Absit Invidia

Klara's Journal: Entry #16

Close Calls

We rested for the night in the cave and the next morning, the merfolk warriors told us that there was about six more merrows left. Once we were ready, they lead us to a creepy cave and we asked them to follow us in so they could fight with us. The battle with the merrows was fairly short, a lot of the merfolk didn’t survive the fight, but at least we were able to get rid of their threat for them. However, I soon began to realize why the Merchant’s Guild seemed so upset with me asking for a reward because while there wasn’t much money on the other ships we’d visited, within this cave, there was a lot. I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing that much money in one place and it was glorious.

Honestly, I felt like I was laughing to myself the whole way to the surface, which took hours to reach, and I knew I had a dumb grin on my lips most of the time. Thoughts circulated around in my head, knowing that I had unknowingly pulled off a huge deal in my blind rage and when we returned to the city, we were going to get more. In that moment, I felt powerful. Not because I was stronger than what I was before, but because my old ways were finally returning to me. I still had that spark that I thought was gone forever.

Eventually, we were able to find the boat again and Zen, as a dolphin, refused to come aboard. I, way too eager to get back on dry land, quickly climbed up the ladder and laid down on the deck, looking up at Captain Jerron as he came over to me. I was just happy to be back on a ship. I was so sick and tired of swimming at that point. He asked us if we were successful and when I explained to him that we were and that Zen was the dolphin that was giving his crew troubles. Once everyone, minus Zen, made it back on the ship, we made our way to shore.

Back in Noragate, we went to the Serpent’s Den to see Kisora, since I wasn’t going to tell my brother that we were back because of how he treated me last time, and we eventually found him. We told him of our success, Zen was acting a little weird the whole time, and he left us to get a meeting with the Guild set up. After a bit of time, we all followed him to the Guild’s hall and were coldly greeted by the rest of the Merchant’s Guild. Aren Wilso, visibility not too happy that we had turned, asked us about the mission, and I, a bit full of myself and haughty at the time, told the guild about our success. Wilso kept his word and gave us our reward: two small pouches, a staff, a dagger, and a bow. Zen was antagonizing him a bit after I thanked him for his business with a huge grin on my face before swaggering out of the room. Everyone looked so pissed at us, even my brother, and I was reveling in it. I couldn’t help but think to myself, Klara Grayson, you’re finally back.

However, my revelry didn’t last long because I soon found myself outside the guild hall and wanting to say goodbye to my brother. I know he didn’t care, he probably didn’t like me, and he probably told the Fletchers that I was in the city, but I needed to at least tell him goodbye. I felt like we needed to leave on slightly better terms than the last time.

It took a while, but eventually the guild members started to leave and I saw my brother talking to Wilso as he left the guild hall. Not wanting to interrupt, I followed them for a time, waiting for an opportunity to jump into to the conversation. After a little while, my brother noticed I was following and acknowledged me. He still didn’t seem too happy with me.

We had a brief conversation, which consisted mostly of me telling him good luck with his business, to take care of his wife, and that I wished him the best of luck in the future, before I hugged him and we went our separate ways. Cade and Zen also hugged my brother goodbye, to his dismay. Then we said our goodbyes to Kisora, and when I was hugging him, I noticed that his shadow looked a bit odd. As the others hugged him, I got a better look at it. It looked almost bird-like. I asked him about it and he told me to think nothing of it. After we finally parted ways, it looked like his shadow disappeared into a flock of birds. It was strange. But I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my travels.

We went and got our horses before making the two week trek back to Aspienne. Since we were going back to Caster and we didn’t know when we’d be back down in this part of the continent, Zen asked if we could go back to Aspienne because she had some unfinished business there that she hadn’t been able to take care of while we were there with the tournament.

Once there, we went to the Black Market once more. Zen had transformed into a falcon and landed on my shoulder, since we didn’t think she was welcome there anymore after what happened last time. Before that, she told us she was looking for an old man named Thawon. She explained to us that he was the reason her husband and son were killed. While searching through the merchant stalls, the man I had bought the painting from asked me if I’d like to buy another one. Really not wanting to buy another, I asked him if he’d been able to sell any more of his originals and he said that he had. I congratulated him on that and told him that I had some business to attend to, but I’d be back as soon as I could. He said that was alright and to come back soon. I left feeling a little guilty but I really didn’t want to buy another painting at the moment.

After that hang up, we searched the market some more with no sight of the guy she was looking for and I was eventually flagged down by a ‘potions’ merchant. The reason I say it that way is because I knew they had some drugs on the table. Zen was motioning for me to buy her one of the heart-shaped cookies that was on that table and I was super tempted to do so, since I knew what they were. Kalona hadn’t told me much about them, but he had told me enough. They were love cookies and they did what you’d think they’d do, but he did tell me that it’s not good if you get addicted to them and to stay away from them. Because of that, I was tempted to buy her one, but I knew it wouldn’t be right so I walked away.

By this time, Zen was getting pretty flustered, but we did have one more place we could look so we went up to the gambling area. It was pretty packed, but eventually, Zen was able to point out an old man to us. He sat at a poker table with a few others and it looked like they had just finished a game. I went up to them and asked if I could join them. The conversation was stern as they tried to get to know me a little bit. Honestly, I’m not used to anyone really knowing my name anymore. I still have the gut reaction to kill anyone who does and it seems like everyone knows my name in this town. I had to fight to remain composed and to tell myself that it was okay. Over a few games, I myself winning a few of them, Thawon asked Cade, who was standing near me, where Zen was. I told him that she was in the city dealing with other business.

About at that time, Zen flew off of my shoulder and handed in front of him squawking and making god-awful noises. He asks me to control my bird and eventually, after a lot of cursing and threatening towards her, she eventually allowed me to pick her up and carry her away.

As we left the table, Thawon did as well. He went to talk to some guards and we followed him out of the market to a safe house. Zen managed to distract the guards, still as a falcon, which allowed Cade and I to sneak into the house. Once inside, we opened a window for Zen and made our way to the room we could hear footsteps coming from. We opened the door slightly to see him pacing around the room, drinking. Zen slipped inside and started screeching at him. He started cursing at the bird, saying that she was probably “one of the beasts that druid controlled.” Cade and I snuck in, me holding the door shut behind us as Zen reappeared as her normal self.

There was a little bit of a scuffle, Cade was able to calm the man down before Zen began to question him about what happened to her husband and son. I didn’t follow the story well. I was too focused on the look in Cade and Zen’s eyes at the moment. There was some talk about a man named Renin, who I think might have been Zen’s husband? I wasn’t quite sure. All I was able to gather was that there was an event named the Shaymoore Rebellion and Thawon turned this Renin in, which was a major betrayal. After that, he was promised safety and was on the run for a while before coming to Aspienne to live out the rest of his days under the protection of the Leader of the Black Market. Her name’s Chessa, and she’s also Lord Allen’s girlfriend.

Zen, I guess satisfied with the information she was given, asked us to hold him down. I wanted no part in it. I asked her if this was really necessary and she said it was. Cade held Thawon as Zen approached him with a knife. I couldn’t watch.

You know how some people believe that the more violence you see, the more you become desensitized to it? I’ve seen a lot of combat, I’ve done a lot of things that I’m not proud of to other people who may or may not have deserved it, but what my companions did shook me deeper than anything I’ve ever seen. His screams were agonizing until eventually, after what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes, they stopped.

I glanced up and now I wish I didn’t. There was blood pouring out of his mouth, his tongue was on the floor, and he had been castrated. Zen seemed furious and Cade’s eyes were cold. This was wrong. This was so wrong. I shook my head, my fingers shaking as I felt for the door handle, and left the room. I felt like I was going to be sick. There was a ringing in my ears as I looked down the staircase to see a few guards standing there. Slowly, I walked towards them and they moved out of my way, allowing me to pass without question. My skin must have been sheet white in that moment.

I needed a drink. I needed to get my mind off what I had just witnessed. I needed to write to Kalona. I didn’t feel safe with them anymore. I needed somewhere I could go sort things out, to cool down. Somewhere public. Somewhere safe. I don’t even remember my walk to that tavern.

All I know is that I asked the barkeep for the strongest thing they had when I got there and it was a whiskey. I ordered a couple shots and downed them, knowing that it would take the edge off even though it didn’t taste the best. Then, I started to write a letter to Kalona.

I told him that we were back in Aspienne after spending some time in Noragate. My brother was still there and I told him about what my brother had told me about his business deal with Kalona’s parents. I was still shaking pretty badly and my handwriting was horribly sloppy, but I pushed through it. I told him that, while I did want him to know about my brother, it wasn’t the reason I was writing the letter. I then told him about the event I just witnessed and how shaken I was from it. I told him that I don’t know what to feel right now but that I was a bit scared. I ended up closing the letter with saying that I missed him and that I’d keep in touch with him more often, especially after what I had just saw.

I sent the letter off with the messenger that Kalona told me about before I went back to the bar and ordered an ale. The bartender didn’t even try to talk to me past being courteous with my drink orders. I’m pretty sure he could tell that I wanted to be alone. My mind was racing and I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t help but dwell on what I’d witnessed. Zen tortured that poor old man to death. Yes, he had wronged her and her family in the past, but that was almost 25 years ago. It may have been a blink of an eye for her, but it’s a third of a human’s lifetime if we’re lucky. He was old; he was going to die soon anyways. No one should have to die the way he did.

I felt a hand rest on my shoulder as I turned to see Cade standing there. I shrugged his grip off and he sat down next to me. I shifted my stool a little farther away from his and took a long drink of my ale. He asked me if I was alright and I told him I wasn’t. He asked me why that was and I told him that what they did wasn’t right. He didn’t seem to like my answer.

About that time, Zen walked into the tavern, still covered in blood. She sat down next to Cade and ordered a drink. I watched them both carefully, eyeing them as Zen actually drank her ale. They started, once more, asking me what was wrong with me and I had to explain again that what they did wasn’t right. He was an old man that was going to die soon anyways and what they did was completely uncalled for. Zen said that I’d do the same thing if it was Atlas.

I explained to her that I would never do what she had done to that man to Atlas. Yes, I wanted Atlas Fletcher dead, but I wasn’t going to torture him, castrate him, cut out his tongue, and allow him to bleed to death. That’s unnecessary. That solves nothing. That only shows how cruel I can be to another person. The situation I’m in with Atlas is kill or be killed. It’s either him or me and even though he’s killed off most of my family, I’d never do something so worthless.

At that, I had enough of the two of them. It was getting pretty late so I got a key to a room at the tavern, got Beacon from outside, and made my way upstairs. Beacon made himself comfortable on the bed as I locked the door, sighing as I thought about what I gotten myself into. I thought I knew them, I really did, but it seems like those months of traveling with them didn’t give me enough time to see what they really were. I should’ve known. Some of the signs were there. When we were in Phandalin, Zen didn’t want anything to do with the townspeople but was more than ready to do things for the people of questionable reputation. That necromancer, the members of the Cult of the Dragon, she was the one to first trust them when they were obviously evil. Cade was a bit of a different story. His signs were more subtle but he was always willing to do anything. He didn’t seem to care about consequences. He, like Zen, didn’t want to help those children. All this time, he’s only been out for himself. It was right there in front of me but I didn’t allow myself to see it. But things are different now. He’s shown me the type of person he really is. He’s not worthy of my trust. He cheated on me.

With that thought, the tears began to sting my eyes. Cade used to tell me that he’d do anything for me, that he’d always be there for me, and that he’d love me no matter what. I used to think the world of him, that he was the best one of us, but now I realize I’m a fool for thinking that way.

I know he wasn’t happy when I was spending so much time with Kalona, he thought I was cheating on him, but Kalona silently made it clear that even though I was pressuring him, he wasn’t going to do anything with me that could be considered cheating while I was still dating Cade. Cade didn’t seem to understand that. The worst thing Kalona and I did was that he kissed me on the cheek the night Cade cheated on me. That’s it. There was nothing worse than that even though Cade didn’t see it that way. He was angry, he was jealous, and I know he was worried about losing me but he could have done it in a better way.

He hit me, too. Only once, in the nose after I told him that I hadn’t told him the full truth about Kalona and I in the past in Frostford, but I didn’t realize that something changed there until now. That hit was the first blow I had to my trust in him. The second was him cheating on me.

In that moment, I felt stupid for feeling so bad about breaking up with him. He wasn’t worth my time, he wasn’t worth my affection, and all of his bullshit talk about wanting to be close again were just hollow words. If he really cared, he wouldn’t have hit me. If he really cared, he wouldn’t have cheated on me. I could feel the fury stirring within me, a rage I hadn’t felt in a very long time, but I kept it at bay the best I could. I still needed both of them for my own protection. I couldn’t burn bridges just yet because if I did, it would surely mean the death of me.

Beacon was sprawling out on the bed so I had to shove him over a bit for me to be able to get into it. Once I got comfortable, he shifted so his head was next to mine, looking at me. His eyes were bright and it looked like he almost had a little smile on his face. Eventually, he fell asleep, snoring a little into my ear as my mind continued to race.

My mind drifted to thoughts of my father, especially him telling me to stay away from Kalona because he was dangerous. I guess he was right, but Kalona had never done anything to prove to me that he was so. One of the days I was with him, he told me that he was evil and that if I dated him, he was probably going to be a bad influence on me. He asked me if that was alright and I told him that I didn’t care. He had done nothing to me and a part of me always knew that he wasn’t the safest person to date when we were back in Frostford and that was supposedly before he turned ‘evil.’ He had always been polite to me, a true gentleman, and there was nothing he had done to me to show me otherwise. Even when he was angry with me during our fight when I broke up with him, he did nothing more than say a few harsh words.

I guess I’ve never actually seen this ‘evil’ side, but I guess that’s also kind of a good thing. It means that he doesn’t feel like he needs it when he’s around me. He can just be himself, the Kalona I used to know, the person he used to be before the world fucked him over. Happy, caring, intelligent, well-mannered, polite, and protective. Every girl’s perfect boyfriend. But what people don’t know about him is that he’s a little goofball when he’s around me. Of course, he’s not that way in public, but neither am I, and that’s what I love about him. You get him behind closed doors and the structured facade he wears falls off to reveal a loving, caring, teasing jokester. It’s the moments when he’s like that that make me fall in love with him over and over again.

Gods, I miss him. It had already been about a month since we were together last and the ache was terrible. I hoped he was doing alright. I hoped he was happy. My fingers played with the bracelet he gave me as I considered what the next step was going to be. We still needed to take care of his father and then we could be together like we wanted to be. It’d been awhile since I last thought about it, maybe a year or so at most, but for much different reasons this time. It would be really nice to marry him.

When I was younger and we were getting more serious, I always thought I would. I remember having a journal where I’d write “Klara Fletcher” in it on repeat until the name Fletcher didn’t feel as terrible as it should of, or at least as terrible as the rest of my family made it out to be. In those days, I was certain I’d be his wife, that we’d be the ones who’d bring an end to the conflict between our two families. That our love for each other would be stronger than our families’ hate. It was an idealistic fantasy that I thought had shattered forever, but now it’s been brought to life once more.

However, after our breakup, I did consider marrying him, but this time it wasn’t for love. It was for revenge. I had everything all planned out. The next time I saw him, I was going to make him fall in love with me all over again, but I was going to exploit that love. I was going to use him for my own gain. To get close to his family, make a deal with his father that I’d give over my blood once I was married to his son, and when the day of our wedding would come, that happy day was going to be painted red. It would be an ambush and none of the Fletchers were going to survive it. I had considered it for four years and I got to a point that I was certain it would work. I didn’t factor in one thing, however, and it proved to be the one thing that made four years of planning go to waste.

I wasn’t planning on falling back in love with him.

I feel it’s for the best now. That old idea of marrying him and being the ones to end the conflict between our families has been given new life in a different way. There will be bloodshed. It won’t be the peaceful passage like I originally thought it would be and we’ll meet some resistance from our parents that we’ll have to deal with. At the end of it all, we’ll technically still be the ones to end the conflict and we’ll start a new chapter for our families together. I’m not sure how the gods will favor a descendant of a paladin of Obad-Hai marrying the grandson of Asmodeus, but we’ll never know until it happens.

The next morning, we started to make our way back to Caster and about two weeks into our trip, we took a week to try to hatch the dragon eggs we had. I was able to figure out what each of them needed to hatch and we were able to get them incubated. At the end of the week, they all started to hatch. Now, I’ll admit I was pretty excited to be able to see it happen. I’ve only ever read about it in books before and watching the tiny silver dragon wyrmling slip out of its ice-covered egg was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. The dragon seemed to take right to me and hopped up on my shoulder with a little bit of coaxing. I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was in that moment and how cool it was to earn this little guy’s trust. I knew it might not last forever, but it would be wonderful while I still had it.

After that slight delay, we finally made it to Caster, now with four dragon wyrmlings. The little silver dragon had tucked himself away in my hood and was napping when we went to Wilford Warfstache’s Magical Emporium to deliver the crown to Mark. Once inside, there was a few people shopping, Mark was attending to his customers, and once he was free, we went up to him and gave him the crown. He was appreciative to have it back and told us we were the second ones to ever bring it back to him. When we asked him about that, he said that the only other person to bring it back to him was Jack. At the mention of Jack, we asked Mark if he was in the city and he said that he was and that he should be back at the castle.

To say I was a little nervous was an understatement as we made our way towards the Juniper District. Thoughts of what I had done to the old Inquisitor raced through my mind and consumed me. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be good. When we met the guards standing outside of the district, we told them that we had the royal signet for the king and we were escorted to the castle. Inside, we were lead to the council meeting room, the trial room we had been escorted to before for the attempted murder of the princess. The council was already there and so was a new person. She was a half-elf, who wore heavy armor, and had short, curly, pinkish-red hair. She was pacing the room as we entered.

Jack came up to us once I said that we had the signet for them and I quickly whispered to him that I didn’t know which ring was the real one of the two I had. He was able to pick it out and reassured me that everything was going to be alright. I pressed him about how he knew that and he responded that I was going on trial for the death of the old Inquisitor but I was going to be fine. Almost begging him not to go, he walked back to where he was standing before.

The king stepped forward and said that the trial for the death of the former Inquisitor would begin and he introduced us to the new Lady Inquisitor, the half-elf woman who had been pacing the room. I was asked to share my story about what happened and I did so to the best of my ability, trying to sound as confident as possible but I knew I was breaking. I knew that I did something wrong, but I tried to stress to them that it was only out of self defense. I thought that they had killed my friends and were going to kill me, so I fought back. I told them that we had run-ins with him before and that he had tortured me on one other occasion as well. After a while, when I felt like I was just going to start repeating myself, I left the story at that. It was everything that happened. I didn’t leave anything out. Now, all I could do was hope that they’d believe me.

Most of the council said that I was to be freed from any charges, some thought I should be punished, but overall the council consensus was that I was to be released. However, I soon found out that it didn’t matter what the council thought and that my fate lied within the hands of the Lady Inquisitor.

She walked up to me, eyeing me so intensely that I had the urge to step away, and said that I was free to go. The relief I felt was instant as she cracked a smile and I felt myself laughing as I fell to my knees, thanking her. She told me that without me killing the old Inquisitor, she’d never would have gotten this position. She also hated him, so she was glad that he was no longer a thorn in her side. Overjoyed, I ran up to Jack and gave him a huge hug as I noticed that Cade went up to talk to his father. I told Jack that there was so much I needed to talk with him about, but I needed to do so in private, and he then told me that he couldn’t until the next meeting was over with. He said we could stay for it because it wasn’t a pressing matter, but a couple from Frostford was here to get approval to open a new business.

My body went ice cold. I couldn’t stay here but I couldn’t leave, not with them outside those doors. Gods, they probably already knew I was here. I was trapped and I didn’t know what would happen if they saw me, so I looked for a place to hide. I found a spot in the nick of time and ducked into it, pulling the dragon out of my hood and holding him close to my chest. The meeting was ready to begin.

It’s been four years since I’ve seen Atlas Fletcher and he hasn’t changed a bit. Charming, handsome, and eloquent. I wasn’t sure if the other people in the room knew how much danger they were in. The son of Asmodeus and a devil in disguise, he’d charm his way into their hearts if they weren’t careful. Orla stood by his side and a weird, dragonborn-like creature stood behind them, watching. I could only assume that it was Slither. I stole quick glances and panicked as Atlas began to recite his offer. Memories of what happened to my family flashed before my eyes and I fought the anxiety in my chest. This can’t be happening. This can’t be how it ends. I can’t die here. Would anyone tell Kalona? My father?

In the end, the only one who disapproved of their offer was Jack and their business was allowed to come to Caster. They walked out of the room without any hesitation. Once they were gone, I came out of hiding and went over to Jack and said something along the lines of, “You know how I wanted to talk to you? It’s about them.”

At that, after seeing that Cade was going to go spend some time with his dad, Zen and I went to Jack’s house. Surprisingly, Jack didn’t live in the Juniper District. Instead, he lived in that little cabin where I’d found Beacon sleeping in the barn after I lost him. Oh, Jack. You could’ve just told us before that you lived there. Anyway, once we were inside, Zen and I started catching Jack up on our adventures, like the fact that we won the competition and went to Noragate. We told him that we had met Kisora and that he had mentioned to us that he and Reylar were the nicest assassins to come out of the Assassin’s Guild. Since neither one of us knew Reylar, we asked Jack about him and he said that he’s a good friend of his and that they were roommates during their time at the guild. Reylar now lives in Arridia doing a similar job to what he does and that his parents are the lords of Meric.

After a bit more small talk, I told Jack that I really needed to warn him about the Fletchers, even more so now that their business is coming to Caster. He told me that he didn’t like them since he suspected that they were up to no good because they had Slither with them. I explained to him that they hired Slither to kill my mother and little brother because my mother’s side of the family are descendants of a paladin of Obad-Hai and Atlas wants our blood to raise his father, Asmodeus. I told him about the situation with my brother and explained to him that right now, I’m the only one standing in the way of Atlas and his final goal. I asked him if he could help me defeat them and he said he could as long as if it wasn’t Slither he’d be after. He explained to me that he can’t harm other guild members. I respected that. I asked him if he could help me with Orla and Atlas, specifically to kill Atlas and incapacitate Orla, and he said he could help with that. I promised to keep in touch with him about my plans because there was no way any of us to handle them alone.

I then asked him if he had any tips for dealing with Slither, because there was no way he wasn’t going to be on my trail after what happened in Noragate and happened that day. Jack explained to me that I needed to avoid him as best as possible and remain constantly vigilant. I needed to avoid being out in the open, avoid being alone, and if I happen to see him, I need to get away as quickly as possible.

To lighten the mood, we asked him about his travels and he told us that he had to go to Vocans and had to babysit the princess while he was there since she wanted to come with him. He told us that he met some interesting people on the boat ride over, who just happened to be Tad and Ash. Overall, he said his trip was pretty good, but he was glad to be back. We then asked him about Kisora, because we curious about his shadow. Jack explained to us that the shadow is a normal thing, Kisora has a raven, and that he kind of worships the Raven Queen. Jack then told us that he didn’t know much about the Raven Queen, but his friend, Reylar, did. He told us that he was able to gather that the Raven Queen was the goddess of death, specifically the moment of death, and rules over cold and fate from his time with Reylar. She also has a temple on Croak and a small temple in Meric. Past that, he didn’t know anything else about her.

Eventually, the conversation turned to the dragons we had and we showed Jack the purple dragon who none of us had any luck with getting to like us. To our surprise, she seemed to like Jack. About that time, Cade came to the house and told him that he felt like he was being followed. I started fearing the worst but kept it to myself. Slither wouldn’t do anything so close to Jack, right?

We decided that the purple dragon should be with Jack, and after a little bit more time hanging out with him, we decided to make our way to Frostford.

The trip there was surprisingly uneventful. Cade had sent a drawing to Kalona of his parents and Slither at the council’s meeting room and received a letter back. Cade then proceeded to rub it in my face that he got a letter back from Kalona when I hadn’t gotten one yet. Soon after that, I received one. It didn’t say much but it was basically telling me to be careful after such a close run-in with his parents. He then told me that Faerroth was dead and that he had cleared out Wave Echo Cave for me. It was the first bit of good news I’d heard in awhile and I was thankful for it. Things were finally starting to progress.

When we arrived on the outskirts of Frostford, I told Cade and Zen that I wasn’t going into the city and instead was going to go through the woods to get to my house. Before I left, they asked where the Fletcher Estate was located and I told them, but I stressed that they should avoid it at all costs. However, I can tell you now that they didn’t listen to me because when I finally made it to my house with Beacon and Joel, I was soon greeted by a heavily beaten Cade as I dismounted my horse. He told me that Zen and him went to their house and threw rocks at it, breaking some of their windows, and then Orla showed up. Orla beat Cade up pretty badly and by that point in the story I demanded to know if she followed him as I started to get back on my horse. He assured me that she didn’t and eventually Zen caught up with us too, saying that Orla was pretty scary.

Irritated with the two of them, I went inside of the house and called out for my mom. Soon, she appeared and I gave her a hug, glad to see her again. However, it was short-lived because once I told her that I wanted to speak to her alone because there was something I wanted to tell her, Zen and Cade had a different idea. Zen said something along the lines of, “Your daughter slept with Kalona,” and Cade added, “And I slept with her too!” What was supposed to be a happy reunion turned into my mother being extremely angry with me.

Don’t get me wrong. I knew she was going to be angry with me any way that I phrased it, but I wasn’t planning on being as direct as they were. I was going to tell her that I was dating Kalona and that things were getting pretty serious between us. I was also going to tell her that I had been dating Cade for a while, but he cheated on me and soon after I broke up with him, I got back together with Kalona. However, that didn’t happen and instead, my mother looked like she wanted to kill me.

With it all out on the table now, I guess it was time to tell my mom about what I’d been up to, but at least now I was able to talk to her in private. I did tell her that it was true that I was dating Kalona, that things were pretty serious between us, but I was being careful and using contraceptives. I also told her that I was able to see Father again and that when I saw him last, he was doing well, but I hadn’t heard from him since. She told me that Hibernius hasn’t heard from him in a while either and they were getting pretty concerned about him. Panic welled up within me at her words but I managed to push them back down. I then told her that Nikolas was in Noragate and that he’s now business partners with the Fletchers, which she told me that she knew from Hibernius and was extremely disappointed in my brother. I did tell her that he’s married now and I think his wife is pregnant. I then told her about the close call with the Fletchers in Caster, and she stressed that I needed to be careful and I promised her that I would. This conflict needed to be resolved soon. She agreed with that.

I asked her if she knew of anyone else left from her side of the family because a part of me wanted to hear that I really wasn’t the only one who stood in Atlas’ way. With a sad smile, she explained to me that there were others, but they’re gone now. It truly is that Father, Nikolas, and I are the only ones left. The weight of her words crushed me. It was something I already assumed, but hearing it finalized by her was devastating. I had to change the subject.

I couldn’t help but feel terrible that she had to find out about my relationships by Zen and Cade abruptly telling her and I apologized of it. I know she isn’t a fan of Kalona, which she stated again that she doesn’t like him, but if I wanted to be with him then she couldn’t do anything to stop me. She just asked me to be careful with him and figure out what I was getting myself into. I then told her that all those times she had come to my room, or called me for something, at seemingly the perfect time to disrupt whatever I was doing, it was Kalona that was there. That didn’t make her any happier, but she admitted that she knew I had a boy over during those times. She just didn’t know who. I told her that her timing was uncanny and Kalona and I never had the chance to really do anything when she was around. I think that comment made her a little happier.

I didn’t want to, but I had to ask because she just found out that both of her children had gone against her wishes. Her son had turned his back on his family and fell in line with the Fletchers and her only daughter was dating the son of the man who was the reason she was dead. I asked her if she was upset with me because I had to know for my own sake. She told me that she was a little disappointed in me because of Kalona, but she wasn’t angry with me. Her words comforted me a lot. I was worried that she hated me because of him, because he was a Fletcher, and to know that she didn’t was a huge relief. I hadn’t messed up as badly as my brother had. Not knowing the next time I’d be able to speak with her, I ended up staying up and talking with her a while longer before I finally went to sleep.

The next morning, I left a note to Baron Waicox before we left. It was a simple, but it needed to be said for all he had done over the years for our family. I still was wrestling with the fact that he wasn’t able to help us before, but like my feelings about Kalona, I begun to realize that there was nothing he could’ve done to change the outcome. He was innocent in all of this, a bystander who had to watch my family fall apart with no way to stop it. He’d done all he could do for us. I hate that it took me four years to realize that. The message I left for him was nowhere near what he deserved, but it was a start to something I should have said a long time ago. The note read: “Thank you. -Klara.”

With that, we gathered our things, we were back on the road again but this time, we were headed to Seacliff.

When we arrived in Seacliff, we took some time to stop and buy some things. I picked up some more arrows, some better armor, and a quiver that I’ve had my eye on for some time. While I was out shopping, I received a letter from my father, saying that he had been away for some time trying to gather more information about the Fletchers. I wrote him back, saying that I was in Seacliff now and that I was thankful to hear from him. However, it was time to do what my father wanted to me to do months ago and I went to the church to looking for the Aasimar woman he told me about. When I arrived, she wasn’t there but the halfling woman there told me that I could find her at the Jackal’s Fur Inn.

I went there and asked the barkeep where I could find Zandre and he pointed her out to me. I thanked him and made my way over to her. She had a blindfold over her eyes and was drinking at the time, but I asked if I could sit with her and she said I could. I told her that I was Erwin’s daughter in a hushed tone and she asked me to prove it. Not really sure how, I told her that I wasn’t sure how I’d prove it to her but that I had just received a letter from him. She looked skeptical, but she lightened up a little after that, saying that either I was the best liar she’s ever encountered or that I was telling the truth. I told her that my father said that she would have information on how to defeat the Fletchers and she handed me a sketchbook.

Flipping through it, there were drawings of horrible things and terrible creatures. I was honestly confused at what I was looking at and I asked her for an explanation. She told me that she has visions and she draws them there. She knows that there’s a terrible evil on the horizon that needs to be stopped and she needs us to help her get to a tower on Croak. Still not following what where she was going with this, I asked her how this applied to me and she told me that I was the last one of my family standing in Atlas’ way. If he has his way, a great evil would be unleashed on the world and I shouldn’t allow that to happen. She then told me that Atlas is a fiend, Kalona is a half-fiend, and Orla isn’t a fiend, but some type of aquatic being. I asked if she had any tips for me to defeat Atlas and she told me to avoid them until I was ready to fight and to separate them when I did fight them, especially him from his lizard-creature pet and to avoid his weapon. I guess it has the ability to drag you into a different plane for a one on one duel with him. She had no other information about them.

I asked her what she knew about Obad-Hai and she said that he was the archenemy of Asmodeus. I then asked her about the Raven Queen and Graz’zt, since I barely knew anything about either one of them. She again told me what I already knew but then also told me that the Raven Queen is friends with the goddess, Sarenrae, who is the goddess of healing, the sun, and forgiveness, and that Graz’zt is a demon lord who is dangerous, especially towards women. When asked why that was, she didn’t really respond.

About that time, a woman rushed into the bar and came up to Zandre, stating that there was something wrong with Jesse, an orphan. The woman was a caretaker and said that the girl had been acting strangles and she had a creepy doll. Once I heard that there was a creepy doll, I didn’t really want to deal with it, and the rest of the party didn’t really want to help the child. This caused Zandre to glare at us. We eventually accepted to go see the child.

Shaken by the fact that she hadn’t heard from my father, I hastily wrote him a letter. I don’t even remember what it said, but I couldn’t shake the panic from my chest even after I sent it off. She said that she hadn’t heard from him in months. I hadn’t heard from him in months either and then out of the blue, I actually got a letter from him. I was scared. Was it even really him? Was it Slither? I didn’t know and that terrified me.

With that done, we went to see the child. I’ll admit that I was distracted with my own thoughts and I wasn’t really paying attention to the situation. The girl had been playing in the woods and been given a creepy doll by someone. Other than that, I wasn’t focusing on the task at hand. Cade eventually picked up the doll and said that we need to go to a house north of the city. With Zen and I a little freaked out, we eventually gathered our things and did so with Zandre.

During the first night camping, a fog rolled in while we set up camp and Zandre took the first watch. We were sleeping when we were suddenly awoken by a sound. Looking around, there was no sign of the animals or Zandre but we were still in the fog. After a little bit, a voice called out and we responded and saw an elven girl with golden eyes and white hair step out of the forest. Her name was Tallis and she had no clue how she got here. She said that she was in the Underdark the last she knew of.

We took a gravel road towards a village as the dense fog continued to follow us. Once we reached the village, we found that there was no one there, other than two children that appeared, stating that there was a monster in their house and that their parents were inside, as well as their younger sibling. Their names were Rose and Thorn and that they claimed that we were in Barovia.

Their house, while in disrepair, was absolutely beautiful and all was pretty quiet within. It was room after room of empty room until we made our ways to the upper floors of the home. The children, Rose and Thorn, didn’t want us to leave at one point, fearing the monster that lived in the basement. We eventually found out that both of the children were actually dead and Zen had become possessed by one of them. After some time and being unable to fix Zen, we managed to find a crawlspace that lead us to the basement.

Once there, we found ourselves locked into a chamber with a stone, sacrificial altar in the middle. As we entered the room, shapes loomed overhead, chanting, “one must die,” over and over again. I pulled out a deer heart that I had in the Bag of Holding and placed it on the altar, stabbing it. That didn’t appease them. Zen and Cade tried something, but it didn’t work. I, thinking that I was brilliant for thinking up this solution, wrote a “1” on a sheet of paper, placing it on the altar as a ripped it up. With a smirk, I looked at the forms and stated that one had died. They dropped silent for a moment, before they started chanting louder.

We were running out of time and we realized that one of us needed to die. I looked at Tallis and asked her if she could revive one of us if that’s what we did and she said that she could. Looking at Zen and Cade, I insisted that they kill me. Without my blood, Atlas wouldn’t win. Or at least that’s what I hoped.

I wasn’t expecting them to refuse.

They told me I was stupid. That I’d just be letting Altas win. That out of all of us, I was the one who needed to survive. Cade ended up screaming, “You’re not dying a martyr, Klara!” before he cut his own throat.

I looked at him, horrified, as he fell to the ground. I felt nothing but fear as I looked between Zen and Tallis, urging Tallis to revive him. She said that she needed to wait until the spirits were gone. After what felt like ages, they were finally gone and she revived Cade. I don’t think he was expecting us to be so angry with him after that, even though our rage didn’t last long.

However, there was still the ghost that was in Zen. Cade tried scaring it out of her, as I walked over to the deer heart. It was very rotten, but I squeezed it a little and streaked the decay down my face as I stared at Zen. Horrified, the ghost left her body and I instantly started to reach for the Decanter of Endless Water. I’m glad it worked, but holy hell, it smelled so bad and I needed to get it off of my face. With it gone, we made our way out of the house and had the chance to talk to Tallis for a little while.

As we left her, she said something that I didn’t understand. She said that she had met us before, back in the blizzard. I wanted to ask how but she was gone.

The next thing I knew, I was looking up at the forest above me and the silver dragon wyrmling was still asleep on my chest and Beacon was curled up around me.

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WinterWolf10

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