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Les Ombres d'Esteren» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Gwidrite Heresies - Session Nine rss

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Kai S.
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Participating Players
Game Leader – Kai
Maeveen – Sara
Morwenna - Jonna
Nikolas – Fred
Valbrand – Bavo

List of previous sessions

***

The four companions all expectantly stare at Feyre, their disbelief and surprise palpable, but the girl only blushes slightly and looks down, without giving a definitive answer. Morwenna whispers: „No! It can’t be…!“

Valbrand glares at the girl: „So… you made a promise… at an old forsaken shrine, to an old forsaken god!“ The girl just shakes her head and looks him straight in the eye, a confused expression on her face. „The pool,“ Valbrand reminds her, to which the girl shakes her head again. „You asked there, didn’t you? You sacrificed your blood at an old place for a man of the cloth!“ Feyre replies with a gesture that indicates ‚maybe‘. „And now strange things are happening… do you even know, I wonder?“ He looks at the girl for a moment, then notices that she is not even blinking anymore - and there’s that ancientness in her eyes again. „You do, don’t you?“ She shakes her head again. „You’re no longer yourself, I think,“ Valbrand states calmly, to which she defiantly leans back and folds her arms. The Blade Knight stands up: „Feyre, I charge you with committing heresy in act!“

Suddenly from outside a commotion can be heard. The young knight looks to the door in surprise, then says to the girl: „Stay here!“ He walks to the door and steps outside, where a group of around twenty villagers, most of them men, has assembled. There are even several members of the militia among them, brandishing their swords and halberds. Standing in the door Valbrand calls: „What is this?“

Balduin, the farmer who accosted Morwenna a few days ago, steps forward and yells: „Hand over Bran! He killed Renan!“ His speech is slightly slurred, he’s probably drunk.

„He is within the hands of the church,“ Valbrand replies imperiously.

„We demand justice!“ Several other villagers sound their approval of this demand.

„It will be dealt!

„We demand it be dealt now! Step aside, knight!“

Valbrand takes the great helmet he usually has at his belt and puts it on. Grabbing his shield he replies: „You will not enter this temple, that is my duty!“

„Stand down, knight!“ Balduin seems to have lost most of his respect for the Blade Knight, no longer addressing him as ‚Sir Knight’.

Valbrand slowly draws his sword: „You may stand out here and shout, but the first one to step onto this,“ he points to the first step of the stairs, „will be in violation of his faith!“

The villagers exchange quick looks and after a moment of hesitation the entire group moves towards the church door. „Don’t let one single knight stop you,“ Balduin calls. One of the militia members mutters: „He’s nothing but a boy.“

Holding his sword in front of his face Valbrand starts praying and then it seems like a large ethereal bell rings once while a slight wind picks up. He feels a surge of strength and an immortal anger rising within his body - and both Nikolas and Maeveen feel the same, when the Divine Wrath Valbrand called upon strengthens them as well. Once the Blade Knight has finished his prayer he calls: „Stand back! This is your last warning!“ Meanwhile Nikolas rushes Morwenna out the church’s backdoor and they run over to the parsonage to try and get help from Brother Yorum.

The mob hesitates for a second, but then Balduin yells: „Don’t let ’em scare you, let’s get that bastard!“

A drunken growl rises from the mob… and then they charge. Maeveen, in an attempt to defuse the situation, calls: „Is it really appropriate to bring your drunken anger into this place?“ The time for talking is over though and the villagers no longer listen to her, instead moving towards the church doors, Balduin, accompanied by several members of the militia, leading the charge. The combat is short but brutal - the villagers are no match for the trained knight and the blacksmith, who send people flying left and right, breaking a few bones, noses and jawbones in the process, most notably the nose of Balduin. Valbrand, who the villagers perceive as the more dangerous combatant, takes several gracing wounds though, when the sheer number of attackers threatens to overwhelm him. Angrily he shouts: „Back! Last warning!“ When this seems to have no effect, the knight kicks one of the fallen militia men, who is trying to get back up, in the chest with his armored boot. The man’s ribcage cracks and he starts coughing and gasping for air… and with a muffled scream he collapses on the ground, clutching his throat and chest.

Suddenly there is an eerie silence and all of the villagers slowly back away from the dying man. Valbrand calls out: „I have not used my blade yet! Do not make me!“

„You killed him,“ Balduin, his voice slightly muffled, yells back.

„And you tried to kill a Blade Knight!“

„You’re a heretic, you are protecting a murderer!“

„And you are a coward,“ the knight yells. „And you are also a fool and an irreligious numbskull! Come fight me, if you have the will, but run away if you don’t!“

Balduin quickly glances around, checking how many of the mob are still around and then yells: „Get ’em!“

„Do you wish to die for this man?“ Valbrand calls to the other villagers. „I have given you enough warnings already! Back away! Live another day or make peace with the Lord!“ Maveen stands next to him and gives the villagers an intimidating look… and finally the mob backs down and disperses into the night. One body remains lying in front of the church doors, faint breathing still audible, but after a few moments it stops and with a final sigh the body lies still. Maeveen slumps to the ground once the Divine Wrath Valbrand afflicted her with leaves her again and stares wide-eyed into nothingness, while Valbrand sheathes his blade: „Fools…! Foolish men, he didn’t have to die!“

Maeveen slowly gets up and walks over to the corpse. She recognizes the man: it’s Farrell - Finn’s father!

„Foolish man,“ Valbrand mutters again - he was not trying kill the farmer, instead actually holding back… but he seems to have misjudged his own strength. „Foolish man…“ He turns to the blacksmith: „Are you okay, Maeveen?“

She stammers: „I… I… what… what was that?“

„That was the will of the Lord,“ Valbrand replies. „He is always with us and he protects his own.“

Maeveen walks to a wall, leans her head back and closes her eyes - this is a bit too much for her.

***


When, about a minute later, their companions followed by both Yorum and Callum return, Morwenna runs towards the blacksmith and puts an arm around her shoulder, comforting her. „Are you okay?“

„Yes… yes, I am…“

„You sure?“

„Yes…“

„You don’t exactly look like you’re okay.“

Maeveen whispers: „Something strange happened…“

„Besides the villagers deciding to suddenly attack us?“

„Yes…“

„What happened?“ Morwenna asks.

Maeveen pauses for a moment, then says: „I… I don’t know how to explain it…“

„You remember how I keep telling you that stranger things do exist, right? Was it something like that?“

„In a way.“

Morwenna nods and then simply hugs her friend.

Valbrand, meanwhile, kneels down next to the dead body, rolls him on his back and closes his eyes, whispering a prayer. Nikolas joins him and quickly examines the body - but there’s nothing he can do for the man, Farrell is clearly dead. Callum and Yorum kneel down next to the body as well, both starting to pray in unison.

„He fought well,“ Valbrand quietly says. „Foolishly, but well. May the Lord forgive him, and may He forgive me as well.“ He rises.

Yorum looks at the knight: „What happened?“

„The villagers wished to force their way into the church. I told them not to.“

The young priest sighs: „That was to be expected after Renan’s death.“ Valbrand simply nods and Yorum continues: „Have you made any progress in your investigation, Brother Valbrand?“

„Yes. Feyre is to be charged with heresy in act and I suspect there is not just act but thought as well.“

„Where is she?“

Valbrand motions with his head towards the church: „I was interrogating her at the site of the altar, so that perhaps He might save her soul.“

„Then lets talk to her.“

The young knight nods again and takes off his helmet: „Let’s go then.“ He quickly checks his wounds: they’re minor cuts, inconvenient but not dangerous.

„Let me take a look at these later,“ Nikolas suggests.

„Yes, but not now,“ Valbrand agrees.

Maeveen gets up and walks over to the priest: „Brother Yorum… you know she did it all for you?“

The young priest stares at her, both eyebrows raised as far up as possible: „What?! What do you mean?“

„The girl’s in love with you!“

The priest shakes his head: „Foolish girl…“

They all walk back into the church, where they - unsurprisingly - discover that Feyre is gone. Valbrand simply nods: „Understandable… we’ll find her then.“

***


After quickly discussing the affair with Callum and Yorum, Valbrand goes to check on Bran and finds the madman still sitting in his cell. He looks up when the Blade Knight and his companions enter the small basement area - and his entire demeanor seems to have changed significantly: he has never before been this calm, collected and almost lucid.

„Bran, how are you doing,“ Morwenna walks right up to the cell’s door.

„I’m fine,“ he replies, his voice very soft and mellow.

„Did you see where Feyre went?“

He shakes his head. After a moment he whispers: „But I heard her leave!“

„So you have an idea where she went?“

„Light as a feather was her step when she fled the church…“

„You heard that? Down here?“ Nikolas looks at him in disbelief. „How’s that possible?“

„Do you have an idea which way she went?“ Morwenna asks. „Back home? To the forest?“

The madman smiles: „The forest would welcome and thank her.“

„Why?“

„For all the things she has done for it…“

„Sacrificing her blood, you mean?“ When Bran slowly nods, Morwenna adds: „Has she done something else?“

Bran just smiles at her, so Nikolas asks: „How do you know these things?“ The only answer he gets is another eerie smile. „Were you an accomplice of hers?“ The look the madman now gives him is slightly bemused, saying ‚seriously?‘.

Morwenna takes over again: „How do you know the forest will be grateful?“

„Because I talk to it,“ Bran, who seems to trust the herbalist, replies. „It whispers in my dreams!“

„The whole forest or just part of it?“

„All of the forest!“ He lets his gaze wander over to Valbrand. „The spirits talk to me,“ he whispers, which earns him a conspiratorial nod from Morwenna.

Valbrand shrugs: „Let them talk… it’s good to get at last a confession…“

Morwenna continues: „So, what does the forest tell you, other than that the forest likes her?“

„Many things…“ Bran whispers. „About the shadow…“

„The shadow is scary, isn’t it? Or is it your friend?“

„Maybe,“ Bran smiles. „Maybe it is your friend as well!“

Morwenna quickly glances behind her: „You think so?“

Valbrand, having grown tired of the madman’s ramblings, curtly states: „We must find Feyre!“

„Yes, we do,“ Morwenna sighs. She turns to Bran again: „Is Feyre safe where she went?“

„Bran, what is going on in this village?“ Nikolas interjects.

„The shadow has taken hold everywhere… even within you…“ Bran looks to the doctor.

„Yeah, you’ve already told us,“ Maeveen cooly replies.

„But what does the shadow want?“ Morwenna calls. When Bran shrugs, she adds: „You don’t know what it wants?“

„Nobody does…“

„Is it dangerous?“

„Yes!“

„So, can we somehow make it go away?“ When Bran nods, she continues: „How?“

The madman pointedly looks to Valbrand: „Make him go away!“

„So, the shadow would follow him?!“

„Yes!“

„But why him?“ Nikolas asks.

„Because he is so bright and shiny!“ Bran looks at the glinting armor the knight is wearing.

Maeveen calls: „Honestly, are you taking him seriously? Morwenna, Nikolas…!“

„I will wait outside,“ Valbrand sighs and stomps up the stairs to the church’s backdoor.

Morwenna continues unperturbed: „Bran, why is he shiny? What makes him bright and shiny compared to others?“ She notices that the madman seems to have the same ancient look in his eyes that they saw in Feyre’s eyes.

Bran leans forward and whispers: „The shadow wants to corrupt the shiny ones…“

„Oh… so, people who are serving the Lord?“ Morwenna asks, but Bran simply shrugs.

Nikolas slowly nods: „So it is an evil spirit then!“

„Well, that’s debatable,“ Morwenna shrugs as well.

Maeveen angrily interjects: „Are you really going to listen to the advice of a madman?! Are you going to drive Valbrand out of this village because of what he says?!“

„No…“ Morwenna replies.

„Because, so far he’s not very useful,“ Maeveen continues. „Even if he was useful… could we trust him?“

„Maeveen, none of this makes any sense,“ Nikolas says. „It’s so… weird and…“ He sighs.

Morwenna turns to the blacksmith: „Look at his eyes! I’m not even sure it’s Bran speaking or something else! Don’t you see it?“

„No, I don’t see anything wrong with his eyes,“ Maeveen snaps. „Except for the usual dumb glare!“

Nikolas angrily shrugs and calls: „Fine! Let’s find Feyre then.“

„Hang on,“ Morwenna is not done yet and turns back to Bran. „Where did the shadow come from? Has it always been here?“ When he nods, she continues: „But we haven’t seen it here before! Did something wake it up?“

„It has always been here… but it is waiting…“

„Waiting for what?“

„For the shiny ones!“ Bran starts laughing hysterically.

„Shiny ones… and the rest of us,“ she makes a gesture encompassing herself and her two remaining companions, „we’re not shiny ones?“

„No…“ The madman moves closer to the door and smiles at the herbalist. „But I like you!“

„Well, thank you…“ She takes a step back. „So, everything is okay, Bran, right?“

„Yes, yes…“

„Okay, we have to go find Feyre. She might be in danger.“

The madman simply shrugs and sits down in a corner of the penitent’s cell again, while Maeveen, Morwenna and Nikolas leave the tiny basement area.

***


When they step out of the church they see that Farrell’s body has been taken away. Morwenna turns to Nikolas: „That was really weird, to say the least!“

„Yes, it is,“ the doctor nods. „I mean, it’s so… strange! But even if there’s merely a grain of truth in his ramblings…“

„That’s a really scary thought!“ She turns to him. „Did you see his eyes? Was I imagining things? Maeveen didn’t see it…“

Nikolas shakes his head: „No, I didn’t see anything either…“

„It’s like they weren’t even his eyes anymore, as if something else was there! I don’t like this!“ She throws her arms up in frustration. „And what does this whole ‚shiny ones‘ thing mean? Is Valbrand in some sort of danger now?“

At this moment Valbrand walks up to them again, after having taken a short walk to clear his mind. „Her home or the woods,“ he asks.

„We should check her home first,“ Nikolas suggests.

The knight nods, puts his helmet back on and swings his shield on his back - entering the village might be dangerous right now, so he goes prepared.

***


The village is eerily quiet, which was to be expected close to midnight, but still feels ominous to the four companions after the events from earlier tonight. A few minutes later they arrive at the bakery, where they can see a dim light shining through a window on the first floor. Valbrand knocks and after a few moments Tristan carefully opens the door and peeks out. Not even greeting the man, the Blade Knight asks: „Is your daughter here?“

The answer comes way too quick: „No, Sir Knight.“ The man seems not only really worried when he sees the knight, he is literally shaking and doesn’t look Valbrand in the eye.

„Are you simply afraid or are you lying to me?“

„Afraid, Sir Knight,“ the baker whispers… and then tries to close the door right in Valbrand’s face.

With lightning-fast reactions Valbrand puts a foot in the door, preventing it from being closed. „Do not lie to me! Is she here?“ Tristan shakes his head again, so Valbrand says: „I will look inside for her then!“ He tries to push the door open - but Tristan pushes back, not wanting to let him in.

„Valbrand!“ Nikolas calls.

„Yes?“ He turns to look at Nikolas.

Maeveen glares at the young knight: „Do you want to make an enemy of everyone? Are you really that stupid?“

Valbrand shrugs: „I already have, have I not?“

„No, but it looks like you’re trying to,“ the blacksmith coldly tells him.

„You think he’s telling the truth?“

„Not a good enough reason to barge into his home, regardless!“

The Blade Knight nods: „Very well then!“ He steps back and Tristan quickly slams the door shut. „Then we must find her somewhere else! The stone circle, probably… or the pond.“

Maeveen shakes her head: „I’m not trampling in the forest in the middle of the night! I’m not that stupid!“

„But we must go before the trail goes cold,“ the knight calls. He starts marching towards the edge of the forest and after a moment of hesitation Nikolas joins him.

Maeveen stays behind and firmly shakes her head: „I’m not going there. I’m not stupid.“

„We must chase her before she gets away,“ Valbrand calls.

Morwenna turns to her friend: „I can understand why you don’t wanna go there, but I cannot afford not to go, because I sort of live there, so… if I ever want to go home and not spend the rest of my life being afraid, then I have to go!“

„Fair enough,“ the blacksmith shrugs.

Nikolas turns and calls: „If we stand together, then it’s less scary!“

Morwenna gives him a half-smile: „If you say so…“

„Well, at least that’s what I hope…“

Maeveen calls: „She’s not worth it!“

Valbrand turns and walks back to Maeveen, giving her a stern look: „She is dabbling in darkness, do you really think if we do not catch her it will not grow worse?“

„Maybe she’s in danger actually,“ Morwenna suggests.

„Her fault probably,“ Maeveen shrugs, still not convinced.

„True…“

„But we must protect,“ Valbrand states.

Morwenna nods: „And she’s young! People make stupid mistakes when they’re young… I mean, people even make stupid mistakes when they’re older!“

„But that doesn’t give you a right to expect someone to save you,“ Maeveen protests.

„I do not expect to save her,“ Valbrand replies. „I expect to do what I must!“

„Then do what you must,“ she coldly tells him.

„Very well.“ The knight nods. „Walk with god, Maeveen.“

„You too.“

Valbrand turns to Nikolas and Morwenna: „Who walks with me?“

Nikolas turns to Maeveen: „If we don’t join him, there might be no-one to help him.“

Maeveen shrugs and walks back into the village, while Valbrand, Morwenna and Nikolas head into the forest.

***


During the night the forest looks pretty much the same in every direction and after only a few minutes the three companions don’t quite know where they are anymore. After stumbling about for half an hour they suddenly reach an old tree that looks familiar to Morwenna. She guides her two friends further and finally they reach what looks like the clearing with the pond. „I think this is it,“ Morwenna says. „But… I’m not quite certain… so dark…“ She suddenly stops - the clearing actually is way too dark even for this time of night, neither the tree stump nor the pond are visible at all. Valbrand raises his lantern higher, but the clearing remains pitch-black.

„This is not a good sign,“ Morwenna whispers. „I think we should go back!“

Nikolas stares at the swirling black mass: „What is this?“

„I don’t know, but I think we should leave now!“

Nikolas takes a hesitant step forward: „It seems to move…“

„I’m dead serious, we should go back!“

„Who goes there?“ The doctor calls, his voice slightly trembling.

„We should go,“ Morwenna whispers, when a faint laughter can be heard coming from the clearing.

Valbrand calls: „Speak!“ He only gets another laughter in response - a male voice. „Say your name, demon!“

The laughing continues - and Morwenna has heard this voice before, during one of her nightmares. The instant she recognizes the voice she turns and starts walking away from the clearing: „Alright, I’m outta here!“

„Morwenna, wait!“ Nikolas calls. „Don’t go alone!“ He turns to follow her.

„Valbrand, come on, please,“ the herbalist pleadingly calls back towards the knight.

„I will return for you, demon,“ the Blade Knight states and then retreats as well, slowly walking backwards while keeping his eyes fixated on the black mass… when suddenly something seems to have grabbed his ankle! Drawing his sword he swipes downward, but the blade simply passes through thin air, while the hold on his leg remains. Anxiously he looks down - and it seems like a shadowy tendril has actually grabbed him. Desperately he tries to break free, but the blackness’ hold on him is simply to strong and now starts pulling him towards the clearing…

Morwenna and Nikolas, who are already a bit further away, suddenly hear the knight start singing a hymn. „Why’s he singing?“ Morwenna whispers in surprise.

Nikolas recognizes the tune: it’s a war song for the Blade Knights. „He’s going to battle! Morwenna, we can’t just leave him there! We’ve gotta help him!“

„Okay, but I won’t go anywhere near that thing!“ Morwenna nods and allows Nikolas to take her hand, after which they both start hurriedly walking back towards Valbrand’s voice.

The Blade Knight’s predicament has gotten worse by now - a second black tendril is now reaching for his face. For a moment he thinks he has warded it off, but then an inky blackness rises before his eyes and he seems to go blind.

Morwenna and Nikolas arrive back close to the clearing and they can see what’s going on now: a shadowy tentacle has grabbed the knight by the ankle, while a second tentacle is engulfing his head, seeping in through the slit in the knight’s helmet.

Valbrand suddenly hears the male voice very close to his ear: „Remember this, knight: you have now been marked!“ And then the shadow’s grip on him loosens and the tentacles let him go. Struggling to his feet he stumbles back a few feet and then leans against a tree, where he takes his helmet off.

Nikolas rushes to the knight’s side: „Quick, let’s get back to the church immediately!“ He closely examines Valbrand’s eyes, looking for any signs of the ancientness they saw in Feyre’e eyes… but in the dim light of the lantern he can’t seem to find anything.

„What happened?“ Morwenna calls.

Slightly shaking and without saying a word Valbrand rises to his feet again and starts walking back towards Niddrie, his two companions in tow who do not dare talk to him.

***


When they finally arrive at the village Valbrand suddenly says: „We return tomorrow at down with fire! That place will burn!“

„Are you sure?“ Morwenna asks.

„It must!“

„Why?“

„You heard the laughter, you saw the darkness!“

„I did.“

Valbrand angrily calls: „There can be no true life as long as this is near!“

„And are you sure that burning the clearing down is actually gonna take care of that?“

„If I could, I would freeze the place in the name of the Lord! But I cannot!“ The knight sighs. „I must go pray.“

Nikolas suggests: „Maybe we should see Brother Yorum or Father Callum… to purify you…“

„I will pray for guidance,“ Valbrand replies and marches up towards the church, where he then kneels at the altar and starts praying, still deeply shaken. After a few moments he is joined by Nikolas, who is almost as shaken as the knight - and for the first time in a long time, the doctor’s prayers are honest and sincere…

***


While Valbrand is praying, he suddenly thinks that someone is whispering in his ear. He tries to ignore it at first, but the voice is persistent: „Do you think this is gonna save you? What are trying to accomplish with this?“ The knight continues praying, but the voice just goes on: „You’re speaking into the void, there’s no-one listening… no-one to answer your call for help!“

This finally gets a reaction out of the knight, who angrily says in his mind: „I have seen him today, demon!“

„You have seen nothing.“

„You will see fire before the day has come!“

The voice laughs: „I doubt that, boy…“

„The last who called me boy has retreated. You will be no different! I have the Lord and I have faith, I do not need you, nor do I fear you! Begone!“

„You may have faith… but there is no Lord!“

Valbrand simply continues praying - and the voice continues mocking him relentlessly.

***


Morwenna doesn’t feel like going back through the dark forest to her hut right now, so she instead heads over to the smithy, where Maeveen is still laying awake and praying, trying to come to terms with the strange divine fury that took hold of her today. Her prayer is interrupted by Morwenna gently calling from outside: „Maeveen? Are you still awake?“

An annoyed voice, that Mowenna recognizes as belonging to Emrys, Maeveen’s husband, replies: „She’s upstairs!“

„Sorry…“ Morwenna quickly heads upstairs. „Maeveen?“

The blacksmith looks up: „Oh, it’s you…“

„Something really bad happened in the forest,“ the words just start pouring out of Morwenna’s mouth. „I don’t exactly know what happened, but… when we got to the clearing…“

„How bad?“

„Everybody’s alive, so not that bad, but…“ She takes a deep breath. „The clearing was pitch-black, I have never seen darkness like that before! I kinda looked like it was swirling and at that point I heard that laughter that I had heard in my nightmares so many times! I could swear that it was definitely the same thing, and I tried to get Nikolas and Valbrand to leave, but… they refused!“

„Wait, wait, wait… take it one step at a time,“ Maeveen says, trying to calm the herbalist down. „You heard a voice from your nightmares?“

„Yes, in the forest, in the darkness!“

„And what did they do?“

„Well, at that point I left! When I saw that darkness, I tried to make them leave, but they refused, so I just started walking away and pretty soon Nikolas followed me, but… I don’t know what happened to Valbrand, maybe he wasn’t even trying to get away, but suddenly we heard him singing of all things and then Nikolas explained that it was some sort of a war hymn or something and we walked back! I don’t know what happened to him, he wasn’t even talking to us!“

„Morwenna, please… what happened to him?“

„I don’t know, because he refused to say anything! He just said that he needs to pray!“

„So, he went into the darkness and now he’s acting strange?“

Morwenna nods: „Yes, sort of… I mean, he doesn’t look like Bran, but… well, he looked like… like he saw a ghost!“

„Remind me the next time that boy has any stupid ideas to shake them out of him,“ the blacksmith sighs. „Why did he have to go into the forest?“

„I don’t really know…“

„Alright, where is he?“

„He went to church, he kept saying he needs to pray,“ Morwenna says. „And I think Nikolas actually stayed at the church too.“

„Fine…“ Maeveen gets up. „Let’s go.“

„I’m a little bit scared! I mean, how often do you actually hear voices from your nightmares in the real world?“

„I know, I know… but that means that your nightmares are probably not your nightmares at all.“

„Which makes it even more disturbing!“ Morwenna sighs. „I don’t feel like going home tonight.“

„Don’t. You can stay here.“

„Thank you. But… I don’t know what to do with Valbrand!“

Maeveen shrugs: „I don’t know either… but let’s go talk to him.“

***


Nikolas and Valbrand are still praying when the two women enter the dark church, which is illuminated by only a single candle on the altar. Maeveen intently looks at the Blade Knight for a few moments - to her he doesn’t look possessed, but then again she doesn’t know what possessed people look like. Since he also doesn’t seem to be dying right now, she decides that chastising him for stupidity can wait until morning…

At one point Valbrand looks up and sees the two women leaving the church again, Morwenna giving him an apologetic shrug, to which he responds with a look of confusion, wondering what this was all about.

***


The next morning comes and Nikolas wakes up with a bad back - at some point during the night he fell asleep while praying and spent the night in a very uncomfortable position. He gets up, stretches and then returns to his practice. On the way he sees Maeveen already working the forge and Valbrand who is walking over to the parsonage, where he knocks on the door: „Father Callum!“

The door opens after a few moments and the old priest peeks out: „Yes, Brother Valbrand, what is it?“

„Walk with me, please.“ They start walking and after a few moments, the knight continues: „You have been here for a long time, if I understand it? Was this your first posting?“

„No, it wasn’t. I have been assigned to other villages before.“

„Who has the most knowledge of this area?“

Callum shrugs: „Probably some of the older villagers.“

„Then I must ask them. Because when we were at the site of the heresy yesterday, there was living darkness there and a laughter that mocked the Lord! It is crucial that we act!“

„And what is it that you are looking for, Brother Valbrand?“

„Any information on how to combat it. It has made itself known to me… it spoke to me and it has taunted me.“

Upon hearing this Callum moves a little bit away from the young knight and changes topics: „Have you been able to find the girl?“

„No, unfortunately not. I think she is there.“

„I see…“

„But I know not what to bring,“ Valbrand says. „Cleansing fire, perhaps, but…“

„Fire would probably be the most suited tool.“

„I will talk to some of the elders, see if they know something about this place.“

„Do that,“ Callum nods. „I will inform Brother Yorum.“

„Very well then. Take care, Father Callum.“

„May you walk with the Lord, Brother Valbrand, especially in these dark times.“

Valbrand nods: „May he protect us all!“ With that he walks towards the village to find some of the village elders.

***


When Valbrand, who is on his way to find some of the village elders, stomps past the forge, Morwenna, who is sitting outside the building with Nikolas, calls: „Valbrand!“

The knight stops: „Morwenna, what is it?“

„Can you sit down here a little bit? I’m gonna fetch Maeveen.“ Morwenna walks inside the forge to get the blacksmith.

With a slight smirk the knight mutters: „I don’t know if I wish to tangle with her today… she was very… efficient at the church…“

Nikolas frowns and again examines the knight’s eyes, while he asks: „Are you alright, Valbrand?“

„No, not quite,“ the Blade Knight replies. When the blacksmith, accompanied by Morwenna, approaches him, he nods anxiously: „Maeveen…“

„Valbrand,“ she cooly says and looks at him without saying another word.

After a moment Morwenna speaks up: „I was just worried about you, Valbrand. Are you okay? You really weren’t yourself last night! And, also, what happened?“

The knight shrugs: „I retreated and the moment I turned to follow you, it attacked.“

„What attacked you? Was it some sort of animal?“

Valbrand looks around at the village square and then motions for them to go inside the forge. There he briefly sketches the encounter, while Maeveen continues working to drown out his words for anyone listening in on them.

Once he’s done, Morwenna says: „I probably should’ve told you sooner, but you probably wouldn’t have believed it anyway - but Bran told me to get rid of the shadow we’d have to chase you, Valbrand, away, because to the shadow you are a ‚shiny one‘.“

Valbrand frowns: „I’m not the only one who wears mail in this village. Judoc does so as well.“

Morwenna shrugs: „Somehow I doubt he was referring to your armor…“

„Yes, your armor is not that shiny,“ Maeveen agrees.

„It is not supposed to be,“ the knight replies defensively.

Morwenna continues: „Well, anyway, after what happened during the night I can’t help but think there’s a connection between what Bran said and the events of the night!“

Nikolas isn’t convinced: „Well, we talked to a madman, so I’m not sure anything he said made any sense…“

„But does a shadow grabbing Valbrand’s ankle make any sense?“ Morwenna asks.

„This taint seems to try and corrupt people of the faith,“ Nikolas calls. „And probably it’s not a good idea to stay here any longer, at least for Valbrand.“

„I will not retreat from my calling,“ the knight sharply replies.

„Valbrand, you’re not running away from danger… yesterday a man died… where will this end? This is escalating at increasing speed!“

„Nikolas, do you think that me leaving will lead to less escalation?“

Morwenna nods: „Yes, leaving at this point will not make any difference, if Valbrand can already hear this shadow in his thoughts!“

They all start talking over each other, until Maeveen sharply calls: „We’re not taking advice from a madman! And you,“ she points at Valbrand with a red-hot iron, „ are not going around doing anything stupid anymore! What were you thinking?!“

The knight quietly replies: „That something had to be done…“

„Yes, something had to be done,“ the blacksmith angrily continues. „In the middle of the night, this minute! You didn’t even find her!“

„I think she is there.“

„You think she is there - on what do you base this?“

„The voice, Tristan said…“

Maeveen cuts him off: „On a voice that only you hear!“

„No, they heard laughter as well!“ Valbrand points to Nikolas and Morwenna. „That was the entire thing that tipped us off! Tristan heard a male voice - she speaks with that voice!“

„Are you possessed now?“ The blacksmith glares at him.

„Yes, probably.“

„So, whatever plans we make with you here, whatever demon possesses you will know! Great! Just great!“

Nikolas speaks up: „And that’s why I think we should leave! So we do not endanger the rest of the village even more and also to get you some help, Valbrand!“

The Blade Knight nods: „Yes, but therefore I cannot leave. Because if I leave, there is no end to this!“

„But Valbrand, what do you think you can accomplish against this shadow?“ Nikolas asks. „We saw it yesterday, what do you want to do?“

„We have to figure out a way,“ Morwenna says. „That’s what we have to do.“

Valbrand calmly states: „Burn. Fire cleanses.“

Maeveen laughs in disbelief: „Listen, we’re not doing anything with Valbrand until we get whatever is inhabiting him out!“
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