After speaking with Kalona, I returned home to see what the plans were for the day. There was a few things I needed to go buy, some of which I wanted to go buy alone, but I needed to see if there was anything important we had to do. We still needed to find the crown for Mark, so Cade and I decided that we were going to do that later on, so I had the morning to myself. I ordered a bracelet to be made for Kalona and then decided to do something I never wanted to do ever again. I decided to go to a brothel.
Now, it wasn’t for the normal reasons. You see, my parents’ were the “wait until marriage” type and well, I hadn’t been doing that. I was a little concerned about you know, getting pregnant, but I didn’t know where to get contraceptives so I thought asking someone at the brothel would be the best option. The lady who I asked about them was super nice, even though I was very awkward about it, and told me that I needed to go to the apothecary to get some. I did as she told me, had an awkward conversation about how much I needed with the person running the apothecary and then went on my merry, yet shameful, way.
The last thing I wanted to do before I met Cade near the Black Market was to apologize to Lord Allen. I got a nice bottle of wine from one of the taverns and went to his house. He didn’t open the door fully when he answered it, but accepted my apology and the bottle of wine. He seemed distracted while talking to him, especially when I asked him about if there was any children that had went missing from the city. His lack of knowledge about the inner workings of the city concerned me, but as I finished up my conversation with him, I realized why he was being so strange with me. Kalona had told him to go enjoy a night with his girlfriend and relax a little. I felt like an idiot for not realizing it sooner.
Remembering that Kalona told me that he’d go to the Black Market with me a few days before, I stopped by his house, knocking on his window this time to see if he wanted to go with me. He seemed surprised that I was using his window, but I just figured it was what we’re doing now since he’s constantly using my window to get into my house rather than the door. He told me he needed to collect his things and he’d meet me outside in a few moments. After he was ready, we headed to the Black Market.
Cade was already waiting for me there, seeming a little surprised that Kalona was here too, but didn’t say anything about it. I explained to Kalona that we were looking for a missing crown, describing it to him, and asked if he knew which merchant might have it. Kalona said that there was this special items merchant that might have it, so we decided we’d start our search there. The market itself was an interesting place and there was a lot of activity moving through the area. Most of the items being sold seemed to be legitimate, but a lot of the goods were illegal. The special items merchant was no different. The merchant already knew Cade because he showed Cade some daggers the day before, but Cade didn’t have the money to buy them at the time. I asked him if he had any crowns and he pulled out three matching the description I gave him. Two were very similar and pretty well made, and the other one looked fairly cheaply made, but the merchant explained that it had a magical aura about it. I told him about our situation and he told me that the crown I wanted was the cheaper looking one. He admitted that he’s encountered it a few times before and that if we bought something else, it was free. However, out of curiosity, it was 15,000 gold if we didn’t buy anything else.
He showed me a bow that I might like, but the price was too steep for me, so we bought the daggers Cade wanted and got the crown as well, saving 11,000 gold. I ended up buying an original painting from the man who was selling his forgeries in hopes to inspire him to keep creating his own work. It was a very pretty painting, but I honestly paid too much for it. With nothing else to do, we decided to go check out the gambling area and Cade and I were greeted with a few congratulations here and there for winning the tournament. Some people told us that we won them money. This was all fine and dandy but someone did catch our attention.
Sitting at one of the tables was none other than cart man. It’s been awhile since we encountered him in the woods outside Frostford. He stole money from Zen, left us with a cart full of useless, magical items, and when Cade shouted at him from across the room, it was easy to see that he hadn’t forgotten about us. He was off like a shot, sprinting out of the gambling area, and Cade told me that we should chase him down. I told Cade we shouldn’t and we should just let him live in fear of us. He’s never going to bother us again anyway so why kill him? Cade eventually agreed, but Kalona had some questions about the magical items this guy had on the chart. Knowing that it was going to be easier to show off what they did than explain them, we went to the training center.
Kalona didn’t seem too enthusiastic when I started showing the longsword we picked up off the cart to him, mostly because I told him earlier that I was going to hit him with it. After getting the sword out of the bag of holding, I showed him that the edge would draw blood by cutting my finger on it a little bit. After that, I attacked, hitting his arm with the sword as it did no damage, turning into rubber. Kalona went from unimpressed to interested soon after and I handed him the sword. Like most other people we tell about this sword, he thought it was extremely weird, but could come in handy in some situations. After a little while of talking between the three of us, I asked him if he would come to our house later because there was things that we needed to discuss as a group. He said he’d come and I asked him to make sure he wasn’t followed.
Back at the house, I started discussing the missing children with Cade and Zen. Neither one of them really wanted to go help them, because they weren’t sure what we’d be getting into. Neither one of them really cared anyway. I explained to them that I didn’t want to go, especially if we were going to the Nine Hells, but we needed to go save these children. We had waited for such a long time and I finally felt that we were ready to face it. Cade asked if we were really ready, and I brought up to them that we had killed two dragons already. By that time, the window to my bedroom opened and soon Kalona was standing with us in the living room. I thanked him for coming, but insisted to Zen and Cade that we needed to do this. Zen made a promise to Carp’s mother to find him and she’d be breaking that promise if we didn’t do anything. Eventually, they agreed to go with me, and I decided that we’d go tomorrow.
Now, I didn’t really want Kalona there for that conversation, but I did want him to be a part of this one. I told Cade and Zen that we need to start considering what we are going to do about Atlas Fletcher. By that time, Cade and Zen didn’t seem to be too eager to discuss anymore, and Kalona seemed a bit confused why he was here for this. I made it brief, saying that we needed to start this conversation because if our two teams were going to work together, we needed to start the discussion now. However, there wasn’t much discussion, which honestly irritated me a little.
With that done, Kalona and I left the house because I wanted to talk through some things with him in private. We walked a little ways out of the city and onto a grassy hilltop and I told him that we needed to let each other know what we knew about the situation between our families. He wanted me to start, so I told him that I knew that my mother and little brother were killed as a sacrifice to Atlas’ father, Asmodeus, and the reason that he wants my family’s blood is because we are descendants of a paladin of Obad-Hai. He said that he didn’t know much more but looking at him, I finally felt like I was able to ask something I’d been waiting for the right moment to say. “I do have a question for you,” I remember saying, causing his eyes to look at me curiously. “If you’re grandfather is Asmodeus, what does that make you?”
“Me,” he replied with a shrug. I don’t know why, but I instantly regretted asking him about it.
“It doesn’t change how I feel about you, Kalona,” I told him, hoping that I didn’t make him angry with my question. I asked him if he had any plans on how to defeat Atlas, saying that my plans are old and stupid and wouldn’t work anymore. He told me that he’d need some time to think, but he’d think of something. Jokingly, I told him that my father told me that I needed to kill his mother before his father to weaken him, but that plan was out the window. He grew a bit stern at the mention of killing his mother, saying his mother was to be left out of this conflict, but he did tell me that she doesn’t like me. I wouldn’t expect anything else.
I only had one final question for him and it was a weird one. When I went out with him the second night we were in Aspienne, I noticed that he had faint scars on his hands. While I was with him, I noticed he’d rub them from time to time, but I was never able to figure out where they had come from. I thought that this would be as good of a time as any to ask, so I did. He explained to me that he got them when he tried to stand up against his father after I broke up with him. He got in a fight with an assassin, who was a lizard creature by the name of Slither. That fight with Slither was almost deadly for him. After that, he went to train with his uncle, the demon lord Graz’zt, in the Abyss. He spent nearly four years training with him in hopes of being strong enough one day to face his father.
I gazed at him for a while, wanting to ask more questions about his time away during those four years, but I knew that now wasn’t the time. It was getting late and we needed to get back eventually. He told me that he had a gift for me and pulled out a thin, silver bracelet with white and red stones on it. He put it on my wrist and told me that it is a bracelet of revitalization, so if I would fall in battle, it would at least get me back on my feet. I studied it for a few moments, knowing that what he was really telling me was to stay alive. I smiled at him, thanking him for it, and told him that I had a present for him too. I handed a leather bracelet to him with the words, “It’s always been yours,” burned into the leather inside of it. He smiled when he read the phrase, I felt a bit bad that it wasn’t magical, but he thanked me for it. I told him that he could come over for the night if he wanted to, and he said that he might take me up on that offer, before we parted ways and went home.
Cade had followed Kalona and I, but wasn’t able to hear our conversation, due to us speaking in the language we had made up in our teens, and seemed to have a few questions for me. I answered them as best as I could, not wanting to say too much in the streets in case someone was listening. When we made it home, we talked for a little while with Zen before we all retired to our beds. The house was silent when my window slowly slid open and Kalona quietly scrambled through it. I smiled at the sight of him, pleased to see him once more, as he carefully closed the window and took off his sword and shoes after greeting me. I couldn’t help but stare.
This man drove me insane, forced me to crave him and his closeness, and ruined every plan I thought I had all without saying a single word. He changed the way I saw the world in a blink of an eye, restored life to me in a heartbeat, and reduced my fears to nothing on a breath. If I could, I’d sit there and study every curve and angle of his body and commit to memory like some holy scripture. I’d revel in his presence, bask in the glory of his gaze, and worship the warmth of his love. Mortal yet divine, a man who could have anything he ever desired with just a few charming words, and yet he focused his affections on me. A simple girl from Frostford who’s in way over her head in this world and happens to have a holy bloodline. For the longest time, I never understood what he saw in me but now I’m beginning to realize what he meant all those years ago.
My eyes are focused on him, my heart aching for his touch, as my head considered the possibilities of what we and this relationship could be. Dark, manipulative thoughts started to creep back into my mind, ideas that I hadn’t thought of in a long time, and I considered them. Some of them could work, while others would just be interesting to see unfold over time. These schemes were what he saw in me all those years ago.
I didn’t even notice that he stared me with a little smirk on his lips until he came closer to me. “What were you thinking about?” he asked, his voice deep as I gazed up at him. A chill ran down my spine as I considered his question with a mischievous grin on my face. There wasn’t much on my mind in that moment.
“How to make you as insane as you make me,” I replied in a whisper, my voice low and seductive as I drew him in closer to me, ready for what was going to happen next.
The morning light warmed the room as I stirred to find myself still in his arms. I shifted to be able to face him. His expression was peaceful and satisfied and his chest rose and fell with his smooth, steady breaths. I don’t think my heart will never not flutter when I wake up to see that he’s right here beside me. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this feeling. I can’t even describe it but it’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt. I cuddled up closer to him, not wanting this to end. I didn’t want to say goodbye to him so soon but I knew I had to. Today, we were leaving to try to find the missing children, and I didn’t even want to consider that I was leaving him behind.
This time, I was able to convince him to stay a bit longer than yesterday morning. We didn’t talk much. We just held each other and cherished the silent moments we shared, not knowing when the next time we’d be together would come. His body was warm under my touch, his fingers slowly traced the curvatures of mine, and I attempted to memorize the sound of his heartbeat. In the stillness of it all, my mind was racing as I tried to guess the next time we’d be together. I couldn’t, and that upset me a little.
He eventually had to leave and return to his team and I took the time to get my own things packed and ready. Beacon watched me as I did so, his tail beating against the bed when I even glanced at him in the slightest sense. After everything was packed, I made a tea out of the contraceptive I was given, as instructed, and dear gods it tasted horrible. I was able to choke it down without vomiting as Cade and Zen gathered their things. After a while, and a quick run to stock up on some more potions, we were ready to leave. I went over to Kalona’s house and knocked on his window. I let him know that we were leaving soon and I’d send him a letter once we got back. Before I left, I kissed him goodbye.
Back with my group, we made sure we were all ready and once we said we were, Cade drew the portal. I didn’t admit it to them, but I was nervous. I didn’t know what we were going to find once we stepped through the portal. When we did so, my nerves were right. This didn’t look like the layer of Hell we were supposed to be on and as we started to walk towards the building in the distance, there were the bodies of dead children everywhere. Zen, Cade, and I looked for Carp, not letting the sight affect us as we made our way into the building. We found Carp’s body inside and the sense of failure started to creep up in my mind. I took out the last cloak we picked up from the Redbrand’s hideout and wrapped him up in it. Once we were finished, chains whipped out of the darkness and attacked us. The fight was longer than we expected, because I didn’t want to get close to the chain devil so I could actually attack it instead of constantly being grappled by it, but it eventually fell.
Slightly irritated, I went over to the desk across the room and collected the money off of it before returning to Cade and Zen when a slow clap started out of the darkness. Stepping out of the shadow before us was the black-haired, golden-eyed, magical boy. However, he now looked to be a teenager. He explained to us that he was surprised to see us, but because of our untimeliness, phase one of his plan was complete and phase two was starting to begin. Confused, we asked him what his plan was and he replied that he wants to watch the gods, and the world, burn. My only thought for him was, get in line. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that. Even though I really wanted to say that, I held my tongue and instead focused on him to try to figure out what he was. He wasn’t fiend, celestial, or undead as he explained to us that if we wanted to leave, we needed to do it soon before the portal piece lost it’s power and we were trapped here forever. The last thing he said to us was, “tick, tock. Tick, tock.” The words sent a chill up my spine as Cade drew a portal one last time and we stepped through, finding ourselves back in Aspienne just a couple hours after we left.
Cade wrote letters to the people he wrote just hours before, saying that we made it back safely, as I went to Kalona’s window, hoping for him to see him. I’ll admit, I was upset with the outcome and I felt extremely responsible for what had happened, but I didn’t let it show to the rest of my team. I just wanted a bit of a distraction, someone to talk to, and I knew I’d feel a little bit better about the situation. However, after a few moments of waiting at his window, no one came. I went to the front door and it was the same result. The door was unlocked and I stepped in to see that every trace of them was gone and the house was vacant. My upset turned to irritation in a heartbeat as I grappled with the fact that he was already gone. Fine, I see how it is, I thought to myself, hurting as I tried to convince myself that I knew that this was going to happen. It didn’t mean that it didn’t pain me any less.
I made my way back to Cade and Zen, telling them that we needed to do something with Carp’s body, so we made our way to the Temple of Kord to see if anyone there could help us. I held him in my arms as we stepped inside as the thought of his smiling face flashed back before my eyes. He was so excited to finally met adventurers, because he wanted to be one someday, and we were the horrible example of what they were. The tears stung my eyes, regret and despair pressing down on me, and I just couldn’t move past the fact that we failed him and all of the other children. It didn’t hit me until just then. Cade and one of the priests were trying to talk to me but I didn’t even register what they were saying. Cade took Carp out of my arms and told the priest about our situation and asked if we could have a burial arranged for him. He said they could get something arranged, but I didn’t hear anything else. I was too focused on staying on my feet, trying not to cry, and driving the failure out of my mind. Cade had to escort me out of the temple once our business was done there.
Eventually, my emotions diminished in intensity and Cade and Zen asked me to write a letter to Carp’s mother. I told them I’d need a little bit of time, but I was willing to do so. I kept the letter short because I was still fighting back tears as I wrote it, but I explained to her that we found her son, but we wished it would have been under better circumstances. We made arrangements for his burial in Aspienne and we were deeply sorry for her loss. I told her that he was a very brave boy, a bright light in the darkness of this world, and he’ll be truly missed. I apologized to her once more, knowing that my apology wouldn’t help anything at all, but I didn’t know what else to say. It wouldn’t help bring her son back to her. I reread the letter a few times, trying to think of anything else to say, but when I couldn’t think of anything else, I signed it with Klara, Zenthya, and Cade, knowing that she’d be holding us responsible for her son’s death just like I held Atlas responsible for my mother’s and brother’s. Bitterness ate at my heart, but I didn’t let it show as I sealed the letter and sent it off with a messenger.
What I felt didn’t diminish with time like I thought they would. It continued to stew instead. We left Aspienne to go find our prize from the tournament in the Dragon’s Vale Woods, but after two weeks of travel, we found ourselves in Noragate. During this time, Cade was acting like a kleptomaniac and kept stealing stuff from Zen and I, but would always return it. His behavior was odd, and we didn’t really know what to think about it. I asked a local about a place to stay in the city and he asked if I wanted a touristy tavern or one the locals hang out at, and when I said I prefered the local one, he pointed us in the direction of The Tavern of Dragons. It was a pretty nice place and there was a lot of locals there and we ended up getting rooms for the week, but could get a refund if we didn’t stay as long. The barkeeper, who ran the place, was extremely nice.
However, the next morning I woke up to see that Cade had stolen a large painting off the wall of the tavern downstairs and I went to Zen’s room to tell her about it. We both agreed that it was time to get down to the bottom of this and have an intervention for Cade. We talked to him for a while, he claimed that there was nothing wrong with him and he eventually agreed to come with us to go see a cleric. After asking the barkeep where to go, we found ourselves in the Temple of Selune, near the port, and asked for a cleric to see Cade. A few minutes passed before a silver dragonborn arrived, her name was Ireimeila, and after a bit of talking with her and her examining Cade, she was able to tell us that the daggers he bought were probably cursed. Zen took the daggers from Cade after that and the dragonborn said that we needed to go to the magic shop in town to know the identity of the curse. We did so and found ourselves in front of Griemshaw Trading Co.
Now, Kalona did tell me that the last he knew, my brother was in town, but my first thought was when I saw that name was that it was a bit too similar to my family’s shop name, Grayson Trader Grove, but I didn’t dare ask anything of it because when we stepped in, he wasn’t there. There was a blonde, secretary-like lady and a bodyguard. We asked if they could identify the daggers and the blonde lady went into the back for a while to do so, and after a while, she returned to tell us that they were cursed. The previous owner was a greedy bastard and was banned from most cities and the daggers are okay to use as long as you don’t have them attuned to you for longer than three weeks. We thanked her and we ended up visiting another shop. This one was more general weapons, but I did ask the gentleman running it, a man by the name of Zasur, if he had seen my brother after showing him a picture of him, and he said he had but didn’t give me much information about him and was a jerk to me instead. You know all of those emotions I was feeling earlier? Well, guess who was now pissed off.
We went to other shops and, after a little bit of coin to get tongues loosened, I was able to find out of that my dear brother was the Fletchers’ business partner and that he changed his last name to Griemshaw. So original, brother. You only changed a few letters. We also found out that ships were being sunk out at sea and it was scaring the sailors and the Merchant’s Guild wanted some adventurers to go out and fix the problem. Eventually, I made my way back to Griemshaw Trading Co. and asked the blonde lady, her name is Vancha, if I could speak to my brother. Her response: “Maybe he doesn’t want to talk to you.” By that point, I was furious with every fucking merchant in that city and I wanted to rip out her throat. I was going to talk to my brother one way or another, no matter who or what stood in my way.
We found Ireimeila again, giving her an ‘update’ on her patient, before I asked her about my brother. She was about as helpful as every other person we talked to in that city, minus the barkeep, but explained to me that if I really wanted to talk to my brother, I needed to talk to Aren Wilso first, since he was the leader of the Merchant’s Guild. However, it would be nearly impossible to speak with him. At that point, my mantra became “fuck this city.”
Not going to stop my pursuit, I asked Cade and Zen to come with me to the Merchant’s Guild inn, aptly named the Inn of Traders. I hung outside with Zen, who wanted to sneak in with Cade but was unable to, as he tried to find a way for me to talk with my brother. Vaga, I mean, Vancha arrived at the tavern and was the reason that Cade was able to slip in, but the wait was killing me. I was furious with the situation. I wanted to move on with my life and leave this fucking city and everyone in it as soon as possible but not without speaking to my brother for one time in four years. All I wanted to do was make sure he was alright and then I could be at peace with the fact that he’s allied with my enemy and to let father know that his son’s still alive.
Eventually, Cade came out of the tavern and told me that he set up a meeting with my brother at the Serpent’s Den at noon. He told us that he said he was a representative of a trader from Vocans and she wanted to establish a trade route, but he himself was not from Vocans. Satisfied by the arrangement, we went back to the Tavern of Dragons for the night.
At noon the next day, we arrived at the Serpent’s Den and found out that it was a brothel. An extremely handsome tiefling man seemed to run the place and I told him, in my best Vocans’ accent, that we were here for the meeting with Nikolas Griemshaw. That’s when I realized that the tiefling named Kisora was actually from Vocans as he spoke. After he told us what room he was in, I thanked him and told him, “Be pleased,” remembering that my father told me to say that if I was ever dealing with someone from Vocans. He seemed pretty impressed, repeating the phrase to me before we went into the room he told us my brother was in.
Upon entering the room, two men were already there within it. One I didn’t recognize and the other had changed a bit since I last saw him. “Hello, Klara,” my brother said, his tone not enthusiastic to see me. He was taller now and more muscular, he’d grown a beard and was wearing glasses, but other than that he looked much like he did when he left all those years ago. “Hello, Nikolas,” I replied, a bit irritated that the other man was here. There were a few, tense moments between us and I noticed that my companions were getting uncomfortable with the silence. I was just trying to think what to say. My brother and I didn’t leave on the best terms, and I could still see some of that resentment in his eyes as he looked at me. I told him that it was good to see him, to know that he’s alright, and I hoped that his business was doing well. He said that things were fine and that him and his wife, Vancha, were doing well. So the rude, blonde lady is my sister-in-law. Wonderful.
I told him that I heard that he was business partners with the Fletchers now and I asked how that came to be. He explained to me that he ran from them for a while, but they eventually caught up with him and he made a deal with them. All he had to do was given them some blood, become their business partner, and then he was safe. Anger flared in my chest, knowing that he had sealed his fate and mine as well. I didn’t say anything, however, because I wasn’t going to let him see that the hate that was growing within me as I heard more about his situation. I told him that father would be pleased to know that he was alright, which caused my brother to come slightly unglued. He told me that he no longer had any love for our father because he was the reason that our mother was dead since he wasn’t there to protect her. I retorted, telling him that there was no way we could’ve known that she was going to be murdered if we left. He then told me that it was our father’s fault that there was such a divide between the Fletchers and us, and I asked him if he remembered that we were the ones who did most of the damage. We were the ones actively trying to turn the town against them, we were the ones who started the fire, because our father wanted no part in it at first. I could see I was getting to him, I was making his angry, and I enjoyed it.
I told him that, even though he doesn’t like father, that father would be proud of him because he’s doing what he wished for the both of us to do after he left. Start a business, move on with our lives, and not look back. My brother considered my words for a few, brief moments. Nikolas then explained to me that Waicox offered the house and the business to him, two months after our father left Frostford, but he declined. He wanted nothing to do with our property anymore. I told him that he should return soon, that mother would like to see him because her spirit is still tied to the house for the time being, but he refused. He said he didn’t care anymore. Up until that point, nothing he said really hurt me, but that did. For someone who hated so much due to our mother’s death, he should be ecstatic about the fact that he’d have a chance to talk to her one more time. He wasn’t and that stung. Any bit of affection I used to have for my brother shattered in that instant and I realized that he wasn’t even worthy of my time anymore. However, he’s my brother and I still love him.
With our personal matters out on the table, he did mention the fact that the Merchant’s Guild would like us to find whatever was sinking their ships. He explained that the merfolk and the guild had a treaty, but now they’re attacking and they want someone to go get to the bottom of it. I told him that we’d consider the offer, but there’s business we must do first before we even consider the offer. That didn’t seem like an answer either one of the two men wanted to hear.
Before our meeting was over, I went over to my brother, who was suspiciously eyeing me, and gave him a hug. It was probably the most awkward hug ever but again, he was still my brother even though he seemed to hate me. I whispered into his ear that I was glad he was alright and I hoped that in time, things between us wouldn’t be so strained and we could move past this. He stiffened slightly at my words before whispering, “You know the Fletchers will find you.” I couldn’t help but smile as the thought of Kalona and I flashed into my mind. “They already have,” I replied, smirking at my brother as I pulled out of the hug as confusion entered his eyes. With that, Cade, Zen, and I left the room and once we were gone, they said that my brother was a jerk.
I tore off a small piece of the scroll my father gave to me and wrote a short note on it, saying that Nikolas is safe, he’s in Noragate, and this town is horrible. I thought of my father after I finished the message and the slip disappeared from my hands. With that done, a few shots of alcohol from Kisora’s bar, and some small talk with him, we left the city.
Now, in my anger towards the Merchant’s Guild and the city of Noragate, we forgot our horses so we had to go back, losing a day of travel, but we eventually found the cave that Mr. Ward described to us. Upon entering the cave, there was a dragon’s skeleton wrapped around a pile of treasure. On top of the pile of treasure were four dragon eggs. Each was warm to the touch, so they still seemed to be alive and we each chose one egg for ourselves. I took the blue egg while Cade took the green and Zen kept the red. We decided to take the lilac egg with us, not knowing what do with it at the moment but we didn’t want to leave it. Satisfied with our winnings and our collection of the remaining dragon parts, we noticed as the glyphs that outline the entrance to the cave powered down, which freaked Cade and Zen out. I was alright with it, knowing that we walked in here without being harmed so we should be able to walk out. Mr. Ward also said that he made sure that no one would touch our winnings so I figured that’s what the glyphs were for.
With that done, we made our way back to Noragate, discussing whether or not we should accept the deal with the Merchant’s Guild. I finally noticed that the bracelet Kalona gave me was missing and I asked Cade if he had it and he said he didn’t. That didn’t stop me from thinking that he took it though. Cade and Zen wanted to take the deal because they thought we could get a lot of money out of it, but I didn’t want to accept it due to how pissed off I was with all of them. However, I told them that since they wanted to accept it, I’d go with them because they went with me to save the children even though they didn’t want to.
Once back in the city, I went to my brother’s shop and found him working there. I told him that the business we had to do was done and we were accepting the guild’s offer. For once, my brother actually looked a little satisfied as he told me that we’d need to come to the guild hall at six for a meeting before he gave me directions how to get there. I thanked him and left and we decided to go see Kisora. When we got there, however, he couldn’t stay long because he was called in for a guild meeting, but would see us there at six. With nothing else to do, we hung out there until it was time to go.
Following my brother’s directions, we made our way to the Merchant’s Guild Hall, but quickly found out that my brother kindly forgot to tell us how to get in. After a while of trying and realizing that we’d probably have to break our way in, Kisora came and let us in. I liked Kisora a lot before that moment, but now I was in love with him. Compared to all of the other guild members, he was genuinely a good man. He lead us to where the meeting was taking place and on the walls of this hall was the crests of the people who were members. The only reason I knew that was there was a slightly modified version of the Grayson family crest on the wall behind my brother.
Sitting across from us was the man I saw with my brother when I spoke with him and he introduced himself as Aren Wilso. He thanked us for taking their offer and explained to us that we were to go five miles off of the coast to the reef where the ships have been sinking and investigate what’s happening there. We were each handed a ring of waterbreathing to use during our quest. I pressed him for more information, my companions staying silent. We barely knew what he wanted us to do and I wanted that to be out on the table for everyone in the room to hear. He explained to me that he wanted us to attempt to broker a deal with the merfolk or kill if needed. Mostly, he wants to know what’s attacking the ships because it seems like something is luring them closer to the reef since they find them either wrecked on it or dragged down below the water’s surface.
Cade and Zen still didn’t talk, so I took it as an opportunity to continue on. I questioned Aren about a reward for our work, and he didn’t mention anything about one, so I pressed him on it, saying that we do require compensation for our time. He avoided an answer, which irritated me, and I asked him about the deal they had with the merfolk. He said that before this happened, their relationship with the merfolk was good, but it is about the time for them to broker a new treaty with them. He told me that if the treaty is broken, he wants to know why, and if it’s something we think they can fix, we’d broker a deal with them. If it can’t be fixed, kill them all.
“So you’re asking us to commit genocide,” I stated firmly, my rage swelling up within my chest. I glared at him from across the room, waiting for his response. He told me that if it came down it it, then yes, he was. In that moment, I hated everyone in that guild hall and I was questioning why I was ever here talking to them, especially if these merfolk were innocent in this. He finally mentioned that our reward could be potentially more than just money, depending on how well we did, especially if we kept the treaty alive. Studying me, he asked if we had a deal and I looked to Cade and Zen. They were the ones who wanted to do this, but they looked troubled as I gazed at them. Returning my attention to Wilso, I told him that we had a deal.
He wrote us a charter for a ship but we were to go to the docks and pick the ship and the crew we wanted. I took the document and put it in my bag before I walked down the table, passing by a few of the guild members, and standing by Wilso, looking down at him. I offered him my hand, and he took it and firmly shook my hand. I told him we’d return as soon as possible.
I felt the weight of the guild members gazes and I walked back towards my friends but I didn’t care. I was upset with the situation we just put ourselves in and all of those people in that room, minus Kisora, had been rude to us. They were full of themselves and they could stand to be knocked down a few pegs. I knew their type, I knew what you had to do to survive in a business setting like that, and I wasn’t going to let them push me around. I wasn’t their bitch to control. Furious but close to tears, we made our way to Kisora’s brothel to discuss what just happened.
He wasn’t back yet but we made ourselves comfortable and I sat with my head on the bar in front of me. I felt like shit, and the bartender working there automatically poured me a shot. I took it, not even thinking about it, and set my head back on the bar as Cade rubbed my back. I asked them if they still wanted to do this, and they said that they did. I also asked if they thought I was too forceful with the guild. They didn’t answer.
Soon, Kisora arrived and took over the bartender’s job, pouring both Cade and I another shot. He told us that they were expecting that to go a little differently. I told him that I felt horrible and I wasn’t going to let them force our hand, my voice a bit muffled with my head still on the bar. He did admit that some of the members didn’t like me. I told him that the guild can go fuck themselves, but not him because he’s nice. Cade and Zen talked with him for a while, asking what he knew about the situation as I finally raised my head. The tears stung my eyes as I fought them back. He explained that what he knew about the situation was already discussed with us, and they asked him if he agreed with what Wilso wanted. He admitted that he didn’t want to see the merfolk killed either. With tears in my eyes, I asked him what we should do so it wouldn’t come to that. His answer was to not let it get to that point.
At his words, I started crying and explaining to them that I was done with this city and everyone in it. Nothing was working out the way I thought it would, we couldn’t save those children, Kalona left too soon, I can’t find the bracelet he gave me, my brother’s a dick, the guild is made of a bunch of jerks, and now we have to possibly go murder a bunch of merfolk for no apparent reason. “Klara, you need to relax,” Kisora told me, his accent thick in his voice.
“What do you think I’m trying to do? Alcohol hasn’t been helping so far,” I explained to him. He told me that he had just the thing for me, that it knocked out people from Vocans in just one shot, so it would help me relax. The shot he poured was thick and extremely yellow but I didn’t care. I took it in one swallow. It burned horribly and tasted disgusting but once it faded, a numbness started in my mouth and worked its way throughout my entire body. Oh, it felt so nice until I tried to speak. Zen asked Kisora what he gave me, and was giving to Cade while she spoke and he explained that it was sandkeg venom. She was appalled that he gave us vemon and he had to explain to her the properties of the liquor. I really didn’t care because for the first time in two and a half weeks, I wasn’t so tense.
I caught bits and pieces of Zen’s conversation with him and jumped in from time to time. He was describing Vocans to us and telling us about the Assassin’s Guild there. He mentioned that the two nicest assassins to come out of that guild was Jack and another man named Reylar Ventoris. He spoke for a while, explaining to us that not all of the assassins are as nice as them, and at his mention of Slither, I told him that he killed my mother. He told me that he was sorry to hear that and continued to tell us about Vocans. It was nice to just listen to him speak.
After a while, I asked him if he had any recommendations about who to charter and he told us it depended on where we wanted to go. If we were going to Vocans, he recommended Captain Jorly, but if we were doing anything with the Sea of Storms, like we were, he said we needed Captain Jerron. He explained to us that the Sea of Storms is dangerous and most captains who sail it refuse to go to Croak, but Jerron is crazy enough to do so. After a little while more of talking, it was getting late and we decided to call it quits for the night.
However, I didn’t leave because after Cade and Zen left, I asked Kisora if he’d been willing to help me relax a little more. He considered my offer for a while, before shrugging and telling me why not, and we went into one of the back rooms. Even with the venom still in my system, I wasn’t okay. I was hurting and I needed a distraction from it all and he was extremely attractive. I didn’t know what I was doing though but I also didn’t care. He lead me to the bed and had me sit down on the edge of it as I touched his face, causing him a gentle smile to form on his lips. He moved closer to me, as if to kiss me, but his lips never met mine and he began to wrap a blanket around my shoulders. He pulled away, taking my hands in his as he looked me in the eye. “You need to rest,” he insisted and the tears started welling up once more.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to,” I replied as I felt the tears begin to fall. He wrapped the blanket tighter around me as he helped me lay down on the bed before laying down beside me. He wiped my tears from my eyes and asked me to tell him what happened.
I explained to him what happened with the missing children, how we weren’t able to save them, and how we failed to keep our promise to one of the boy’s mothers. I then told him about Kalona leaving and, even though I knew we would both have to leave sometime, it hurt to see him gone so soon when I needed his comfort the most. Then, I told him about the troubles we had here in Noragate all because I just wanted to talk to my brother for the first time in four years and make sure he was alright. There was also the whole thing with the guild that happened that night that I wasn’t comfortable with and I’m so tired of this town, the guild, and my brother. I admitted that to him that I was jealous of my brother because he has everything I wanted when I was younger. A prosperous business, a spouse, a life we both always dreamed of living. When I heard that he was actually here in the city, all I wanted when I saw him was to make sure he was alright. I didn’t expect to receive such a cold welcome.
Kisora held me close while I told him this, gently rubbing my back as I choked on my words and my tears. He didn’t say anything and just allowed me to talk. Eventually, I ran out of things to say and when that happened, my tears eventually slowed. Once they stopped, he told me that he had to go take care of some things, but he’d be back soon. I pulled the blanket around myself tighter, gazing up at the ceiling. I knew Cade and Zen were probably thinking that I was doing something else with him, but at the moment, I wouldn’t even consider it like I did before. A part of me was embarrassed for breaking down in front of him like this. He saw me driven by anger and fury, full of fire, as I talked to the guild and spoke with people around the town, but he also witnessed how fragile I was, how delicate the facade I put up for the city was. He saw me when I was trying to prove that I was at my best, even though I was truly at my worst.
I was focused on calming my ragged breaths when he came back into the room with a cup in his hands. He handed it to me, it was warm to the touch, as he told me that it was warm milk and honey and it should help me feel a little better. I thanked him for it, looking at the cup in my hands for a while before finally taking a sip. I apologized to him for the way I was acting and he told me that it wasn’t a problem. He told me that, “Everyone has their breaking point, Klara. It’s not something you need to apologize for.” I nodded, thanking him once more, before he left the room again.
I took some time to finished the drink he gave me, making sure that the honey was well mixed into the milk, as I considered his words. Why was did his kindness seem so familiar to me? He was a stranger, but it felt like I was around an old friend when I was with him. It was something unexpected for this city and I felt like I could trust him. I didn’t know why I felt so strongly about him.
After a few minutes, I finished the drink, setting it on a small table at the side of the bed, and laid back down, figuring that I should try to get some rest. I wasn’t tired, but eventually sleep did come to me.
The next morning, I woke to find that the cup from the night before was gone and Kisora had left a couple pastries and a few pieces of fruit on the nightstand next to me and there was a couple more blankets on my bed. His kindness almost brought me to tears again. I ate one of each with some of the water I had before I started to gather my things. There was a knock at the door and I opened it to see him standing there. He asked me if everything was alright and I told him it was, but I should probably be going soon. I thanked him for his hospitality and for everything he did for me last night and that if there was ever anything I could do to repay him, all he needed to do was let me know. He said he’d remember that and he wished me luck on our journey ahead. I gave him a quick hug goodbye, thanking him one final time, before I left to make my way back to the Tavern of Dragons to find Cade and Zen.
Once back with them, we made our way to the docks in hopes to find the captain that Kisora recommended to us. It was a bustling place with a lot of people coming in and out of ships and we eventually found one of Captain Jerron’s crew members. He called to his captain and we were introduced to him. Captain Jerron was a young man, his hair closely shaved, and he wasn’t the happiest when I showed him the charter from the Merchant’s Guild. I told him that Kisora recommended us to him, and his demeanor changed, admitting to us that he didn’t exactly like the Merchant’s Guild. I told him that we don’t really like them either but agreed to do this task for them. With a nod, he said that they needed to bring supplies on board, but they’d be ready to take us out to sea within an hour.
We soon figured out which ones in our group had experience out at sea and which of us didn’t. Zen was perfectly fine with the rough, choppy waters, even as a storm started to pick up, but Cade was struggling with it. I was alright but a little nervous. I’d been out at sea a couple times on the Sea of Sorrows with Levi’s crews. This sea was much rougher than the one back home. Jerron, noticing our levels of experience asked Zen and I about which seas we’d been on while Cade was tying himself to one of the masts. Zen said that she traveled the Sea of Storms to get from Readmont to Araluen, so she was fairly familiar with the choppiness of it. I told him that I’d traveled on the Sea of Sorrows a few times and he told me that this sea was a whole different beast. I could already tell. Zen did ask why the Sea of Sorrows was named that way and Jerron explained it was because it results in the death of a lot of sailors. There was a lot of death associated with that area in general.
Cade, finally brave enough to make his way up to where we were with Jerron, got to hear the story Jerron told us about Croak, saying that most people don’t go there because of the dangerous waters but there is a temple to the Raven Queen located on the island. Kisora also mentioned something about the Raven Queen to us as well. Jerron also told us the story about Barovia and Strahd since none of us knew it. He then went on telling us more about the sea, telling us that most people are chickens for fearing it so much. He also mentioned to us what he knew about the situation and the dangers we’d face soon after we asked him about the merfolk.
He had heard that the sea elves brokered deals between merfolk and humanoids and it was spawning season for the merfolk, so he didn’t understand why they would be attacking. We told him about the sinking ships and he said that it sounded more like merrow to him than the merfolk. None of us had heard of merrow before, so he told us that they were merfolk once, but they swam too deep into the ocean and made their way into the Abyss, where they were corrupted. Once they returned, they were evil compared to the more gentle merfolk and have been know to sink ships like we described to him. He told us that if we were dealing with merrows, we needed to be careful.
Around this time, Cade came up to me and put the bracelet Kalona gave to me back on my wrist. I shot him a dirty look and he said that he had found it and didn’t steal it from me. I wasn’t really convinced. Jerron called out for his crew to set the anchor and lead us to the bow of the ship, asking us if we could see the reef ahead of us. “No,” the three of us said sarcastically, not even attempting to look at where he was pointing. However, we were all able to see the reef and the half-sunken ship ahead of us. He told us that here was where we were getting off and that he’d wait for two days until they had to go back to port to get more supplies. They’d come back out after that and wait for us if needed.
I asked if they had a dinghy for us to use, and they said they didn’t so we better watch where we jumped. Zen cast a waterbreathing spell on the dire wolves and her leopard and dove in gracefully, followed by her cat. I stood there at the edge of the ship for a while, looking down at the water below while Cade jumped off as he attempted to get Dogmeat to do the same. Beacon followed in after Dogmeat and I looked back that the captain, nodded, and told him that we’d see them again soon.
Every fiber of my being told me to stay on that ship, because I knew the waters below meant death for us. However, there was no turning back now. With a sigh, I did the unthinkable and hopped off the edge of the ship, trying to keep my arms down and feet together as I hit the water. Everything went quiet for a few moments as I began to swim towards the surface, trying not to acknowledge the murky depths below me. Once I emerged, Cade and Zen started swimming towards the sunken ship. I hung on to Beacon since it had been a while for the both of us since we had a proper swim and I didn’t want him to get left behind.
Cade and I lost sight of Zen for a while as the dogs and her leopard got to a place where they could stand and Cade and I thought it would be a good time to attempt to try waterbreathing. Today was just filled to the brim with things I thought were unthinkable because Cade and I were literally trying to drown ourselves. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, even when Cade pulled me under and tried to get me to take a breath. He managed to do it way before I did and was trying to convince me it was okay. At one point, he had my head cupped in between his hands as I was panicking, telling him that I just couldn’t do it. He told me that it feels extremely weird but it’s the only way we were going to survive out here. He pulled me under once more, punched me in the gut, which made me inhale some water as I panicked. The water replaced the air in my lungs and I could breathe, but it felt extremely wrong. He smiled at me as I took a few long breaths, attempting to calm down. I had to keep telling myself that I was okay.
Eventually, Zen joined us again and asked what we were doing after telling us that the part of the ship she explored was empty. We told her that we were trying to drown ourselves so we could get used to the waterbreathing thing and we were now attempting to get our animals into the water. She began to speak with them, and her leopard was the first one to take to the water. Dogmeat and Beacon were more of a challenge. They soon realized that they could breathe underwater however and we made our way down to find another ship.
Zen was speaking to the fishes and they told her where to go and eventually we found ourselves inside a ship with a skeleton crew, much older than the last ship. Cade went up to what looked to be the captain, who was sitting near a pile of loot before he was attacked. It was awkward fighting underwater, but we managed well enough and eventually the skeleton crew was defeated. We collected what loot we could before we exited the ship and went deeper.
Everything was dark and cold. I couldn’t make out much of what was ahead of me and kept following the light from Cade’s drift globe as we continued to descend. After a while, we couldn’t see the reef anymore. It was here where we needed to decide whether we kept swimming down or went back up. The obvious choice was to go back but there was a temptation to keep going deeper. Jerron said that things would eventually swim so deep that they would cross over into the Abyss and Kalona did say that he spent four years there with his uncle. It was a crazy thought, I know that now, but at the time it felt like the Abyss was so close and so were the potential answers to my questions. However, as my friends began to backtrack, I did too, not wanting to lose myself in the darkness.
This time, we kept a lookout for another ship and eventually we saw one. There was pile of treasure sitting in it’s hull, however, we all noticed that we weren’t alone. It looked like the flash of scales from a fish, but a big fish at that. It was then when Cade was pulled backwards out of the ship, me being dragged along with him because I had tied myself to him as we both discovered what we thought were merrow. They attacked, but they were no match for us. Cade took a lot of damage and went unconscious for a while, but the battle was over soon after that. Zen joined us as I got Cade conscious again and told us that she killed three of them. I don’t think the merrows thought we were going to be that tough of a fight.
We spent some time gathering what we could, when something else caught our eye. It was a male merfolk, who seemed to have been watching as we killed the merrow. He offered to take us to their home in the reef so we could rest after the fight because there was more merrows that we’d have to deal with. We agreed and a few other merfolk joined us as we followed them there. Eventually, we found ourselves in a cave and to our delight, there was actually land and air within it. Cade and I crawled onto the sand, hacking the water out of our lungs and I remember myself collapsing onto the beach. In that moment, I was thankful just to be on dry land again. I knew that my body would be aching in the morning from all the swimming for for the moment, I was going to enjoy just laying there. It had been such a strange adventure already and I had a feeling it was going to get weirder from here.