplace. Scarlett salvaged several pieces of parchment that had only briefly burnt, before turning to start working on the chests lock. As she opened the lock Scarlett saw Estovions journal inside. “So what are you so worried about…. What have you got to hide” she thought to herself opening up the journal. As she read through the journal she took a peep outside. Carrow and Alika were surrounded by several guards. While Scarlett watched Estovion appeared, and began to speak to the Carrow. Knowing she would not have enough time to read the journal properly, Scarlett ripped the spine of the journal off, removing the cover. She went to a nearby shelf and did the same to another book of an approximate same size to the journal. She placed the ripped contents of the second book into the journal and put it back in the chest.
“Knock! Knock!” came at the door. “Warden, it seems there is a disturbance outside”. “Warden…” the porter said again opening the door. Scarlett could see the paper she had jammed into the lock would fall to the ground. If the porter was half the thief she thought he was he would discover her ruse in a few seconds. Instinctively she made a vline for the space behind the door. The door swung open without Belik turning the knob. Belik had learnt from experience that Estovion was a private man. This was strange to leave his room unlocked, especially when unattended. Belik looked around the room for some obvious clues that the room had been disturbed. He picked up a piece of paper strangely shaped on the floor at the foot of the door. Invisible, Scarlett monitored the halfling porters movements, studying them should she need to kill him. Looking at the shape of the paper Belik put it up against the doors lock. Sure enough it fitted perfectly into the latch, which prevented the door from locking or shutting properly.
Scarlet knew the moment the porter put the piece of paper into the latch her ruse was up. “This halfling is a decent theif” she thought. “It would only be a matter of time before he put two and two together, after Belik would question Estovion outside, that belik would learn who was not in there room an not where they should be. Estovion wuld learn quicker then Scarlett would want to about his journal disappearing. It would be problematic, and not give her the time she desired to put the journal back in his room after she had finished with it. Scarlett moved infront of the halfling. She began to move her hands in a motion to fascinate the halfling. It was a trick all Mantis assassins were taught. Waving there sabers in such a technical way could render a target completely helpless. The magic imbued into the motion of the swords was similar to that of a praying mantis in nature that was warding off enemies, enticing soon to be food or attracting potential mates. As she commanded the ring to dismiss her invisibility, before Belik could retreat, he was taken in by Scarletts fascination. With her mantis mask on, Scarlett moved into striking range of the porter. She waited until he was completely under the fascinations enchantment before she knocked him out unconscious. Scarlett then conjured another spell. This one was specially designed by her order. It removed a person’s short term memory, which made them forget anything hey had recently learnt.
Looking down at the porter, Scarlett could see she had hit that man harder then she had wished to. He would be unconscious for a few hours. So Scarlett picked up Belik’s body and moved it into the library. She put the halfling in a chair in a secluded part of the library, tilting his head as though he was sleeping. Scarlett could see Belik’s shallow breathes as his chest moved. In and out, in and out, how easy it would be to end Belik’s life. It would be like picking the wings of a fly. Without thinking to much on it, knowing where such thoughts would lead her, Scarlett decided to take another peak out the window. Estovion had calmed the guards down and had taken full control of the situation outside. Scarletts friends were now talking with Estoion and seeral of the guards, whm had lowered teir weapons. “Well I better make my presence felt”. Scarlett moved to her room and slipped off the adjoining balcony invisible.
Hearing the incoming guards and cries from above in the watch towers Alika and Carrow dispelled the wall and sent Bazoozu back o his home. Lancel had collapsed in the stable, clutching his chest, panting heavily as he struggled for breath. Ecthelion moved in and plugged up the hole in Lancels chests, where his lung ws. Lancel was lucky the halfling had such small fingers. ‘It’s hard to breathe’, Lancel wheezed trying to say something Ecthelion did not hear. ‘Lift my legs up” Lancel said once more. Ecthelion much like that of a vampire sucked the blood out of Lancels lung. Ecthelion grabbed a nearby piece of hay and used it like a straw to such out the blood not at the surface of the lung. First Ecthelion removed all the blood. Then he inflated the lung, stopping any more blood from entering the wound with his fingers jammed into the wound. Exthelion then used his lay on hands paladin magic to repair the tissue damage to the lung. Moments later Lancel gave a sigh of relief, as he could breathe freely once again.
“Thank you Ecthelion… you saved my life”. “Just repaying the favouring” Ecthelion replied turning to the nearby decapitated body on the ground. Ecthelion had helped Lancel back onto his feet and ushered him outside. “There still maybe more enemies outside. Steel yourself” Ecthelion added. “You do not need to tell me to be prepared, it’s just like hunting goblins” Lancel remarked with a smirk. It was obvious the close shave with Pharasma boneyard had done little to change the young paladin’s overconfident behavior.
Outside the stable Carrow tried his best to convince the guards of the lodge they meant no harm. The Watcher moved around from behind the stable. “What is with all the ruckus“., Vladimoor said, capatain of the Ascanor guard. The Watcher moved into the stable to retrieve the two journals he had seen the Anaphexia monks carrying. Carrow replied to Vladimoor “These men set themselves upon us. They were hiding in the stables. I thought this lodge was supposed to be well guarded. Isn’t it your responsibility to safeguard the welfare of those inside? If we had not been so heavily armed these men surely would have killed us. They moved like trained assassins”. Carrows words were clearly, taking the focus off the two nearby dead bodies and putting more emphasis on Vladimoors competence and that of his guardsmen. “They nearly killed my daughter“ Carrow added, wobbling one of his finger strings attached to lilth. Instinctively Lilith began to cry “Wwwwwhhaaahaaa”, Lilith cried.
“Spread out and make sure there is no more of them” Vladimir barked at his men. They moved off and began to search the nearby area. Moments later Estovion emerged. “Captain if you will see to your men”. “Yes warden” Vladimoor replied moving off. “I will personally undertake the investigation myself” Estovion added further. “Ok maggots I want this place searched from top to bottom” Vladimoor yelled at the top of his voice. Hearing the words Ulli moved up to Vladimoor from the back of the courtyard maze, and pulled him away from the others. “Come with me, I have something to show you” Ulli said.
Scarlett made her way outside and saw Estovion talking with Carrow, the Watcher, as Lancel and Ecthelion emerged from the stable. The both had wounds to the chest and would both live. “Pity” Scarlett thought to herself, it surely would have saved her some trouble later. Nevertheless, she was hired to fulfill a job and clean up after her master’s contractor. That meant making sure the adventurers knew the right people to target. The entity that spoke to Scarlett in her dream’s, left her with painful nightmares and constant headaches had left her little information to go on. The entity had told her three men needed to be killed to ensure certain secrets remained secret, to safeguard the actions of the gods. It was not her duty to judge, just enact those orders passed onto her. Looking at the two bodies Scarlett got a troubled look on her face. They were definitely assassins by the look of them. “Anaphexia” she said to herself once more. Then it clicked. Astrid, her master, had told Scarlett of an order of assassin that wandered Ustalav. They were experts at keeping secrets, which made what the Watcher previously said more diaphanous.
Astrid had told Scarlett that the Mantis biggest rivals in Ustalav were an order called the Anaphexia. They had changed the fate of nations many times in the past, by tipping the balance of the scales. A few men dead here and there, was all that was needed to change the fate of a nation. Scarlett had forgotten the words over time due to the number of people she had killed over the years. The Anaphexia had a similar doctrine to the Mantis Assassins. They were a secret order of assassins that sacrificed their own tongues to keep their secrets, as even in death magic could be used to learn of hidden truths. The little Astrid had told her about the Anaphexia, was that the order of assassins were scholar assassin, sworn prevent people from learning to much lore, hidden or ancient truths, until such a time as right. As was there doctrine, such lore in there order was believed to bring about unimaginable devastation upon an unprepared world, apocalypse, the end of the world and civilization, that sort of thing. They prevented secrets that alter an age, hey had brought ruin to nations that learnt sees only meant for the hells or heavens, and shatter the mind of individuals from ever revealing secrets that could change the world until the time was right.
The Anaphexia removed the heads of their victims to prevent there corpses from revealing any secrets. Astrid had told Scarlett a Morbid tale about how she believed they assassins had several locker storages of the heads of the deceased. The head of the victims the assassins had killed in the name of their doctrine. Heads that could alter nations or even the world with the information contained within the heads. It would be easy for someone to confuse them with Whispering Way agents, as they had many similarities. But what was there purpose in Ascanor. Had the adventurers stumbled upon something they should have? She did not know. Perhaps the voice that invaded her dreams and corrupted her mind had double booked eliminating those in pursuit of the Whispering Way. Or perhaps they had been sent to prevent the formation of whatever the Carrion Crown was. She was sure it was the later. She giggled herself without showing it. Her friends had most likely killed two assassins that were at Ascanor for the same purpose they were, tracking down and eliminating Whispering Way agents. What cruel irony.
Estovion broke Scarletts train of thought. “What do we know of these men” he asked. “Little” Carrow replied. “I believe them to be Whispering Way agents”. At that the statement Estovions paranoid mind went into overdrive. “They know. They have come. Should I run? Do they know what I have done?” Estovion had to fight every impulse in his body not to run away. But he managed to control it. His practice over the years at deceiving all those that frequented the lodge had paid out like a dragons hoard. He kept his calm. He kept his composure. Even despite his mind bouncing around all manner of conspiracies like a wild magic zone. But he would not let his thoughts betray him. He was so close to unlocking the full potential of the Vilkacis. The blood moon ritual was tomorrow. If he could keep up his ruse for another day he knew he would be fine. Vrood had promised to leave him be after the ritual. He would no longer be in Vroods pocket after then. He just had to keep his wits.
“Whispering Way… I can’t say I have ever heard much about them”. Scarlett laughed on the inside. He was a good liar. Estovion looked around the courtyard for any other ominous signs that these adventurers knew his secret. He could see a rope tied to the guest’s balcony. “They know. They have tricked you. They have been in your room”. The voice in his head kept at it like a splinter in a thumb. “Who are these Whispering Way” Estoion replied with a calm tone, searching the adventurers for clues. “An undead occult who gather various ingredients to create dark elixirs whose purpose is unknown to us. They raise the dead and bind them as slaves. An occult dedicated to the destruction of all living things” Ecthelion said, remembering what Anca had told him back in Harrowstone. “That is most disturbing”, Estovion replied. He pushed back his glasses onto his nose again, giving Carrow that blanked stare once more. “How did these men get into the lodge?” the Watcher asked. “I saw one of your servants lead them into the stables. It was Quiene”, the Watcher continued remembering meeting the woman back in the grand ballroom. “Well Quiene has gotten into trouble in the past for running her own side jobs for guests at the lodge. It has never been a problem in the past, because the lodge seeks to please all its guest’s requests. I am a busy man and cannot personally oversee every decision made here at the lodge. So I have entrusted many of my servants to undertake certain side tasks without need of informing me for patrons. They can be trusted, and inform me only when a decision above there station is required. It is my charge to act as warden to the lodge after all”.
Estovion tried to steer the conversation further away from the Whispering Way. “Belik had informed me Quiene had been running errands for lady Markiza today”. “Well lets go speak to Markiza then and see what she has to say” the Watcher added. “At this godly hour, surely such questions can wait until morning” Estoivon said with a deflated look on his face. “Two men are dead, it cannot wait until morning” Ecthelion urged with a pushy tone. “If we must…” Estovion did not look pleased with the adventurers. “Those whom wish to speak with Lady Markiza come with me, but after it in the morning I expect you all to tell me exactly what happened in the morning. A re-account of the events, as to timeline your actions, what happened and how two people managed to die on the grounds. You will be remanded to the lodge until then, any questions?” The adventurers had none, happy with how Estovion had handled things and shrugged. “I might have one” Scarlett pressed, waiting for the faintest inclination in which Estovion felt comfortable with the situation to dislodge his guard once more. “About the disappearances that have occurred at the lodge over the past few years, is it possible a person here at the lodge is or has been a Whispering Way agent, helping cover up the disappearances. It is strange and not perhaps mere circumstances that the same day we arrive, we are attacked by occultists. It’s almost as if somebody does not want us here at Ascanor. The question therefore is whom and why? What is it hat someone here at he lodge has to hide?” Scarlett measured Estovion once more.
“Mere speculation, I trust all those whom work for me and will vouch for each servant’s integrity. But as for the disappearances… stories used by travelling bards to add infamy, prestige and notoriety to the establishments reputation. All patrons under my watch over the past two years have enjoyed a safe, secure and completely private stay, and left accordingly. The lodge is open to all patrons twenty four hours, which means many come and go as it pleases them. It is not my job to learn of what business befalls underneath Ascanors roof. Rather, it is my job to make sure it can do so safely. That sad there is no way we would accept occultist of any kind. You yourself were witness to our security measures upon entering, which are quite strict. As if it was not for your letter from Embreth Daramid, you surely would have not been allowed to stay here. The lodge only accepts those of proper position and the wealthy whom an afford it”. Estovions relaxed a little.
Scarlett retorted, “So it is just a coincidence then? I fear your lodge warden holds many secrets. Secrets that if the guests knew about this is the last place they would like to stay”. Estovion gave off a micro sneer that Scarlett caught. “As I have said, you are free to come and go as you please. But if any more trouble occurs from you lo during your stay, I am afraid the lodge will have to ask you not so politely to leave. The hour is late and I grow weary of these incessant questions. The lodge may operate twenty four hours a day, but its warden cannot, I am no elf. Any further questions of me will be answered with due haste tomorrow morning. I am willing to take you to Markizas if that is your wish, but I am afraid I ust call it a night after you have spoken with her. I have important duties which need o be undertaken tomorrow, including setting up for the dire gamblers. My second, Vladimoor is more than capable man. He is more than capable of overseeing a full investigation into the two men ant the tables and what I was they were doing here at Ascanor. I WOULD ask you tha yu leav such an investigation to the proper authority, and instead focus on enjoying your stay here at Ascanor lodge”
“Well best not to dilly-dally, let us speak to Markiza” Carrow added. “Agreed”, Alika remarked further. Estovion turned and made his way inside. He was joined by Carrow, the Watcher, Lilith and Alik. Scarlett thought it best not to go, especially the moans and groans she had heard coming from Markiza’s room. “They might be in for a rude surprise. One can only hope they storm the fort” she giggled to herself. “Well I best tell someone what I have found out about Estovion. The quicker I can get Ecthelion away from the lodge, the quicker he can meet an unfortunate end in the forest, as he is my mark. Too many eyes here at the lodge… Hmmm…” Scarlett pondered. Then Scarlett saw young Lancel acting more like an inquisitor then paladin, questioning ever guard with suspicion as he moved about the courtyard. “Well, he is most likely the one to get to Ecthelion. He is also brash and persistent, s Lancel it is”. Scarlett shifted over to Lancel whom was questioning another guard, pulling Lancel aside to show him what she had found in Estovions office.
Ecthelion wanted to do a perimeter sweep of Ascanor to make sure there were no other surprises tonight. The Halfling preferred to do it alone, nt trusting his friends entirely or he guards at the lodge. Ulli on the other hand had spoken to Vladimoor about the dead body he had found of a guard hidden amongst the bushes at the rear of the lodge. Ulli had told Vladimoor how a black cloaked figure scaled the back fence and ran away into the forest. “Here you can see an obvious blood trail”, Ulli said as he used his tracking skill to show a blood trail that headed north of where his werewolf friends had left. “I will have to thank Yeselda again” the ranger thought again to himself again for making his story so easy to believe. Vladimoor inspected the body and trail. He measured the marks of the wounds with his hands.
“The wounds suggest arrows or rapiers punctures, but the killing blow was the ut across the neck by a dagger”. Ulii was quite surprised by Vladimoor’s knowledge of body trauma. Following the bloodtrail over the walls about thirty feet into the forest, guided only by a torch, Vladimoor replied, “That’s good to know, the werewolves will do our job for us. You see the werewolf footprints quite fresh here and here. Not less than an hour old. Nothing survives the perimeter fence on nights like this when the werewolves travel so close to the lodge, especially since all the werewolves have been riled up by the death of their Queen Kvalca Sain Supposedly killed by a wizard known as Auren Vrood”. The name echoed through Ulli’s head, the second time he name had been dropped tonight. Auren Vrood was definitely linked to Yeseldas mother’s death. Ulli had heard it from Yeseldas own mouth, and now by the heads guardsman here at the lodge. Not only that, but the black banner had also spoke of Auren Vrood back at the Edgewood inn. Auren Vrood was definitely causing trouble in his woods, and Ulli did not like it. The only other powerful wizard he had known of in the woods was Mathus, second to Kavlca of the Silverhide tribe. But now an outsider had single handedly brought down one of the finest rulers to rule the woods in almost a thousand years. A kind and generous ruler, who sort only to protect the forests inhabitants and ward off outsider from encroaching on the domain of the werewolves.
Kvalca was the werewolf ruler whom only wanted to protect the werewolf lands and ancestral traditions. Kvalca was more like druid then shapeshifter. Her philosophies had touched many of the tribes and slowly she had been reuniting them under one banner. Philosophies that had challenged and over time gradually changed the attitude of the Shudderwood werewolf tribes beastial and ferocious tendencies. Gradually the reputation of the werewolves of the woods had shifted from bloodthirsty savages whom regularly slaughter all whom trespassed in the Shudderwoods, to people whom can be reasoned with if travellers give them and there domain the respect they deserve. Kvalca was also a close friend of Petros Lorrimor, attending his funereal in Ravensgro alongside Echelion. Not that the halfling really got to know much about her then. Regardless to say she had spared Ullis life, and Ulli knew his lover Yeselda had been gathering up the courage to tell Kvalca about the truth between Ulli and Yeselda. But now things had change. Ulli knew it was only a matter of time before either Mathus or those loyal to the Sain lineage, asked Yeselda to lead he Silverhides.
Ulli knew Mathus would not simply hand over the tribe to Yeselda. For sure there would be a fight to the death. Ulli would try everything in his power to prevent any harm coming to his beloved. Even if it went against Yeseldas wishes. Ulli would kill for Yeselda, with or without her consent if it spared her from such acts. The other tribes would surely put their own candidates forward to become rulers of the woods. It would be a gladiatorial pit of carnage, one which he knew Yeselda would most likely not survive. Especially if Vollensag fought for the title of guardian and ruler of he woods. Yeselda was simply to kind, and could not kill without reason, cause or offering clemency. A weakess the other werewolves would exploit. Ulli knew deep down Yeselda was a compassionate and merciful person. Yeselda was a woman whom could not distance herself from her emotions. Someone whom put on a facade of cruelty, who lung to her humanity and was sympathetic to all denizens of the forest. Worst yet, Ulli knew that Yeselda had come own with some sort of sickness, he could sense it in her. He was not sure if it was how Yeselda was coping with the death of her mother. Or whether the morning sickness Yeselda spoke of in his room in Ascanor lodge was attributed to something else. The ranger had cured many fevers over the years, but he did not know anything about Yeseldas current ailment.
Ulli shook off where his thoughts lead him, returning his attention back to Vladimoor and what it was he was saying. Mainly to ensure his tracking did no lead after the two pups he freed, or Yeselda who had left the lodge earlier. “Any tracking can be handled by Delgros in the morning, it is too dangerous to go after him tonight. Although all I suspect we will find is a few bones and the remains of an eaten carcass”, Vladimmor said as he paced about inspecting telltale signs of the trail. “Agreed… If the werewolves are nearby I do not want to gallivanting the woods into an ambush, best to reinforce and refortify Ascanor to ensure something like this does not happen again. We should be like the wolves, and protect our den”. Ulli tossed a few sunrods about the area so the guards on the walls could momentarily see more ameliorate. “Get your men to skim regularly with these” Ulli added further. As Ulli handed over a bag of sun roads to Vladimoor, he said “Best to be safe than sorry”. “A good idea” Vladimoor replied. The two men returned back to the lodge through the front gate. Vladimoor went about instructing the guards, issuing them with new orders.
As Ulli watchd vladimoor attend to his duties, Ulli was just happy Vladimoor did not press the issue about the dead guardsman. Ulli was tired, and going to call it a night to get some much needed shut eye. Losing his memory to a poisonous trap, having it restored in the same night, meeting Vollensag and Yharloc, his time with Yeselda in his room and freeing the cubs all in one night was just too much for even his endurance. ”Time to call it a night” the ranger thought to himself. Ulli just hoped his fellow adventurers had the same idea. It had been too long a day to keep going and poking their noses around any further. With that in mind he headed to his room to sleep.
Meanwhile Scarlett had relocated to Lancel in the courtyard. “I have something to show you” the Mantis assassin said with a smirk. “This had better be important” the young knight replied. “I am sure you will no be disappointed, but what I have to show you is for your eyes only Lancel. So if you will join me in the maze we can get started”. Scarlett entered the maze with Lancel following. Along the way Lancel asked “no tricks. You better have a good reason for disappearing when the fight broke out between the men in he stables. I do not think everyone is pleased with how you disappear whenever a fight ensues”. Lancel stopped walking, waiting for Scarlett to turn and face him with an answer. “Is it not your duty to protect innocent people like myself. I do not have he stomach for stand up fighting. Yet you and Ecthelion bring it upon the rest of us every chance you get. Better to strike quickly and efficiently from the shadows, then present oneself for battle. The way you paladins choose to fight it’s no wonder it took years for the shining crusade to defeat the Whispering Tyrant. It’s a wonder our orders still thrive today. Announcing yourself to the entire world”, Scarlett tilted her head to the side and rested her index finger against her temple and thumb on her chin.
“Iomedae teaches us never to refuse a challenge from an equal, to give honour to worthy enemies, and contempt to the rest. That one should suffer death before dishonour”. Lancel boasted his doctrine like a sermon. “But what about stealing, like that which happened a Edgewood”, Scarlett wanted to play with the paladin a little more. “I…I…I will be temperate in my actions and moderate in my behaviour to be vigilant against those whom would oppose her will”. The paladin went a little red like a ruby. Scarlett was unsure whether it was out of embarrassment or shear anger at her words. But she did enjoy watching the paladin squirm under her words. “Let it go”, a voice echoed in the back of her mind, sounding distinctively like that of Astrid her master. “Well let me show you what I found in the library” Scarlett thought it best not to tell Lancel the full details of how she procured Estovions journal from his living quarters. The paladin might get the wrong idea.
Scarlett showed Lancel the burnt journal entries and the torn out passages of Estovions journal itself. After reading through the journal entries (see other post) Lancel felt it would be a good idea to question Ivanja, as to what her involvement was with Auren Vrood and how she was connected with the obvious blackmail of Estovion. Lancel looked up from the journal, “So how do you think Ivanja is connected to the Whispering Way”. “Not sure, she is a whore you know, and a Varisian one at that. Who knows whom she lets waddle though her swamp” Scarlett replied. Lancel took a moment to consider what he had read and Scarletts words. “We need a plan, and Ivanja may have information regarding the Whispering Way we need, so the sooner we speak to her the better”. Nearby Ecthelion managed to overhear the last portion of Lancels statement. The Halfling had searched the entire courtyard and was checking out the maze when he overhead Scarlett and Lancel sharing a private conversation.
“Ivanja was connected somehow to the Whispering Way?” Ecthelion thought to himself. “Why would Lancel keep that from me?” he contemplated further. Ecthelion thought for a moment. The realization then dawned upon him, “Scarlett”. The rogue must have a good reason for not telling the halfling. Ecthelion did not trust her as much as she did not trust him. Occasionally Ecthelion had caught glimpses of her studying him out of the corner of his eye. He felt as though she had watched his routines and daily preparations ever since she had joined his party back at Lepidstadt. Her glare was leering. Something about including Scarlett on his quest to bring down Petros Lorrimors killer went against his better judgment. His instincts spoke otherwise about the woman. Scarlett was an enigma. But currently there pathways were aligned. Maybe the rogue had her own reasons. But the fact she would not bring such vital information directly to him was troubling. Even worse was the fact it involved entrusting such important information to young Lancel, a paladin still in training. It was for these reasons Ecthelion did not trust the woman.
Every time a fight took place she disappeared. Tonight had been no different. If she picked the lock of the stables Ecthelion would not have had to wake up the entire lodge to get through the door. Ecthelion knew that the fight and rumors that circulated as to its purpose and origin, would make it harder to expose whoever was the real traitor at the lodge. For it was an obvious fact that any traitors to the lodge would surely take necessary steps to conceal any incriminating evidence and hide any involvement they may have had with Auren Vrood. Ecthelion decided to keep a close eye on Lancel and Scarlett from now on.
Reading through Estoions journal Lancel was armed with this new evidence as to the Harrowers potential involvement with Auren vrood. With little thought the paladin stormed over to Ivanjas watchtower. Scarlett followe, wishing the paladin wuld rehink such a direct approach. Two of Ivanja’s six quidarian guards stood on watch. They grabbed at the swords on there waists as something approach Ivanjas door in the dark. Something heavy, full of metal. “Can I help you” one said as Lancels figured appeared in the darkness, the guards tesion easing slightly. “I need to speak to lady Ivanja” Lancel replied. “If you have the right coin you may enter my mistresses tent, otherwise I am afrid I would ask that you wait to speak with my mistress at a more appropriate time”. “Coin’ Lancel said shocked. Scarlett tugged Lancel on the shoulder. “Lancel, she is a courtesan, a whore. They will not let you in without paying”, Scarlett had thought the paladin much more worldly then he had otherwise shown. Lancel in her mind was naïve. A suborn mule would have had more brains. Perhaps Scarlett had given him too much credit in the past.
Angry about having to pay for an audience for a whore, Lancel was furious. “a whore shuld pay me for my time”, Lancel remarked. The younf paladin knew two people had already been killed tonight by his troop. Causing more trouble by having a fight with the quidarian guards would only put his friends in a worse position then they currently were. He did not want to jeopardize there already shaky relationship with the lodes warden Estovion. Instead Lancel asked Scarlett to accompany back to guest room to talk more about what she had found. Before Lancel left he turned to the Quidarian guardsman, “Tell Ivanja Lancel Dane wishes to speak with her, but I am not paying to enter her chambers. Tell her to seek me out in the morning at breakfast”. The guard replied “What business should I tell my mistress you wish o talk about”. “She is a Harrower, tell her it is about her future” Scarlet replied with a smirk. Lancel and Scarlett left Ivanjas entrance, headed for his lodgings. The whole time, Lancel snorted and grunted about having to pay a whore for her time. Scarlett simply laughed at the paladin’s reaction. From a distance, Ecthelion watched his compatriot’s reactions. “What do they have on Ivanja” the halfling thought. “Maybe Silivio would fill me in with more details about the harrower”. Echelion turned making his way to Silivio’s room.
Pulling Markiza from her room at this time of the night made Estovion cross. But Estovion knew it would be better to freshen the air, as to win over the new patrons of the lodge. Essentially to protect himself by directing the adventurer’s investigation down the path he solemnly chose. What made Estovions paranoia worse was his porter Belik was nowhere to be found. Estovion knew of Markiza’s nights, romancing with Ostovarch her huntsmaster and loyal bodyguard. He had planned to use the information in the future to benefit the lodge and himself. ButEstovion did not like the fact he had to approach Markiza himself, with allegations shw was harboring occultists at the lodge. Estovion did not want to jeopardize his friendship with Markiza. She was simply too a wealthy woman. Markiza had spent more on the lodge then any other nobleman for leagues. Estovion breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the glow of candles from underneath the door. “At least she was awake” Estovion thought to himself. Estovion fought the urge to flee again. His mind still played tricks on him. “They know. They are going to find out what you have done. All of them poor souls you have fed to the vilkacis. They know about your deal with Auren Vrood. It will be a pity to see the power nearly within your grasp fade away into the clutches of such adventurers. You will never be able to possess the full power of the vilkacis while they are alive. All them years of research wasted. Once they tell the guards you will be hunted like a rabid werewolf”.
Estovion pushed the thoughts aside again, concentrating on his composure. Estovion took a large breath before he knocked on the door, waiting for Markiza to emerge. After a while when Markiza did not emerge he knocked again. “Lady Markiza I am sorry to trouble you at this ungodly hour. But as you are no doubt aware of, an incident has occurred here at the lodge tonight. If you will accompany me to the grand ballroom I am sure we can have the sorted out in a matter of moments”. Estovion spoke against the door, positive somebody on the other side was listening. Estovion heard a giggle from a man before large thunderous like footsteps approached the door from within the room.
Markiza open the door, dressed with naught but a nightgown. Her hair was in a mess. A cantankerous and irritable glare embellished her face. “You had better have a good reason for this intrusion Warden”, if looks could kill, Estovion would have been disintegrated then and there. Markiza added further, “Pulling a lady from her repose at such an absurd hour. What would the other guests think of me, let alone you Estovion”. Markiza shot a defiant stare at Estovion. “Please, I beg your pardon madam, but as I said two men have died tonight within the lodges walls. I plead with you that you indulge myself and those accompanied with me to answer a few questions to tidy up any misrepresentations about mylady”. Estovion never looked Markiza in the eye, let alone the face. He constantly looked down towards the ground when addressed her. Estovion knew Markiza enjoyed the power trip of having subservient men, His groveling would ensure Markiza played along with the charade. “It had better not take too long… a woman needs her rest”. Markiza grabbed a large fur coat and wrapped it around her before leaving her chambers, heading for the grand ball room.
Alika decided she was too tired to continue questioning guests. The ritual she had undertaken on Ulli had drained much of her internal fortitude. She fought her eyes as they drooped, weighing heavy. Fatigue had set in. Her mind and body approached exhaustion. Although she wished to continue, so weary was her body she nearly had to crawl back to her room. Her joints ached. Her head throbbed. Her entire being was sore in some way or another. It felt like climbing a mountain, but eventually her room loomed in sight. She unrolled her meditation mat and began a much needed mediation to regain her strength. “Erastil, watch over my friends” were Alikas last thoughts before she shut down her body, entering her meditative trance
Meanwhile as Markiza followed Estovion to the grand ballroom, Doctor Carrow created a mind link with the Watcher. “Don’t resist” Carrow whispered into the Watchers ear as he touched gim on the shoulder, merging their minds as one. The mind link would allow Carrow and the Watcher to communicate telepathically with each other, allowing the pair the option to communicate their own private messages. Carrow also used his psionic powers to manifest the ability to read thoughts. A power he intended to use on Lady Markiza to ensure she was not hiding anything and speaking the truth about her involvement with the two deceased men. “You take the lead” Carrow said to the Watcher telepathically. “I’ll follow”.
After Estovion got the fire roaring, using pyrotechnics to incite the flames, Markiza sat down in the most lavished chair in the room. Estovion ever the gentleman pulled out the chair for Markiza. “Are you warm enough mylady” Estovion uttered. His words like that of a mortal speaking to a divine presence. “Cozy enough for the hour” Markiza declared. She sipped from a large brass goblet, inlaid with several gems. She exuded body language more like that of a king with his court, than that of an accused standing trial. Estovion was disparaged underneath his breath. “Perhaps you will be my vessel to deal with the interlopers”. Carrow read Estovions mind, but thought little sentiment as to his current convictions and thoughts of harming the fat, obnoxious, churlish and ignorant woman. He himself contemplated such notions himself.
After Markiza settled in, the Watcher started off his line of questioning. The Watcher began by focusing on Markizas relationship with the two men his friends had just disposed of outside the stables. “Lady Markiza, you often come to this lodge and conduct personal business here, we wish to know what your relationship with the Whispering Way is”. He tossed one of the books with strange codes on it onto the table Markiza was sitting at. “What does the encrypted code mean, why did you bring the two dark cloak men to the lodge”, he tried to be direct so Carrow could ameliorate Markiza’s thoughts. “Whoever this Whispering Way is, this is the first time I have heard of them. I do not appreciate being dragged out of my room and questioned like a criminal. I thought we had an understanding Estovion. You advocate privacy and security, but it seems you deliver little on both. An obvious failure as a man, just like my husband”.
Estovion groveled further, than replied “Due to the severity of the actions and allegations that appropriated here tonight, which may have directly resulted in the death of three men, ne of which was a lodge guardsman, it is best that any allegations be dealt with as soon as possible to allow the lodge and its guests business to return to normal”. The thoughts crept back into Estovions mind. Every time he heard that name from the adventures, the Whispering Way, something burrowed deeper into his consciousness. His mind was driving him crazy with paranoia.
“The Whispering Way… The Whispering Way… The Whispering Way“. Estovions paranoia was driving him mad, reaching a boiling point. “It’s is only a matter of time before they connect the dots. It is them or you. Either they die or you do. Do you want to go back working for Vrood? Would you rather die? Or do you want ultimate power? Do not give up what is yours. Not when you are so close. The Vilkacis power should be yours and only yours. Kll the intelopers, call the Vilkacis and kill them all”. The dangerous, paranoid, delusional thoughts continued to echo through Estovions mind. The slightest smirk was hinted on his face as Estovion finally decided he would use the Vilkacis to kill these meddlers tonight. “I will have to be clever when dealing with so many.. Especially since the spirit is so difficult to control. Corvin shall be its vessel” he thought to himself. Estovion had disliked he rude bard for some time. He would have to remove these outsiders from destroying his plans. It was only a day away before Estovion could return to the Highthrone and empower the Vilkacis during the blood moon. Then the creature would be truly immortal. Estovion knew that the outsiders had learnt to much already, only being at the lodge for a few hours. He could not risk them living throughout the night. Surely they would learn the truth. Learn a secret he had killed for in the past. Learn the secret of Ascanor that was the Vilkacis.
As Carrow concentrated on Estovions mind, Carrow struggled to read his thoughts. Estovions thoughts were fragmented. Carrow could catch glimpses here and there, but nothing solid enough that forced itself to the surface. The longer Carrow concentrated, the cloudier Estovions mind was to him. Carrow sifted through what he could. Several words consistently came up “Vilkacis, Whispering Way, meddlers and a deft fear of losing position and prestige at the lodge”
Esotvion kept his performance solid as he could. Especially when Estovion noticed Carrow stare focusing intently on him. “I ask that you keep your questions brief, as the hour is late and I do not wish you to harass my guest tonight without proper provocation. This is a sanctuary and escapism after all, it is important the mood of the lodge remain luxurious. So please treat lady Markiza appropriately as a woman of her station deserves. I do no have the authority to hold guests without explanation”. Estovion kept a keen eye on Carrow to see how the investigator would react.
“Agreeable” the watcher replied. “Lady Markiza we do not wish to hold you any longer hen necessary. I simply must enquire into your relationship with the men in the stables. As we believe the men killed there were cultists whom sught halm from the lodges residents. We believe the men to be a group of undead worshippers whom have stirred trouble no only here in Ascanor, but the Shudderwoods in general”.
Markiza looked away in disgust. “Me associating with cultists…. You have got to be mad. Who did you say you were again? I’d have my servants flogged and beaten for such words”. Markiza quickly became defensive with the enquiry. As Carrow continued to sift through her surface thoughts, a constant thought kept popping into her mind. That of returning to her lover back in her bedroom, a lover who was not her husband. Her husband would surely kill her if he found out she was bedding another man. Carrow decided to push her further. “So why are the two men here at Ascanor. The stable hand said she was paid a sum of gold by your hand to ensure they had lodgings for the night”. Markiza pulled the hair out of her eyes. “So you would take the word of a stable hand over mine”, Markiza said in defiance. “I am only advocating that these men were indeed here at the lodge, heavily armed and possessed poisons and implements designed to kill. Care to explain”
With a flabbergasted look Markiza unloaded on her interrogators. “How dare you. How dare you. I have spent over the last ten years as a guest of the lodge without incident. If the integrity of anyone is at stake, it is that of the firebrands and rabble-rousers that have embarked upon upsetting the lodges guests and patrons. But if you truly wish to know what those men were and what they were doing here, they were debt collectors working for my husband. Debt collector whom had taken a vow of secrecy, by sacrificing their own tongues and writing down there contracts in undecipherable code, as to protect the interests of my husband’s clients. They were hunting down a man whom had stolen from several of the tombs under my husband’s custodianship. One tomb of which contained a powerful and dangerous artifact. An artifact said to have the ability to create vampires. The history of the artifact in questions suggests that supplicants simply have to touch the artifact, to undergo an undead transition into vampirism. The two Pharasman’s in the stables were contracted to oversee the artifacts return by any means necessary. Unfortunately it seems there travel was in vain, slaughter by miscreants like you”. Markiza was obviously not happy.
“So what do you know of the thief” the Watcher asked. “It is none of your business. Stay out of my affairs’. With that Markiza tossed the remaining wine in her goblet over the Watchers face, snatched her deceased associates journal off the table, before stopping momentarily o question “Is there anything else?” Her tone quite sarcastic, as she floundered her night gown and coat about. ”I think we are finished here” Estovion exclaimed as he pushed his glasses back onto his long nose. Before Carrow or the Watcher could react, Markiza stormed back to her room. She made enough noise to surely wake up the other patrons in her section of the lodge. “Well I hope you got the answers you wanted, I ask you to leave any follow up questions regarding the investigation to the morning. If you must speak to me, I will be in my room. I just hope you enjoy the rest of your stay at Ascanor, without incident”. Estovion emphasized the last two words. Estovion then moved off towards the stairs, yawning along the way. He wiped his face with his palms several times, before making one finally wipe with his the inside of his wrist. After which Estovion made his way