Thursday, October 17, 2013

[Raeslyn's Story] 3.2: Ghost Story

      My impression of the town of Gloamwood Pines was rather torn. On one hand, it was beautiful, if a bit on the creepy side. The town was incredibly large for being in the middle of a dark and scary forest that held all many of evil, cursed and strange beings. It was situated on the banks of a large, fast moving river that I didn't know the name of, with long, simple rope bridges connecting parts of the town that would otherwise be divided by the flow of the river. I was kind of proud of the people of the town that they didn't try to force nature to bend to them, but rather built around it. The houses were large, two story buildings that crowded together as if they were seeking comfort from their neighbors. Every single window seemed lit from within with the glow of torches and candles and magic. I wondered idly how much that would cost.
     On the other hand...the town was hardly welcoming. As I strolled into the outskirts and outlaying buildings, a few people were out and about on various errands. Without fail, every single one of them stopped and gave me the nastiest glare. If I wasn't made of sterner stuff, I'd have felt quite unnerved by this obvious show of hostility. I mean, what gives? They all acted like I was there to steal their firstborn child or something. A few of them, I glared back at, hands on my daggers. The silent, pervasive air of hostile intent began getting to me, to the point where I was becoming jumpy, and that just made my temper worse.

     The next person I saw, I determinedly walked up to. I wanted to show these morons that I wasn't any threat and I also sincerely needed some directions to this apothecary's place because I didn't feel the urge to wander around the town until I came upon it. The place was big enough that I felt I'd be wasting my time just trying to find it on my own. So, keeping my irritation firmly in check, I approached a man in dusty, worn leathers carrying a few long planks of wood. He looked like a good honest, hardworking guy.

    "So, hey there, I wonder if--." Before I'd even finished asking my question, the guy actually, honest to the gods, snarled at me. I scowled at his attitude.

     "Your kind isn't welcome in our wood, stranger. Why don't you go back to where you came from before something bad happens!" The man growled at me. He looked almost frightened and if it wasn't for his obvious insulting manner, I'd have felt a bit more sympathetic. Instead, my temper snapped.

     "Now you look here, peasant! I've come a long way from Silverwood to offer aid to the people of Gloamwood against the goblin threat and the Vigil knows what else you've got going on here, and I don't need your attitude. Now I am going to ask my question, and I'm going to ask it only once, so you better pay attention! I want to know where--"

    "Is there a problem here?" A new voice butted in and I felt myself almost snarl there. What is it with these people? I turned around and sized up the newcomer. She was a tall, self assured looking woman in official livery, carrying a long dagger on her hip and a gun slung across her back. Her arms were crossed and she had an eyebrow raised as she eyed me as if I was the town drunk causing trouble again. I rolled my eyes and stepped away from the logging man, who just grumbled something under his breath and walked off. I was just about done with this town already, I'll say that much.

     "Alright, what's going on here?" I demanded sharply. No more mister nice rogue. "What's these people's problems? I was sent here from Silverwood, to investigate claims of disturbances and dark happenings. The least 'you people' can do is offer some hospitality to a member of the Guardians." I put emphasis on "you people" much like the man had done when speaking to me. The woman seemed to speak, but then she pursed her lips and eyed me up and down silently instead. I crossed my own arms and stared her down as she observed me, resisting the urge to offer a sarcastic comment. See, I can be good.

     "My name is Thalia Cosmin. I am sheriff of Gloamwood Pines. It's my duty to keep the people of this town safe. I will admit that there have been some...strange things happening around here lately. We of Gloamwood like to take care of our own problems. You say you're from the Guardians?" I nodded at her question, but kept quiet, wondering what else she'd say. "I apologize for...the people. We don't usually get strangers here, and they usually just bring trouble." The sheriff continued in a neutral tone. I nodded again. There was a brief silence between us. "So, you had a question? What did you want?" She asked finally, frowning as if she thought my question was going to cause the aforementioned trouble. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

     "Well, I'm looking for this apothecary guy. I was told by Waykeeper Brion that I needed to bring some potion supplies to him so that he can make some potions to help combat...uh...he didn't actually say, but that they will help. Or something. I got the ingredients, and now I just need to find this apothecary so I can dump them off on him." The sheriff uncrossed her arms and glanced behind her, into town.

     "Oh, you mean Gwyddon Duskenleaf?" She asked, somewhat puzzled. I shrugged. How should I know, the Waykeeper didn't give me a name after all. The sheriff pointed down the main street. "Just follow that through the main part of town and across the main bridge. There's a military encampment of Guardians on the outskirts on the other side of town, head to the left of them and you'll see Gwyddon's labs. It's rather hard to miss, he has a small tower all to himself and you can smell the drying herbs for quite a way." I followed her outstretched finger with my eyes, satisfied and a little eager now that I knew there was a company of Guardians here as well. That's the first time I've heard mention of Guardians being stationed here in Gloamwood, but I was relieved. I'm sure they'd know what was going on here and be more willing to share that intel with me. With a curt thank you, I strode away down the street.

     It was easy enough to find what I was looking for. I could see the standards that flew Guardian colors from across the bridge. Of course, crossing the bridge wasn't exactly something I was comfortable with, but I forced myself to cross without hesitation and even resisted the urge to look down into the rushing river below. As I went further into town, I noticed that the buildings began to look older, less modern and elegant, and more gothic and sinister. The roofs soared high overhead with winged eaves and black shingles and wooden boards covered the windows. There were even a few houses that didn't have a single light on inside. In a town where every building was lit, I found this a bit disconcerting. Bypassing the Guardian camp for now, I made for the tall, stone building that no doubt was the apothecary's home. It resembled a short, squat tower, complete with wide stone steps leading up to it in a curved fashion. I knocked on the high wooden door and heard a kindly old voice within tell me to enter.

     Inside, the tower was homey, cozy even. The rooms were well lit and well furnished, with paintings of landscapes on the wall and a few stools scattered about. Every available surface was covered with plants, vines, and thick books. Definitely the house of an apothecary, I thought with amusement. The man in question was facing away from me, tending to a large plant in the corner that looked a bit sickly. After a few moments, he turned and approached me, wiping his hands on an apron that was stained with some kind of dark substance.

    "Why hello there...." the man trailed off and blinked, surprised, at the sight of me. I was kind of surprised myself. I guess I should have known for the name, but Gwyddon Duskenleaf was an elf. An older elf, with white gold hair and the elegant features familiar to us.

     "Greetings, sir." I said after a moment. One must be polite to one's own elders, mustn't one? I thought to myself in dry amusement.

     "A High Elf? I haven't seen the like in...a long time." The man admitted, breaking into a warm smile. I couldn't help but grin back. "Well that's what happens when you live in this backwater town in the middle of a dark and gloomy forest." I shot back easily. At that, Gwyddon's smile faded and his shoulder's slumped.

    "Yes, indeed. It is a dark forest...and it's getting darker. I came here many years ago to help the wood fight off the effects of the rifts when Aedraxis first unleashed them. I hadn't seen such madness before. Eventually, I settled here in this town. I felt like I could do some good, making potions for these poor people to help ward off the curses and maladies that seemed to be so common here. But it's getting worse and the people are...changing. It's very worrisome. I'm glad you're here, young one. There's something about you. I feel like you could do Gloamwood Pines some good." He gave me a keen look. I tugged on my sleeve as a distraction.

     "That's exactly why I've come, actually. The Guardians sent me to investigate the dark rumors from Gloamwood. The goblins seem to be fleeing here and entering Silverwood by the droves and we want to know why. We've managed to stem the tide in Silverwood, but it won't be for long. They nearly attacked Quicksilver College in their desperation. I want to know why they are so afraid of Gloamwood. Or what they are afraid of. It can't be good." I paused and raised my eyebrows, inviting Gwyddon to explain. He nodded, and shuffled over to peer at another plant.

    "Yes, that does sound worrying. I wish you luck on, young rogue." His dismissive words surprised me. Suddenly he was acting strange, almost like the other people of Gloamwood. Did the atmosphere infect him too?

     "Well, I was sent here to you specifically, to give you some materials for a potion you make for the Waykeepers?" I said, a little sharply. I took out the items in question, wrinkling my nose again at the smell as it assaulted me afresh. Ugh, that's disgusting. I'm so glad I don't have to drink that potion. At my words, the apothecary turned, this time looking eager and excited.

    "Where? Let me see!" He veritably ran over, tearing the smelly bundles out of my hands. I scowled at his back as he ran over to a workbench, clearing all manner of odds and ends off the surface and setting down my bundles.
    "'re welcome." I said, into the silence. Gwyddon looked over his shoulder, nodding absently at me, then turned back to concentrating on his new acquisition. Fine, I'll see myself out, I thought irritably. A wave of wounded pride fell over me followed by a soothing wash of calm. No doubt an effect of the multiple souls I was connected to. Time to find those Guardians and see if they knew anything about what was going on, because I was starting to get just a little ticked off at my reception. Okay so maybe I wasn't exactly expecting the kind of glowing hero worship I'd received while in Silverwood, because there, they'd known all about me, they'd seen me arrive, they had Ascended living among them and had an Ascended ruling council right in their midst, but just next door here in Gloamwood it was like they'd never even heard of Ascended, or anything else that had gone on outside the wood. It was like an enclosed bubble that I'd popped by showing up and now they were all blaming me for whatever misfortune befell them. I felt like saying it wasn't fair, but that seemed just a little ridiculous.

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