Sunday, May 04, 2014

[Raeslyn's Story] 3.9: Secrets in the Pines

      A cold grey dawn was just peeking over the treetops when I finally made it back to Gloamwood Pines. At least I don't have to worry about not staying fit and in shape while here, jeez. After getting instructions to the medic's quarters, I quickly wasted no time in making my way there. I was feeling quite irked from all the run-around I kept getting in this accursed forest and I pitied the unlucky fool who decided to be difficult with me. At this point, I was definitely looking forward to doing some damage. When I climbed the stairs to the little dwelling, I wasn't very surprised to see Drusk Nightclaw bent over, examining a few morbidly slashed up bodies of unfortunate citizens that had been neatly set out on the balcony. How disrespectful. He straightened up and waved as I stomped by, but I only spared him an annoyed glare. The doctor's dwelling was small and simple and smelled like old blood and death. Tables lined the walls in rows with enough room to inspect whatever happened to be laid on them. In this case, more slashed victims. Doctor Oswell himself was a tall Mathosian in a dark brown robe with strange, darker stains across the front that I didn't dwell on overmuch. He had a rough patch of facial hair and looked exhausted and more than a little concerned.

     I stopped in the middle of the room, cleared my throat loudly for effect, and waited till he turned around and blinked in surprise. "Excuse me, but what's actually going on here?" I demanded sharply. The man opened his mouth and I held out a hand. "Nu uh, before you even say anything, just know that I've been to Tearfall Run, where I had an interesting experience involving werewolves and your everyday, innocent-looking Gloamwood Pines citizens. So think of something good before you start blathering lies." Oswell's mouth pursed into a scowl and he looked shiftily down at the dead body he'd been examining. I placed my hands on my hips, above my two main daggers, and tapped my foot for emphasis. "Well?" I demanded, when the silence extended too long. Doctor Oswell just shook his head helplessly. I growled. "Come on, give me some real answers!" I barked. "I want to know what on Telara is actually going on here in Gloamwood, because I feel like I've been led around by the nose like a fool on pointless little tasks to keep me out of the real problem. Why are Gloamwood citizens turning into werewolves? Why are they reacting violently to any light, rather then just moonlight? Who is this Hag everyone seems terrified of? Why are certain families under horrible curses while others are not?" As I fired each question, Oswell flinched, still not meeting my eyes, and he began nervously twisting his fingers.

     I waited a few more moments before impatience got the best of me. I was really heartily sick of all the secrets and misleading information. If he won't volunteer information, it was time to make him. I strode across the room, my boots making hard thocking sounds on the wood. I stopped and pretended to study a neatly arrayed shelving unit flush against the wall with multiple jars of carefully labeled bones and organs, as well as a few plaques. Oh my, this looks important. I could feel Oswell's eyes on the back of my head so I half turned and raised a long eyebrow at him.

     "Anything to say, doc?" I asked sarcastically. The man opened his mouth, than glanced at the door nervously. I shrugged, and "accidentally" pushed against the shelf, knocking half the contents to the floor. The doctor jumped, giving a small desperate sound of dismay and half lunged toward me.

    "Hey!" He finally yelled, his voice high and quivery. "Hey, what are you doing? Someone, help!" He didn't say it too loudly though, I noticed. Yep, he was definitely hiding something. After the sounds of the crash had settled, I turned and stared at him again. "Got any answers for me yet?" I demanded. He edged toward me, licking his lips nervously.

     "Please, have mercy Ascended! It was never my intent to falsify my findings! I was simply doing what I was told. was the mayor! Furtho Dragomir made me do it! He made me swear to keep any hint of what kind of attack it was, or even any theories, to myself. Go yell at him instead, you mad woman! He was the one who had a duty to the people. Just leave me alone." He was practically whining and I glared.

     "So that beast in Greybriar Hollow wasn't the culprit behind the attacks after all. I knew it!" I said, more to myself. Oswell nodded eagerly. "Yes, that's right. Furtho Dragomir had me conceal the truth-I don't know why. If it's truth you want, convince the mayor to give it to you. Of course, his bodyguards might object to your....methods of questioning." He glanced at the mess at the floor in abject misery. I snorted. Maybe next time he shouldn't let others pressure him into withholding important information about an investigation. I gave a brief mutter of thanks and walked out. Drusk was still there poking at the dead bodies and gave curious looks between me and the door. I just shrugged.

     At the base of the spiral staircase that led to the mayor's house, I sighed. I really, really didn't want to go up there again. Just thinking about it made my mouth dry. Come on Rae, if you can slay riftspawn, you can surely climb some stairs...right? Halfway up, as I carefully avoided looking over the edge, I heard running feet from above. Around the curve of the stairs barreled a large man with a wicked looking sword. I cautiously moved to the side, being careful not to get too close to the edge. Maybe it has nothing to do with me. I'm sure there was just some disturbance he needed to take care of.

     "Halt! Lay down your weapons rogue, and come with me, on behalf of the mayor of Gloamwood Pines." Well, that answered that question. The man may have a sword, but he was hardly on par with my augmented skills with a dagger, and after a few spins and parries, I was able to cleanly knock him unconscious with a clout to the head. He was just following orders after all. More feet on wood warned that I'd soon have more company and I rolled my eyes. "Quick, bar the doors!" Came a loud shout. Ok, this was getting ridiculous. It wasn't like I was coming to assassinate the guy. I just wanted to know why he'd want to cover up the lycanthropy curse on Gloamwood and where it originated from so I could see if I could find a way to break it. I concentrated and forced myself to slip into the pocket between reality and the planes, becoming indistinguishable from the natural shadows that lay on the stairs. Two guards thundered past me, waving their weapons enthusiastically. I quickly made my way up the stairs before the strain of holding myself in shadow became too much. The door was indeed barred, and another guard stood firmly in front of it. Since I was already invisible to the untrained eye, it was simplicity itself to sneak up on the guard and daze him, knocking the bigger man to the floor with a kick to the soft portion behind his knee. As he staggered, I smashed the pommel of my offhand dagger into his temple, and he was down for the count. After that, I put my skill at lockpicking (something I'd picked up during my mischief-causing days at the college, much to my mentor's dismay) to use and was able to get the door open after half a minute of muttered elvish swearing.
     Just as I swung open the door, the two bodyguards from earlier ran up around the curve in the stairs and I waved at them cheekily before slamming the thick ironwood door closed and barring it with a slab of timber. A solid thud hit the door a second later, and I stepped backward in surprise, cautiously watching the door a moment to make sure it held.

     Turning around, I saw Dragomir standing stiffly by a shelf of books, looking like he was headed to his execution. I considered threatening him with just that, but decided the poor guy already had enough problems, so I smoothly sheathed my daggers and walked closer. Dragomir cringed back slightly, and then his shoulders slumped.

     "Alright, enough. I know you want answers."

     "You bet your lying heart I do!" I replied. I waited as he gave a gusty sigh and seated himself behind his desk, shuffling papers in a vain attempt to stall. I stared aggressively.

     "Very well, yes I told Doctor Oswell to mislead you. But only so he could work in secret to cure the afflicted! If it worked, you needn't have even known. It was our problem, not an outsider's. Sadly, his efforts have failed. Those afflicted with the werewolf curse are the old families of Gloamwood, cursed by the Hag for desecrating the forest. If the outside world knew of our curse, they would bring pitchforks and righteous magics down on us! My deception was only to protect the people from persecution. Now that you know our secret though, my only hope is that you will aid us in trying to find a cure. The afflicted werewolves aren't at fault here! I know we are close, but we just can't find a viable mix that works. Gwyddon Duskenleaf is the one leading the research. Please, I beg you, help him to help us! Before the Guardians in Sanctum find out. I don't want more of my people to be lost." He stood and looked almost he was going to get down on his knees and beg.

     I held my stern, unyielding pose a moment longer, before relaxing and nodding. "Of course I'll help you find a cure. I'm not some inquisitor sent here to judge the worthiness of your people and condemn them as creatures of darkness simply because they were cursed. And we can find a cure. All curses can be lifted. We just need to find it. If I had known this information earlier however, they might have already been cured by now, and lives might have been spared. It was stupid and pointless to hold this information from me." I glared. "There's nothing else pertinent to this situation that I need to know about, right?" I asked. Dragomir hesitated, before firmly shaking his head. "Good, there better not be!" With that, I spun around and unbarred the door. Immediately, the bodyguards swarmed into the room, swords all pointed at my tiny form. I held out my hands and raised an eyebrow.

     "Hello boys. What took you so long?" I quipped. Behind me, the mayor sighed. "Enough! Do not sully my halls with blood!" The guards backed off reluctantly, looking like they would dearly love to sully the place. Ha, let them try. Obviously they'd never tangled with an Ascended before. Well, not officially, I amended as I noticed one of them had a large bump on his temple. "Raeslyn is apprised of the situation and will be assisting us in finding a cure for Gloamwood'" The mayor continued. "Do not hinder her, and provide any aid she requires in her task." The henchmen did not look happy at that announcement, and I waggled my fingers at them while displaying a cheeky smile.

    Right, time waits for no Ascended! Or maybe it does? Who knows! I moved through the group of bodyguards, who parted reluctantly to let me through, and carefully made my way down the long, winding stairs again. Seriously, if I have to go up these stairs again...well...I just wouldn't. I traipsed all the way back through town, eyeing the townsfolk sidelong. Was that woman washing her linens secretly a werewolf? How about that man with the shifty eyes leaving the tavern? I couldn't tell a normal ordinary mortal human from a Hag-cursed werewolf, which was definitely troubling.

     "Alright, I'm in the know on the werewolf conspiracy, whatcha got?" I said first thing when I entered Gwyddon's apothecary store.

     "Oh, hello Raeslyn. How fares your morning?" The elf greeted me, as if I hadn't spoken so curtly. "Oh you know," I responded. "Exciting. Chased by guards, smashed some shelves, threatened the mayor, discovered a secret about an ancient curse. Still haven't found out who this Hag is though." I mused the last, rubbing my chin in exaggerated thoughtfulness. Duskenleaf looked a little taken aback.
     "Don't worry," I added, in case he was worried. "I don't plan to do any of that to you. I just want to know what you've discovered so far on how to cure the lycanthropy curse, because in case you didn't realize, tomorrow night is a full moon, and I for one don't intend to find out if an Ascended can become a werewolf. Could be kind of hard to explain to my boss." Technically, I didn't consider either Cyril or Shyla my boss, but it just sounded better that way.
      There was a long pause as he apparently needed a moment to absorb my words. I resisted the urge to tell him to hurry up.

     He ended up having to explain everything to me twice, in the simplest terms, because let's me honest, I'm more of a physical, wack it with a stick and hope it works kind of gal rather then a read the instruction manual, carefully research the results, and perform studious experimentation type. And even after his explanation, the most I cared to remember was: he tried everything, it didn't work, now we're screwed. My only option would be maybe to contact Laria again, since she was the spirit of the wood, and would know more than anyone who would be throwing around lycanthropy curses. Hopefully. So I left Duskenleaf in his shop doing what he does best. Which was a whole lot of boring stuff, as far as I could tell. I needed to be actively doing something, while he completed his research on his next attempt for a cure, so I informed him of my intention to visit Laria again, and headed off for the nearest altar to summon her. Plus, I needed a peaceful moment away from the heavy darkness that seemed to have sank its claws into Gloamwood. And wasn't letting go without a pretty epic fight, apparently. Well, bring it on, Rae likes a challenge.

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