Tuesday, December 31, 2013

[Raeslyn's Story] 3.5: Your Outlook on Life is Solemn Indeed

    After I'd gotten directions to "Solemn Outlook" from Janina, I headed straight for the grassy location. I'll get that girl's revenge thing out of the way first since Outlook wasn't actually that far and I didn't want to be responsible for her doing something reckless and stupid like going after the cursed ghosts herself to rescue her brother. It would be just my luck that the town would blame me for that little debacle as well.

     I came across the little fork in the path that I remembered from before, when I was hunting for potion ingredients. Sure enough, one of the signs did say Solemn Outlook. I looked down the "road" that the sign said the farm was located in. The path was hardly noticeable. Obviously no one had been to the Outlook in recent times. Well, no one but ghosts, that is. Good thing I'm a might Ascended rogue and I'm not afraid of some ghosts. Well, not too much anyway. With a small grin to myself, I headed down the path. Actually, I should say up. The road wound it's way up a sharp grassy hill, just as Janina described. The girl was nothing else if not attentive to detail. Really, it was hardly a road. More of a deer trail then anything else. Maybe it was a road sometime during the Age of Legends or something, but you'd never call it a road now. I passed an ancient looking stone well on the left as I climbed upward, and it got me to thinking about this unfortunate family. Why does everyone in Gloamwood seem to be either terrified of some curse, or afflicted with some curse? There has to be a common root that links everything together. After I see what I can do for Janina's poor unfortunate brother, I couldn't wait to go visit the altar. And not just to help solve this mystery either. I was eager to see what the guardian of this wood would look like. Silverwood's guardian took on the likeness of a delicate fawn. It would be nice to have a moment of reflection at one of the old altars too.

     What few trees dotted the landscape cast creepy, elongated shadows across the grassy hill, and I was starting to grow a bit jumpy. It's not like this was a pleasant place or anything. It was very eerie. The whole hill was silent, as if holding its breath. There was no sound except for a strange moaning, like the wind through a hole. In fact, it seemed to be getting louder...I turned around suddenly, some sixth sense warning me in time, and my daggers met the rusted steel of an old blade. The person carrying the blade shocked me so badly I nearly dropped my daggers. It wasn't a person at all, but some ghostly apparition of what I can assume is a long dead Solemn family member. This one was long gone, no trace of sentience or identity left. The ghost had dead, crazed eyes and a permanent snarl on its ethereal features. Not a pleasant sight. Not I know where people get the saying "you look like you seen a ghost". Because I'm pretty sure I was making that expression right now. The ghost let out another unearthly wail and it was so loud that I briefly felt dizzy. Briefly I wondered if maybe there was something supernatural about the wail, as if it was meant to do something to the victim, but thankfully my unique nature protected me from its influence.
     The ghost screeched in fury and attacked me with its blade again, hacking mindlessly away at my dagger, which I kept expertly between myself and the ghost. If I didn't look at the undead thing head on, it was easier to fight it, and it even appeared more solid. An idea came to mind, and I reached down for one of my other daggers. I turned more to the side, so I was only looking out of the corner of my eye, and made a decisive upward thrust with my free dagger, burying the blade to the hilt on the ghost's chest. The ghost gave another long howl and seemed to rise up, before fluttering to the ground in a heap of dirty old rags and torn clothing. Then the entire thing shimmered and faded from sight. Now that was a rather alarming experience I'd prefer to avoid. In fact, I was beginning to wish I'd avoided Gloamwood altogether in my quest to bring justice to the land. But I could practically feel the wood aching to be free of whatever taint had hold of it, and I could no more deny the land than I could deny my goddess.

     Even though there wasn't any gore or blood on my blade that I could visibly see, I still wiped both blades quite thoroughly on a cloth before stuffing it back in a sealed pouch. I really didn't want ghostly goo on my weapons. I cautiously ascended the rest of the way up the hill and noticed an old, run down farm house situated neatly on the little plateau at the top. It would have been considered homey at some point, but right now, the house just looked eerie and depressing. As I neared it, the air seemed to grow colder. Suddenly, another ghostly apparition materialized on the front porch, nearly right in front of me. Needless to say, I was startled. Bu this ghost was different. For one thing, he didn't attack me right away in a crazed frenzy like the other one did. This ghost also bore a striking resemblance to Janina in town. I'm assuming this was her beloved brother's spirit then. Poor sap. He gazed at me with the detached calm that only the dead seemed to have, and carried an old, rusted looking scythe.

"Nigel?" I asked carefully as I walked up the porch steps. I didn't want to set the guy off and have him attack me after all. Who knew what got ghosts riled up? "I've come on behalf of your sister...Janina? Remember her? She's awfully worried about you." I continued in soft tones. As I said the girl's name, the ghost's face seemed to become animated, displaying an expression of longing and sadness. He moved forward slightly, not walking exactly, kind of like floating. I stiffened and felt my hands stray to my belt of daggers by reflex.
     "Ah, Janina." the ghost said finally, and his voice was a wispy, strange sounding thing. "My beautiful sister. Her heart was always so pure and innocent. I thank you, young lady, for coming here, but there is nothing you can do to help. You've endangered your life to ease her pain, but I urge you, do not linger here after dark. The voices of the curse pray for your death, but for now, they do not match the voice in my heart telling me this is wrong."

     I scowled, and tapped the hilt of my dagger as I considered. "Curses don't threaten me, Nigel. Neither does the idea of death. I am Ascended, chosen by the gods, and I've come here with a specific mission to end the strange darkness clouding Gloamwood. I think...this might be part of the problem, somehow." I frowned, wondering again how all these things seem to be connected and who could possibly be behind all the dark mystery in the wood. It was quite alarming indeed. Someone quite powerful had their hand in this mess, that was for sure. The ghost's face transformed in shock at my words and he floated back a few paces, eyeing me with surprised, but hopeful eyes.

     "On these grounds is a foul curse. Each day it's harder for me to resist its lure into madness. I fight its grasp for one reason only-to find a way to cure it before my sister too is taken by it. She must never return to this place and find happiness somewhere!" He looked so forlorn that I was beginning to feel sorry for the poor dead guy. He obviously deeply cared for his sister.

     "Well, this is depressing and all, but surely I might be able to fix your...uh...little curse problem? Do you know anything of how it started, or why you were cursed? Or how long its been going on?" I asked, glancing around. It was indeed getting darker, and the wind was beginning to pick up, making a moaning sound as it whistled around the old wooden farm house. Nigel's face brightened.
     "Actually, I know someone who might be able to help! Uncle Alistair has been trying for months to find information on the curse himself. He's inside the house right now, you can ask him about it! But he's kind of an ornery old man." He looked apologetic and so hopeful at the same time. I shrugged. I could deal with ornery just as easy. At least now I had a lead on this whole curse business. Hopefully this didn't take too long. As much as I didn't mind helping out poor Janina and her cursed family, that didn't exactly solve Gloamwood's problem, and I wanted to get to the altar still.

     I walked inside the house, noting curiously that it didn't seem to have a door. How odd. "Excuse me?" I called, stepping into the gloomy interior. "Hello? Uh...Alistair?" There was a noise to the left and I turned to see an older looking ghost standing to the side and watching me with curious eyes. I gave a half wave. "Oh, hi there. Didn't see you in the darkness." I chuckled, somewhat nervously. The old ghost didn't say anything, just gave me a cranky look. Ooookay. Maybe I woke him up from nap time? "So, your nephew was telling me about a cure and-"
    "Yes, I heard." Alistair interrupted, looking annoyed. "I'm dead, not deaf." Jeez, touchy, I thought to myself. "To break this curse, you must banish the most powerful of our deceased ancestors. This much I found. However, you have to be living in order to enact the banishment ritual and I'm afraid we are rather short on living relatives at the moment." The old man looked rather put out by this and I was glad Janina had stayed behind. "But I heard you say you were Ascended. You'll do." He added, walking past me out of the farm house. I spun around and scowled after the ghostly figure, before reluctantly following him outside.

    "You can raise my ancestors by placing the essences of what they once were on their graves. Make no mistake, your death is all these wraiths desire. Banish the ghosts of the departed Solemn family, and the curse should break." He gazed out over the farm quietly, before quirking a ghostly eyebrow at me. "Or so I've learned." He added. Ye gods, a ghost with a sense of humor. Be still my heart.

    "Fine, I'll do that. But this better bloody well work!" I snapped crossly. "Where are these essences?" I asked, feeling peeved. Just more waste of time when I should be out trying to figure out what the underlying darkness eating away at the forest was. It's not like lifting this curse is going to do anything beneficial. Well, except for helping Janina escape these ghosts' fate, I guess. I sighed. 'Uncle Alistair' pointed helpfully back inside the house. "The items you require are inside, in a chest under the stairs. Lay them at the foot of each grave, and slay the spirit that rises. After that is done, the curse should lift." I snorted. Oh ya, sounds really easy when you say it. It's the doing it that's going to be a pain in the butt.

     After I'd gathered the chest full of strange oddities that belonged to the dead Solemn family, I stomped back outside, where the Solemn uncle led me around back of the house to where apparently there was a small cemetery where all the ancestors of the family had been buried. As if that's not creepy at all or anything. The second I approached the grave markers out back, Alistair's ghost vanished. I have no idea where he ran off to. Maybe he wasn't able to haunt this particular part of the homestead. Who knows? I set the chest down, and dug around in it. The nearest headstone read "Here lies Corvis Solemn" and some other meaningful little quote, so I looked for anything in the chest that had the name Corvis on it. Aha! Some kind of talisman on a chain. It was definitely ancient. Like, back to the Age of Dragons, ancient. Interesting! If I was a historian, or a scholar, I'd definitely love a closer look at this stuff, but I wasn't so I just chucked it at the gravestone. I wonder what would happen. After a few moments of expectant silence, in which nothing happened, I scowled. Great. Did I have to say anything? I stood up from the chest, intent on doing, what I don't know, when suddenly the ground shook so badly I nearly fell on my rear. I yelped in surprise and had to do a little dance to keep my feet. How embarrassing. Big bad Ascended, almost knocked off her feet by a little ground trembling!

     From out of the earth near the headstone, a large, angry ghost roared. It was...really tall. And angry. It roared quite impressively in my face.

     "How dare you interfere where you are not wanted! I'm going to put your body in my grave!" Corvis shouted. His voice was rather strange, sounding like two voices at once, overlapping each other. He raised a hand and a sword nearly as tall as I was materialized in his hand, which he promptly swung at me with no warning. Thank the Vigil for Ascended reflexes. I literally dove out of the way seconds before I could be cleaved in two. I wasn't keen on ever experiencing death again, thank you very much. Corvis came right at me, sword leading the way, and I dodged yet another large, heavy swing of his ghostly blade. The wind of the weapon's passage lifted my hair softly and I gulped. For a big guy, he sure was fast.
     "Hey Corvis buddy, can't we talk about this?" I said breathlessly as I rolled out of the way of another lunge. This is one of those rare moments where I wish I'd learned some other combat method besides daggers. Like a bow for instance. Or those handy little grenade devices that one of the other souls I'd had shoved into my mind knew. Maybe it would be a good ide after all to pay attention to know the knowledge the other souls had. No way did I want them messing with me or becoming part of me, but it would definitely be handy to have their skill. I was going to see if I could add some ranged attacks to my arsenal as soon as I'd done healing Gloamwood.

     Finally, I saw an opening in Corvis's defense and ran in under his freakishly large sword, drawing my daggers in one smooth motion and ramming them into his chest. I was so fast that I'd done all this in the time it would take a normal mortal to blink. I quite loved being Ascended. Despite Corvis being a ghost, he apparently could be wounded just like any live creature, and he stumbled backward, eyes wide and unseeing, before falling to the ground. His ghostly body disappeared moments before he actually touched the ground. I panted slightly as I sheathed my daggers, wringing my hand, where he'd managed to slam down the hilt of his sword at some point. The delicate bones ground against each other in my wrist in a way that made me think there'd been more damage then I'd first thought. Great, just what I needed. Maybe I should start traveling with a healer. I smirked.

     The fight with Corvis had taken me some ways from the tiny plot of gravestones, and I marched back over to the chest of Solemn possessions sitting innocently on the ground. Well, that's one Solemn family member down. Who knows how many more to go. I sighed gustily. Why do I always feel like I'm getting all the dirty work around here? Leaning across and squinting in the gloom, I read the next name on my list. Batius Solemn. Sounded horrible. I feel sorry for whoever had to live with that name. I dug around in the chest before coming up with a heavy signet ring with the name Batius engraved on the inside of the band. Here goes. This time, I threw the ring and drew my daggers at the same time, staying crouched and ready. The ghost burst out of the ground much like the other had, heralded by shaking earth.

     Batius didn't look any more impressive then his name implied. He was a round faced man with a crooked nose and an angry sneer on his lips. "How dare you wake me! Get off my grave, you scoundrel!" He bellowed at me. I wondered idly as I fought with him if all ghosts were inherently angry at being forced out of their resting places. Or if it was just my luck I got the cranky members of the Solemn family specifically. Probably just me.

  After what seemed like an eternity and a half later, I trudged back toward the front of the farm house, dirty, exhausted, and irritated. Every single one of the spirits I'd raised had been ungrateful, violent, loud mouthed clods who'd immediately set upon me like I was a delicious steak in front of hounds. This curse better darn well be broken.

     As before, the second I neared the porch, Nigel materialized, looking hopeful. I shrugged at him. What was he looking at me for? Shouldn't he know if the curse was broken or not? Inside, I looked around for Alistair and found him sitting in a chair staring at an old broken portrait of a happy looking family. Yes, it was sad and all, but I had done my job.

      "So, is the curse lifted now, or what?" I asked, rather irritably. What I wouldn't give for a bath right now. I remember seeing a river somewhere, I bet I could go clean up there on my way to visiting the altar. Besides, I wanted to look presentable to the spirit of this wood. Alistair looked up at my voice, and I raised an eyebrow. He looked rather surprised to see me.

     "You again!" He said, as if he expected to never see me again. "You banished the spirits! And you're not dead!" He sounded so amazed that I rolled my eyes. Well duh, obviously. "But it is still dangerous and the curse is still holding us here. You need to leave while you still can. The power here is beyond you." I glared at him. Fine. I know when to take a hint. After all I'd done, and it didn't even work. I didn't want to bother with their silly little problem anyway. As soon as the rest of the family dies off, problem solved anyway. Time to go see people who will actually appreciate my aid. Although now that I think about it...no one in Gloamwood has appeared too thankful.

     I stomped out of the farm house and back down the path toward the main road. Nigel called something after me about looking after his sister, but I ignored him. I'm not a nurse maid, thank you very much. She'll be fine on her own.

     Now, where was this altar again? I thought for a moment as I walked. Oh ya, by Gnarlwood Post. Well, I knew where that was. That was the first place I'd encountered the Waykeepers after all. After taking a quick second to orient myself, I set off in the direction of Gnarlwood post. From there, I could ask one of the Waykeepers on duty for directions to the Gloamwood altar. I'm sure they would know where it was.

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