Tuesday, December 18, 2012

[Raeslyn's Story] 2.10: City of Sanctum

     After saying my farewells and well wishes to the people of Silver Landing, I headed to the east to Sanctum Watch to speak to one Maris Telluria. I hope she had some good news for me and could shed some light on the recent activity of the Aelfwar. I'd also been hearing rumors in the wood about the uprising of those vexed Fae and wondered, not for the first time, how they were involved in this situation. If the Fae had aligned with House Aelfwar we were in trouble for sure.
     Along the road I encountered more of those troublesome red Life vines and saw the damage they were doing to the local forest. The Plane of Life had definitely left its mark in my Silverwood. Every now and than, out of the corner of my eye, I'd catch a flash of movement, or a splash of color that didn't quite fit with the greens of the wood and I knew that the Aelfwar were out there, infiltrating the ranks of the Guardians and getting into position. For what, I wasn't sure, but I knew it had to be something big for them to mobilize on this scale. Overwatch Road itself, though, proved to be quite safe thankfully. I saw many a traveler as I made my way to Sanctum Watch. Pilgrims, merchants, adventurers and I'm even sure I saw another Ascended. Although the young Dwarf woman was riding a mighty steed and traveling at such high speeds that I could no more than glance at her in pride as she raced by. Someday I wish to be such a magnificent personage. To be an Ascended of such renown that others would know my name in the cities, would gaze in wonder at my strength and agility. And my friends would drink to my health...and that reminded me of my mentor, lost, possibly slain, and my wistful thoughts sank. I loved my master, I did. I miss him every day and until I found proof of his demise, I wouldn't give up hope.

     Ahead, Sanctum Watch came into sight. Sanctum itself, that radiant and glowing city of faith and hope, stood like a bastion against all evil across the shining bridge. I'd seen Sanctum many times of course but had never had reason to enter its shining gates. I'd always been more of a forest dweller, more comfortable among the local wildlife than among the bustle and noise of the cities. But now, I felt drawn to it. The city stood for so much more now, being the home and base of operations for the newly created order of the Guardians. The order I was now a key part of. I wondered idly if I'd find Cyril or Shyla there, my old comrades from before the Prophecy message. I hope they were well. Perhaps when this task was over I'd go visit them and take a tour of peaceful Sanctum. Yes, I'd like that very much now that I thought about it.

     A beautiful, wooden fence ushered me along the path toward Sanctum Watch, where I found a small group of mixed races standing around a giant Wardstone discussing something in depth. Large elaborate tents stood picketed behind the group of people and there were even a few merchants setting up shop in the predawn light. In front of one tent, an older woman led a small group of pilgrims in song, the lilting tone drifting along the breeze. Just the sight relaxed me in a way that I hadn't been in some time and I found myself quirking a smile, eagerly approaching the group. Large leafy trees made for a scenic background to the holy site.

     "Are you an Ascended too? Please, bless me!" Startled, I slowed to a stop. A woman in a hooded robe was gazing at me from the side of the road with awe and admiration. I blinked, a bit hesitant. While I would consider myself to have had a hand in the stopping in the Shade and preventing Regulos from entering Telara completely, I wouldn't say I was comfortable going around blessing people like a Messenger of the Vigil or a Priestess would do.

     "Uh....perhaps it would be best if you, uh, instead joined the prayers at the altar of the Vigil, or approached Shyla Starhearth for a blessing? That would be more appropriate." I said this in a gentle voice with as kind a smile as I could muster, not wanting to offend the woman, who might have travelled who knows how long just for a blessing. Some pilgrims traveled farther for less after all. But I also wasn't comfortable giving out blessings. I wholeheartedly believed in and followed the Vigil of course. They were my light, the gods I would lay down my life to serve, but I didn't think it was my right to be offering something in their stead. I firmly believe in choice and free will. Besides, I wasn't the prayer-giving type. The woman's shoulders slumped and she looked crest-fallen, making me feel somewhat guilty, but I stood firm and she nodded, before murmuring a thanks and continuing on her way to the city.
     Turning back toward the small group at Sanctum Watch, I was again hailed, this time by a tall Elf in blue robes etched with runes.
     "I greet you, Raeslyn the Ascended, with an open heart. I sense you are a Guardian of the same mind as my own on the challenges we face." Again I blinked, a bit unsure. That was a rather flowery greeting, something I wasn't used to. Social interaction isn't exactly my forte, having spent so long alone in the wilds. I offered the Elf woman a half smile and a slight bow of the head, hoping that would suffice. She continued to gaze at me with soft, liquid-green eyes and I shifted to glance at the others, feeling a bit annoyed that she was making me self-conscious.

     "I greet you as well lady Elf. Maris Telluria I presume? I have urgent matters I wish to discuss with you." I said simply, growing impatient with the formal speech. The woman, Maris, tilted her head to the side and studied me silently a moment, before nodding and stepping away from the group. I reached into my bag and took out the written seal that Isilwyn had given me.
     I held out the letter. There was a moment of awkward silence, at least on my end, as she opened the seal and read it. Her face became drawn as she finished and she closed it, eyes suddenly older than before. "This is the seal of Isilwyn Alrai! It's been a very long time since we have heard from him. I can see that it's for good reason he decided to reach out to us now. Thank you for bringing this evidence of corruption to light Raeslyn."

     I nodded. Of course I already knew about the evidence and the contents of the note. No, I didn't snoop into it; Isilwyn told me what it said before handing it to me. At least someone trusted a Rogue.

     "I would ask a favor of you, Raeslyn Ascended, while you are here." I gazed at her, than shrugged and nodded. Anything to help return Silverwood to the way it was and cleanse the taint of the Plane of Life from its trees. I'd also like to make up for the guilt I felt at having suddenly abandoned my friends and comrades upon defeating the Shade of Regulos back on Thedeor Field.

     "Of course, Lady Telluria. That's why I'm here, to lend my Ascended strength to the Guardians wherever needed." I replied, curious.

      "When the High Elf ruling council moved to Sanctum and ignored Prince Hylas's pleas to leave the other races to their fates, he may have felt slighted, but his behavior in Treant's Grove is appalling. The forest might be able to guide our response to his actions and help us on a course of action. Go to Treant's Grove yourself, Raeslyn and assess the situation. Speak to the Spirit Guide if you can find her and find out what her suggestions are for dealing with Prince Hylas." While I wasn't exactly sure what had happened in Treant's Grove, I knew that if House Aelfwar was involved that it couldn't be anything good. I did ask for some time to prepare for another journey though, since I needed to replenish my supplies and get some rest. I may be Ascended and fit from years of training under my master, but all the activity I'd undergone recently was exhausting. Maris gave a bell-like laugh at my request. "Of course you may rest up, Ascended! Anything you require, you have only to ask for."
      "Thank you Maris Telluria." I said gruffly in response. "Out of curiosity, what is your role here in Sanctum Watch, if I may? I'm trying to get a feel for the current situation." As I asked her, I poked around in my bags, making a mental catalogue of what I had and what I wanted to get rid of at the merchant here. Maris gave a soft, huffing laugh, drawing my attention back up to her shadowed face.

     "Sanctum is the home of the Guardians. My home. A sacred place where the voices of the Vigil are heard the clearest. And that is why I am here. My duty is to guard the bridge and take measure of House Aelfwar's recent activities in Silverwood." I waved my hand, encouraging her to go on. Despite my joy of combat, I did love information as well and I was fascinated in hearing about the recent troubles with the Aelfwar, my wayward kin. "Hylas Aelfwar and his cult have gone too far now. He sent his scouts throughout the forest, raising up treant minions to further his sinister ends. It is our duty as Guardians to uncover his schemes and punish him for his transgressions." I wondered what Shyla thought of that. Of course everyone had heard of the legendary love affair between Shyla and Hylas. Theirs was a love that everyone envied. It had seemed promised to last the ages; every bard had sang about it. I continued to listen as Maris spoke.

     "Our scouts also report that faeries have occupied Wayward Thicket. These minions of the dragon Greenscale seek to let the wilderness consume all civilization. They act against the gods and we must stop them before the corruption grows beyond our control." Maris raised a fist at the last comment and her eyes seemed to burn with an inner light that made me wonder if perhaps she'd run afoul of some faeries before. I was about to ask when a young Elf male in muted brown robes cleared his throat and walked up to us.

     "My apologies, but I couldn't help but overhear you mention the faeries." He spoke very quietly and seemed quite shy, which was amusing. I raised an eyebrow at Maris, who waved a hand in the male's direction. "This is Ramis Twistroot. He is our local Faerie expert." I made a noncommittal noise and politely fixed my gaze on Ramis, mildly curious to see what he had to say. A Faerie expert? Perhaps he'd have something relevant to add to my mission.

     Ramis cleared his throat, looking uneasy to have found himself an actual audience, Ascended at that. "Well...House Aelfwar dominates much of Silverwood, as we know, yet we haven't seen them attack any of the Faefolk of Wayward Thicket, as we've seen them attack other invaders as well as our own scouts. They have fiercely defended their territory with great fervor, yet seem almost to ignore the Faeries. I've yet to get close enough to find out why this is. I fear the Aelfwar have made a pact with the Faeries, but I would like solid evidence of this first. If you could...Ascended?" He looked at me with pleading, eager eyes. Ugh, scholars. Wanting as much information as they could get, but unwilling to put in the effort and risk to get it. I sighed.

     "Sure," I found myself saying. "What is it you need?" Ramis's face lit up like it was Fae Yule and he eagerly scrabbled in his belt pouch for parchment. After several silent moments while I watched him scribble down a list, he thrust the parchment at me with heartfelt thank yous.

    "Now, don't get your hopes up. I don't promise anything, just that I'll take a look around and see if I can get anything that would help in your investigation. And Maris, I'll try my best to find out what the Aelfwar and the Faeries are up to."

     After I'd discussed a few more details with Maris and Ramis, I wandered around the rest of Sanctum Watch. I found a cheerful merchant by the name of Tomen Porras who gladly traded in a few trinkets from my travels for fresh water, food, and knives. Finally, I'd run out of tasks to complete and I couldn't think of any other reason to delay my next task. Other than I was feeling a bit wrung out from all the constant running around. I'd been so focused and driven since my resurrection that I'd hardly had any time to slow down and think. To decide on what I wanted to do, wanted to accomplish. To find my lost mentor, or enjoy just being alive. So I paused, glancing between the ever-lightening woods and the shining city over the arched bridge. I warred with myself over what I should do. On the one hand, I really needed to find out what those dratted Fae were up to and I'd love nothing more than put a stop to Prince Hylas and get my revenge for his betrayal of our people. But on the other hand, I didn't want my entire life to be consumed with a vendetta and with carnage and combat. I wanted more to my life than just helping random strangers and making the world a safer place. I wanted to do things for myself as well. I had notions of taking up studies again, whether on my own or back at the college in Argent Glade. I had the urge to go explore all the great wild places of Telara. There was still so much of this magnificent world that I hadn't seen. That no one had seen. Why shouldn't I be allowed to enjoy the works of the Vigil.

     A gentle warmth inside my mind reminded me of my duties to the Guardians and I swallowed, feeling torn. I placed my hands on my hips and fingered my daggers. The Aelfwar have been up to their shenanigans for some time now, I'd gathered from the sentries and outposts set up around Silverwood. They had yet to make their move, and I'm sure if they did, I'd hear about it one way or another. And of course I'd step in to lend aid if needed. And the Fae also seemed to be setting shop in Wayward Thicket for the long haul. So if I nipped off to Sanctum for some much needed rest and relaxation, the world shouldn't come to an abrupt and fiery end, right? Okay, so I was just coming up with excuses to make myself feel better. In a way, I did feel like I was abandoning my duty. But no one had specifically told me that I had to put my duty above all else, and I had my own desires and will as well. And it wasn't like I was forsaking anyone. As soon as I'd gotten my eyeful of the fabled Sanctum city, I'd be back out there, righting the wrongs of the world and putting an end to sinister evil foes. I just needed some time to myself. To think, to consider the future. 

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