Elemix wanted the Dwarf to pay for what he had done to those slaves. He didn’t know how exactly, but he knew the Dwarf had to pay.
When the rescued slave had fallen asleep, Elemix looked at each of his comrades in turn and said in a soft but serious voice, “Look, I am not saying we can rid this realm of slavery, but we can do something to help these particular slaves. We can also do something to ensure that evil sack of skin Dwarf out there pays for his brutality.”
He looked then at Tifane. “I know slavery is legal here, but I don’t care. He has to pay – and justice should be served. We are here, and we can do something.” He looked again to Emmeline and River.
In truth, Elemix really didn’t care at all about the laws here. As far as he was concerned it was every man for himself in the rift lands and Elemix didn’t intend to stay here any longer than necessary – but he didn’t go so far as to tell his friends that.
Instead he looked at the halfling and continued. “Setting her free was step 1. Setting the rest of his slaves free is step 2. Dealing with that creature out there is step 3. And getting these slaves to some semblance of safety and a chance at a fresh start is step 4.”
Emmeline looked at River, her eyes troubled, then removed a piece of parchment and laid it out. “I bought Rosie’s freedom. It was a small thing but I had to save her from what he was doing to her.” The parchment seemed to be an official document that listed Rosie’s status, owners, and the value for which she was traded.
“I want to save the others, but we don’t have the means to do it legally,” Emmeline added. “Doing it illegally could cause us a huge problem because I think that since slavery is legal, then some part, maybe a significant part of their economy depends on it. A country will deal harshly with a perceived threat to that. Tonight I learned I’m more terrified of being cast into Rosie’s position than anything I can think of. I’m not saying we should not do what you are saying… uh… Bob. I’m saying we do it on the way back, when we can run from here and never return if we have to. Just in case.”
Elemix considered her statements carefully. “I hate to think what that slime will do in the interim, but I must agree this is a distraction from our primary concern at the moment. If it is possible when we are back through this way, I want to do what we can to see that he pays for what he has done. If we can help his abused slaves we should do so. I for one am willing to risk it – after our primary mission is achieved.
“Aside from this whole unexpected slave situation, I think we need to continue on and ideally do a better job at keeping low key.”
Elemix looked at River and Emmeline. “With respect you are outstanding performers and as such by very definition you get noticed. That can’t be helped, but we can I think keep the performances to a minimum. Enough to suit our cover. Beyond that though I think we should avoid significant time in the bars and instead spend more time out of sight. Going to bed early. Leaving early, before most are up. That sort of thing.”
Emmeline nodded. “There won’t be magic in performances anymore so that should help tone things down. And I’m all for getting out of this sort of country as soon as possible.”
After a pause, Emmeline’s face fell. “I screwed up tonight, but I made a mistake earlier. I should have stopped River from letting the clientele touch her. It was fine in the bigger cities and Periphery because I was watching. Things didn’t get out of control there. Out here it’s different. Then tonight with that man trying to buy sex, I thought our shield man would just incapacitate him or get him thrown out of the bar. But he’s a killer! I was stupid and now we will be delayed.” She shook her head. “It’s my responsibility to do deal with it. I hired him. I gave him the order to deal with that guy. So I’ll deal with guards or reeve or whatever in the morning.”
“I don’t see it that way,” said Elemix. “We are in a dangerous land to be sure and though you hired the shield man, you did so at my request. Indeed you are all here largely at my request, because of my desire to learn what is there. I thank you all for coming with me as I could not do it alone.
“In short, I am the one who should have stepped in and stopped the situation before it got out of hand. He shouldn’t have killed the man, but what is done is done. I will talk with the authorities on this matter along with our shield man of course. There is no fault of yours in this.
Elemix nodded to the sleeping slave at the other end of the room. “What will we do with her? She cannot come with us. Our path is very dangerous.”
Em glanced at Rosie. Although her faint smile disappeared quickly, she had the thought that if nothing else perhaps they did manage to save one person. Maybe it’s enough, maybe not, but for tonight it was the best thing she could manage. “You’re right,” she told Elemix. “She can’t go with us. In the morning I need to go down to the town hall and file this paper with a writ stating Rosie is free. We’ve given her money and she has a goal of meeting my old troop in Thalassa. It’s not an ideal situation, but she will be free and if she is cunning and the gods are willing, she will make it at least to Adera on her own.”
“No,” said River, “She is naive and would just become a slave again, either legally or through deception. Instead, I could bring her to Adera, and quickly,” volunteered River. “To be honest, I should not have staying in-character as long as I did. Yes a certain flirtation happens in a performance, but I should have controlled the situation better. Emme, that man’s life is on me, not you. I could have very easily ended that confrontation with a minimum of fuss; but I didn’t want to draw attention to who we are. I took the role over reality. So, I can do what needs to be done while the rest of you handle the dwarf dituation. I am a gifted rider. I can take little Rosie to the border and come back in a day, hiring someone there to take her further, or worst case go to Adera and back and deposit her with my Aunt Delphine. She would take care of the rest – no offense but the gods have not been kind to her so far, I don’t see that changing. We are the hands of Aarith in this matter.”
Emmeline shook her head. “But you’d be riding alone through this country. I can’t let that happen. You are too important to your father and everyone — and to me. And I really don’t want to beat the hornets nest by attacking the dwarf and stealing his slaves. A short bit of divination magic, or just capturing one freed slave and every authority in the land would be hunting us. That does us no good in terms of completing the expedition. If we must protect Rosie, then –”
Emmeline cut herself off. “I’m an idiot. A fool! I can take her of course! I can see in the dark. I can fly, and I can make her fly, too. I have my full suite of powers and magic and I wouldn’t need a full night’s rest to regain them when spent. All the rest of my powers save one are defensive in nature. I can get her to safety and I can return.”
“How long can you fly Emme?” asked River. “Adera is a hundred miles from here, and once you got there, to whom would you entrust her care? I mean I could write a letter of introduction for Lady Delphine, or we could as the Temple of Aarith…wait. Isn’t there a Temple of Aarith here? The Temple has been here for a hundred years. It may not be the largest religion, but it is popular – despite its stance on slavery. The Aarithines could, for a donation I suppose, convey her where we need, within reason.”
Emmeline was hopeful. “Yes! If a temple is here then I — or we — could escort her there right after we establish her freedom in the morning.”
Elemix nodded. “I agree. That would certainly be the simplest solution as well.”
“I can make it happen my friends. Not as River, but as well, you know. I can pull weight. But frankly the best person is our friend here.” River answered while looking at Typhon Ne.
Suddenly, Emmeline shielded her head with her arms and yelled, “Leave me alone!”
Elemix looked at River and Tifane in turn, before quizzically looking back at Emmeline. “Emmeline are you ok,” he said? “What’s wrong?”
River cradled Emmeline in her arms, steadying her, “she’s in pain…”
Elemix crouched down, obviously concerned. “Emmeline what’s wrong. What is hurting you?”
Emmeline groaned and rocked back and forth. “They’re everywhere, hunting… can’t let them in, can’t let them find!” The panic and fear in her voice was chillingly genuine, and was getting loud enough she might rouse patrons. Her eyes were tightly closed and she didn’t seem to be hearing her friends.
River began singing softly, trying to calm Emmeline with spellsongs and her voice, focusing on a song of Emmeric’s
Emmeline slowly relaxed, though she twitched now and then, until she finally went still.
River checked her vitals and said, “she’s alive, but unconscious.”
Rosie, sleeping in the corner, began tossing and turning, mumbling in her sleep.
Elemix, began casting detect magic. He didn’t know if there was anything he could do, but if magic was at work here at least identifying it would be a start. If they were under the effects of some kind of spell he may be able to dispel it, but this kind of attack was something he was entirely unfamiliar with.
They may in fact need to visit the temple earlier then they had planned.
Elemix noted that indeed magic was afoot. Lots of it from a wide variety of sources.
Great, he thought. Elemix tried to focus and narrow down the different sources. He started first on anything affecting Emmeline. He knew she had a ring so he ignored that. He used his knowledge of arcana to try and discern what was happening specifically and how many sources of magic were in effect here.
Elemix could tell there was a diffuse magical effect around her, bleeding into the pattern. That was strongest. At least two, possibly three divination magics were there, but they were weak. Another, dark, twisted and discordant every once in awhile tried to break into the diffuse effect. It was growing. Emmeline herself was reaching out to a myriad of directions, including the sleeping Rosie. And…a floating, invisible ball of magic of a divination nature looked down at her from above and to the right.
Elemix shared what he saw with the group. “Emmeline is under the effects of several magics. I don’t know if I can dispel them all, but I will try.”
With that Elemix targeted Emmeline and cast dispel magic.
He watched to see what if anything was affected in the process. It was the first time he had used the spell in a real situation. He hoped it worked.
Several of the smaller divination magics broke and faded and her diffuse aura weakened. The floating invisible ball of divination magic focused on Elemix briefly and then looked back. Emmeline’s own reaching out vanished. The tendrils of twisted maleficence only grew, taking up the area that was lost. Elemix felt cold, very cold as Rosie awoke with a start screaming “kittens!” Three cats meowed, and a knock was heard on the door with Ricimer’s voice, “what’s going on in there?”
Elemix wasn’t sure if he was helping or hurting her. However he did know how his dispel magic worked. It would effect the weaker magics first, and indeed it seemed to have done so. Now that those were gone, casting it again may effect the stronger magic. But it might also only serve to remove other lesser magics and allow the more powerful ones to grow again. That or it may do nothing at all. If that happened at least he would know whatever was happening to her was more powerful than he could dispel.
Then he remembered Emmelines familiar. Maybe she could tell him what was going on. He called out to her.
For the moment he ignored the door thinking River or Tiphon Ne would deal with it.
River kept holding Emmeline as Elemix called for Sevé, but there was no answer. Like Sang, Sevé could flee to a pocket plane. Maybe she was there, or perhaps she was caught up in these magics.
Meanwhile, Rosie asked, “what’s going on? What’s wrong with Ms. Emmeline?” Ricimer opened the door, leaning in saying, “you all right, eh?”
River said in her Rivanon voice to Ricimer, “she’s under some kind of magical attack. The wizard will deal with it. Guard the door. Let no one in without our leave!” Ricimer obeyed.
As there was no response from Seve and Rosie obviously didnt know anything, Elemix’s only option was to again try to dispel whatever it was that was doing this to her. It had helped Rosie, maybe it would help Emmeline.
Again he cast dispel magic on Emmeline and watched it’s effects.
The diffuse aura, which was starting to come back slightly, disappeared again. Now all of the others save the darkness that was around her faded away. The darkness took hold of her, though none but Elemix could see it. The floating divination sphere looked to Elemix and approached him.
Elemix had only one final dispel magic. He used it then. Casting it in Emmelines direction.
He hoped this last time would do the trick.
The sphere of divination magic left the room, though it did not dispel. The darkness around Emmeline did not change at all, but all other things were gone. It seemed to move, again only visible to Elemix, and then he and he alone heard a voice coming from the darkness, almost a whisper, “you are of her blood. You can serve instead. Give yourself to me and I shall free her from her nightmares and pain forever.”
Of the blood Elemix thought? Serve? This darkness had something to do with her sorcerer blood. Was this Mara? No, he reasoned this was something else entirely. But what?
“What are you,” Elemix replied. “What have you done to Emmeline?”
“We’ve done nothing Elemix Perensson. She called us. Her pain called us. You needed a guard and he killed, the wretch deserved it. She is so pathetically sad about that, so sad and frightened. A little girl with too much power too soon. You are the stronger. We can help you as she cannot even help herself. Call on us and you will be everything you wish to be.” Elemix felt incredibly small, cold, and way past his experience. This was something…beyond. It was awe inspiring and beyond terrifying.
“Sleep,” Rivanon said. “Make her sleep like you did before to yourself.”
Elemix didn’t need to hear more. He had read about this. His teachers had taught him about the dangers of dealing with powers beyond understanding. All power comes with a price. If he had learned nothing else from his years studying magic he had learned that most basic truth early on.
Though he had never encountered anything like this, he was certain whatever it was, it was far more powerful than he.
This is what the council had feared in Emmeline. That she served something like this, or that she could be inclined or forced to serving something like this.
She had a moment of weakness and this thing had come to offer power. Was it right? Had she accepted it? He hoped not.
Elemix summoned the strength of will he had used when encountering Magus Revan the first time.
“At this moment I am everything I wished to be. My knowledge has been paid for by countless hours of systematic practice and study. You will find I have no interest in offers from the likes of you.”
He cast sleep on Emmeline as suggested. Hopefully it would clear and calm her mind.
The spell knocked River unconscious, Rosie as well. Emmeline collapsed toward the floor, but still was in pain. “Likes of us? But you must know that we know the truth. Your lies are transparent. You are not even close to what you wish to be. You have grander dreams that that. Perhaps this…
River looked up and walked toward Elemix, “we love you,” she said, “and you may have us.” Behind him another voice said, “we love you, and you may have us.” it was Alix’s voice. Elemix could feel their hands upon him as they pressed closer.
Ricimer and Typhon Ne saw none of this, only a semi-catatonic Elemix, a writhing Emmeline, whom Typhon had caught, and an unconscious River and Rosie. Unintelligible words came from Elemix’s mouth.
Typhon eased Emmeline to the floor, looking to Ricimer saying, “Please step out, and guard the door. I will see what I can do.”
Without waiting to see if he left, Typhon knelt down next to Emmeline and pulled out her holy symbol, the one given to her by Jocelyn, and began to pray. Asking Aairth and St. Aria to help guide her in helping her companions. Closing her eyes and concentrating on her prayers, seeking to see with her minds eye if there was an evil presence at work here.
For a brief moment, Typhon felt the most terrible evil. A feeling she had felt before and recently in the old temple. But before she could do anything else, Emmeline stopped writhing and went limp. Ricimer, who had been on his way out before, closed the door. All others save Elemix slept soon he too snapped out of it. From Elemix’s point of view, the darkness was gone, as were the voices. River was still where she fell, and Alix was nowhere to be seen.
Typhon was the only one awake save Elemix.
Elemix saw that Typhon was with Emmeline, so he first moved to check on River. Had his spell worked? Was she merely sleeping? He nudged her gently to wake her.
“The darkness is gone,” he said.
Turning next to Typhon he asked, “Is Emmeline ok?”
“I believe she is fine for now,” Typhon replied. “I have driven the darkness away for now, but not sure for how long. I have felt this presence before at the ruined temple where she broke her ancestors curse.”
Typhon then picked up Emmeline and carried her to the small bed in the room. As she turned to Elemix she said, “I believe that River and Rosie are just under the effects of your sleep spell. I noticed that you cast a few spells, what were they?”
Elemix stood as he responded. “I cast detect magic first, and as I said there were several magics at work. I then proceeded to nullify them one by one by casting dispel magic. I think I was able to dispel everything, save perhaps whatever the most powerful dark force was. I don’t know what it was exactly, but it was responding to Emmeline’s internal cry for help. It is very powerful and was willing to grant a portion of its power if she only agreed.”
Elemix looked at Typhon then. “I know this because it offered the same to me. I tried to deny it, but the source was so terribly strong. I managed to put Emmeline to sleep to set her at ease and calm her mind. But then it turned on me. It seemed to try and overwhelm my thoughts. It was a force of immense dark power. What caused it to leave? How long was I out?”
“I caused it to leave,” Typhon replied, “with the help of praying to Aarith and St. Aria. As for how long you were out, I’d say maybe 5 minutes.”
Typhon then knelt down and picked up River, she carried her over and laid her next Emmeline. Turning to Elemix she said, “I’ll stand guard in here while you and Ricimer get some rest.”
Grabbing a couple of blankets, Typhon covered Emmeline and River. Then knelt down and wrapped up Rosie and made her comfortable.
“Emmeline isn’t well,” Elemix said. “Her breathing is too slow, too shallow. I don’t have any skill at healing, nor ability to magically heal.” Elemix tried to wake both Emmeline and River. “If they are merely under the effects of my sleep spell at this point then they should wake.”
He turned to face Typhon then. “I think we may need to seek out the temple of Aarith. Perhaps they have someone that can help.”
“I will go and see if someone can come,” Typhon said. “I will try not to be too long. See if you can wake River, but I’d let Emmeline rest.”
With that, Typhon stepped out the door and headed toward the temple.
After Typhon departed, the sound of the door shutting awoke River. Rosie kept sleeping. “Well, I literally asked for that. Next time, I’ll counterspell for myself.” She stood up looking at Emmeline. “Is she okay?”
Elemix was visibly concerned. He had never been in a situation like this.
“I am afraid not. I dispelled the magics affecting her, but there was an incredibly powerful dark presence that visited. It claimed to have responded to her internal call for help and it offered power. It turned its attention from her to me as I tried to dispel the magic affecting her and it tried to get me to accept its offer. I guess it attacked my mind somehow right after I cast sleep. It knocked me out, and Typhon prayed to Aarith to help.
“That is when I came to. The dark entity had gone. After a brief exchange on what had happened between Typhon and I, we noticed Emmeline was still not ok. Look for yourself. Her breathing is too shallow. I fear there is still something wrong. Typhon left a moment ago to see if he could find aid at the temple. Is there anything you can do to help her? I must think for a moment on what just happened to us all to see if I can make sense of this attack.”
Elemix thought for a moment. If the dark entity had come when she had a moment of weakness, what else had been affecting her? It seemed to have been watching her via divination magic. Elemix had needed to cast dispel magic several times. He thought perhaps Mara had been trying to help at one point, and maybe that was one of the effects, but what were the others. Where had they come from?
Thinking about it, the only thing that Elemix was certain of was that Emmeline’s will was compromised. With her defenses down, any who were seeking her or any one near her with magic could more easily do so. The cause was not magical, at least not in any way discernable. In the case of the entity, it’s nature was beyond Elemix’s knowledge.
“Dark presence?” River asked while monitoring Emmeline, “I felt nothing.”
“It only seemed interested in Emmiline and then myself,” said Elemix. “Perhaps I could sense it because I had cast detect magic. Typhon Ne didn’t see it either. Only how it affected Emmiline and I.”
“She is barely here,” River said. She looked at her and then up to Elemix, “it is as if she was in a trance.”
Elemix looked at Emmiline, still concerned for her. “Yes. Perhaps it is a kind of defense mechanism and she will recover on her own. I dont know. Hopefully the temple will have someone that can help her more.”