Part 17: Anomen's Father and the Shade Lord's Evil!
Chapter 12 - Anomen's Father and the Shade Lord's Evil!
After we had returned from Sigil and Baator (Avernus, actually, but I suppose the specific layers aren't particularly important) we headed off to deal with Anomen's sister's death. It was... Excruciatingly boring.
He is angry with me?
Yes, m'lord. Nothing has changed. When your sister... died, things became worse.
I'd expected as much. Let him vent his bile on me if he so wills it. I am not the child that I used to be. Asim, let us enter.
Speak not of my mother, drunkard. You were never worthy of being her husband.
Yet I was, and your father as well. Never forget that, boy! Your mother would still be alive if you children weren't a handful.
Shut your mouth, father. We've had this conversation before and I've not the patience to listen to it again.
You will listen to what ever I choose to tell you, Anomen. Respect your father, knightling. I am still the man of this family and you will obey me!
Yes, father... I lost my temper and I apologize.
It took you long enough to get here. It wouldn't hurt to come and see your father now and again.
Father, where is Moira, your daughter? What happened to her?
Idiot boy! She's dead! Murdered by the Calimshite fiends!
How did this happen?
How do you think? It was Saerk the Calimshite. It was not enough for him to take my business; he had to take my Moira too.
But why would he kill her? She has nothing to do with your enmity.
Do you understand nothing? He killed her because he could! For years I embarassed him among the merchants, undercut his prices and stole his customers. When my business failed he had a monopoly on the Calimshan shipping routes. He would not be happy until I had nothing. By the end, Moira was all that I had, and now he's taken her too.
Where were the guards? Why was she not protected?
The guards left months ago. I had no money to pay them with. Soon I will lose my house as well. Saerk has taken all of it... all of your mother's and sister's things...
He didn't take it, father. YOU lost it... you lost it...
I lost it because you abandoned your family. If you hadn't run away, Moira would still be alive. You should have been here to protect her! To save her from the brigands!
I'm sorry. I... I did not know...
You should have been here, Anomen. Never forget that! It is too late to save her but your work is not yet finished, Anomen.
What can be done? Moira is dead.
She can be avenged, Anomen. You must kill Saerk and his son. It is the only way that Moira's spirit can be at rest. As for your friends, they would do well to help you for Saerk the Calimshite is a very wealthy man and his gold shall be their reward.
I must see Moira's remains first, father. It will take but a moment. Asim, come with me to Moira's urn. I would speak with you.
I would rather not come with you. Cremated remains make me painfully aware of my own mortality. It's quite depressing, really.
It is imperative that I speak with you. Please come to my sister's remains with me.
Very well, I shall follow you.
To decide between justice and honor! Oh, it is a conundrum that would tie even Boo up in knots. I do not envy you. My decisions are usually easier than this.
Surely if Saerk killed my sister I must avenge her murder. Yet killing for the purpose of revenge is murder by the tenets of the Order. I know not what I should do.
Thou hast no proof of this, squire Anomen. Thou desirest to be a knight and cannot mete out punishment that may not be justice.
[Anomen looks anxiously at you, waiting for you to speak.]
Do not let these thoughts of vengeance cloud your judgement. Killing for revenge is murder. Saerk must be brought to justice, and you must be the one to ensure that it is done.
What you say holds truth yet, as my father says, I am honor-bound to find my sister's killer and take his life.
You are honor-bound to the vows you made to the Order. The path you are considering is evil, Anomen... do not take it. Besides, if you do you won't get the Wisdom boost from knighthood and that's an absolute necessity for you to not suck as a cleric.
Aye. This is right. I feel it in my bones. I've lived under the bitterness of my father's spirit my entire life. It has tainted me to the point where I am willing to partake in it. He can keep his hatred and drown his sorrows as he has always done. Yet the question of my sister's murder remains.
To be honest, I'm not sure that I trust your father's version of events. All that he speaks of seems to be colored by his hatred of Saerk.
They have always been mortal enemies. If my sister was indeed murdered then the magistrate would have investigated. My father's revenge be damned! I have sworn to uphold the law and unlike him, I shall do so. Come, let us return to my father. He may yet be convinced to follow the lawful path. It is not my place to take revenge. Such an act would lead to chaos.
Oh, but chaos is not such a bad thing, my ravens.
Indeed it is not, but I think that in this case the law is correct. For once.
Thou dost not love the Law, Asim?
I do not know. Mortal Law is too easily corrupted by the powers of Darkness for it to be a bastion of safety. However, now is not the time for this debate. And perhaps more importantly, where did Jan go?
I do not know, but I suggest that we take this brief respite from his inane babble as a blessing.
Nay, father. It is time for this foolishness to end.
What do you mean to say, Anomen?
Only that killing Saerk in vengeance would be murder as surely as my sister's death was.
The destriction of evil is never considered to be murder. Do not these knights that you seek to join take such missions themselves?
Not in the manner that you suggest. We must take these charges to the magistrate. This is the only way to end this circle of violence that you have trapped us within.
You fool boy! The magistrate will do nothing. She is a pawn of Saerk!
Bylanna Ianulin is a good and noble woman. You said this yourself before you slipped into the foul clutch of the drink.
You dishonor Moira's memory! You would allow the killer of your sister to go free? You are despicable! You are an insect! To think that I once dreamed of you being my successor, of you carrying the business on after my death! To think that I once took such pride in you!
I will not allow him to go free! He shall be taken before the courts if he is indeed the one who murdered my sister.
How can you doubt such a thing, boy? Saerk is the killer!
Do you have proof, father?
The proof lies in the fact that he has taken everything else from me! Killing Moira would complete my defeat. He need not slay you, for I lost my son to those despicable knights the day that of that damnable parade all those years ago!
Aye, now I see. Such has always been the case in this household. This is about you and only you. Your daughter's death means nothing beyond how it affects your pride and your comfort.
Boy, you've fallen in with evil! Step back from the line and honor your family before it's too late.
I will not, father. I suggest no evil. I suggest the lawful path.
Again I say, obey me, Anomen!
I have obeyed you all my life and received naught but bitterness in return. My friend and I shall take this matter to the magistrate, as the law requires.
If you step out that door then you must never come within again.
Don't do this, father...
Shut your mouth! If you leave now you are forever banished from this place. You will be cast from this family and become a nameless dog, not fit to cower at my feet!
I've been cowering at your feet all my life. Goodbye, father. Perhaps I shall see you again before you drink yourself to death.
You are nothing, boy! Nothing!
Come, Asim, let us leave... we should go and see the Magistrate in the Council of Six building and see if anything can be done, despite father's venom.
Yes, honorable magistrate. I am seeking information on the murder of my sister, Moira Delryn.
Ah... you must be the son of Lord Cor. Anomen, is it? I am afraid that there is very little I can tell you regarding your sister's death.
What do you mean? Surely you have found evidence to link Saerk to her murder? The man will be brought before the courts to meet justice, will he not?
There is insufficient evidence to connect Saerk Farrahd to the murder. The only other person in your father's estate at the time was killed, as well.
Yes, my father... cannot afford additional guards and servants, it seems. But... is there nothing you can do? Surely you know that Saerk is responsible!
I know of your family's feud with the merchant, but a motive is not enough without witnesses or evidence. The rule of law must prevail... surely you understand.
No! There must be something that can be done! Moira's murder cannot go unanswered!
Answered? Take vengeance on the merchant and he replies in kind, and the feud continues unabated. Is it not time for this hatred to be put to rest?
I... I do not know.
This Saerk may be innocent, Anomen. You cannot take vengeance on one who might be innocent... you are a knight, after all, first and foremost.
Yes, you are likely correct in this, my friend. It wrenches my heart that Moira's death should go unpunished, but there is little that can be done. I should not take vengeance upon a man my father believes is guilty only because of his pride. It could just as easily have been a... a burglar, perhaps. And if it is this Saerk, the gods will punish him even if the courts will not. I wish I could return to my father and convince him that this is the best way, but I am sure he will not even see me. He is a stubborn, vile man. Perhaps, in time, he shall see the truth of this matter. At least... that is my hope. Ahhhh, Asim... let us continue on your quest and leave this behind us. It leaves an ashen taste in my mouth that I would sooner forget.
You know, Anomen, Jan "found" something most interesting in your father's manor while he was, ah, separated from us. Shall I read from it?
[date illegible]Oh, joyous day! My wife has given birth to a son. His name shall be Anomen, and he shall be the successor to my empire. Everything I do now, I do so that he may have the comfort I wish him to.
What is this?
3rd of Flamerule, 1355. Today, Anomen saw the Knights of the Radiant Heart on parade. He has been affected greatly and wishes to join them. I cannot let him risk himself in such a way that would hurt his family. I have put my foot down; he shall follow in my footsteps and bring prosperity to his family. I will not see him slain in combat.
What are you reading from?!
14th of Tarsakh, 1369. Anomen is gone. I have lost everything to Saerk the Calimshite, and I have now lost my son forever to the Radiant Heart. My pride. Is that all I have now? My pride, and my Moira? My wife is long dead, my son despises me because I wished him to stay safe. What bitter comfort is pride when I have only two things left that I can be proud of, and one does not understand a thing I do?
Cease your readings, actor!
1st of Mirtul, 1369. She is dead. Moira was slain. I know it must be Saerk. That must be the meaning of what he said when he passed me in the streets earlier today. That smile, the way he said "I have won, Delryn." I know it with every fiber of my being. Moira was the last thing that cared for me, and now she is dead. I am a broken man. I cannot take revenge, for I never learned the ways of combat as Anomen has. I have sent for him so that he might slay Saerk and give the gods' punishment. It... It is all that I can hope for.
SHUT UP. STOP READING.
Haer'Dalis, please... please stop. I am but Saerileth, not Anomen, and I canst not bear this reading.
Seriously, Haer'Dalis. Even I can't stand to hear this. Wait, why am I agreeing with Saerileth again? And ANOMEN, now? Wow, am I ever getting weak.
Very well, my starling and raven. For the sake of pity, I shall stop.
After Anomen's little spotlight theft, it was time to go to the Umar Hills, much to Minsc's delight. Naturally, we had to pass through the Gate district of Athkatla to accomplish this.
Help you? Who are you and what do you mean?
I am a messenger sent by the High Merchant of Trademeet to find someone to help our town. You look like adventurers... you might be just the sort of help we need.
What sort of trouble is the town in? What would I be expected to do?
The town is under attack by animals. The High Merchant thinks druids may be responsible, but we haven't the manpower to find them and stop it.
Why would druids be attacking Trademeet? I've never heard of such a thing.
No one knows why we're attacked... we've done nothing to deserve this. We're not even positive the druids are responsible. They've never done anything like this before. The townsfolk are growing angry, however, and Lord Logan wishes to resolve this before anything unfortunate occurs.
Where is Trademeet?
Here, I can show you on your map. Do you think you might be able to help us?
Yes, I think I can. I've been known to deal with such things in the past.
Excellent! I'll send word to Lord Logan to expect you. Thank you for your assistance.
It cannot be! I would sooner tear out my eyes than strike down innocent animals! Well, perhaps only one eye... but do not think me any less incensed!
Ah, the smell of adventure is nigh! Or is that the ale spilled on the floor? You know, come to think of it, there's not much difference between the two. One usually follows the other, if you take my meaning. Unless you happen to be poor Uncle Prebar, who took a milk bath before and after an adventure. Ahhhh, poor Uncle Prebar. If it weren't for those baths, he might still be with us.
Why? What's wrong with milk baths?
Well, nothing... unless you happen to be attempting to sneak through a dungeon filled with hobgoblins and you have a few dozen cats noisily following the smell of sour milk and meowing all the time. Tsk. Well, at least the smell prevented them from eating him. The hobgoblins, I mean, not the cats.
Well, there's a lovely mental image! It would make for a lovely combined comedy and tragedy. Would you mind if I wrote it, Jan? Giving due credit, of course.
Oh, certainly not Haerry! Though I do wish you would write the play about Angus the Giant Beaver.
Oh, I... Wouldn't deign to touch such a magnificent drama. If by "magnificent drama" you mean "steaming load," that is.
I am a simple merchant. I deal in spices and silks.
Spices? Is that a fact? Stand and deliver whilst I search you.
Now really, there is no cause for that.
I think there is. Here then, is this some of your spices?
Why yes, yes they are... though if you were to think them suspect... would a few gold and a sample turn your eye?
A few gold you say? Hmm... I don't know...
I think you will find my spices well worth it. It is especially difficult to aquire lotus petals of such a dark hue. Almost... black.
You've a deal. On your way then.
Thank you very much, good sir.
What should I be wary of if traveling outside the city?
There are many dangers, though if you are alert you should be quite safe. Wild beasts are always a concern. There may also be the occasional raiding party of bandits, or a wayward troup of scum from the Sythillisian Empire. There is a major skirmish happening with them, but it is far to the south and will not reach us. Is there anything else you wish? I must return to my post.
Might I ask what you are doing with "black lotus"? I couldn't help but overhear.
Mind your own business, fool. Move along.
[Saerileth's voce trembles slightly as she speaks that last word.]
[Put your arms around her.] I only wish I could have come sooner, my love.
My love, mine own. [Saerileth nestles her head against your chest, her raven locks fluttering with your breath.] The sight of thee was such joy-All the pains of Baator, the Abyss, Carceri, and the Gray Wastes could not countervail the joy thy face gave to me. And gives me yet, beloved of my heart.
Creeeeeeeepyyyyyyyyyyyy! It killed me inside to go through that. I'm less of a person for it!
After that, we finally made it to the Umar Hills, where we discovered the mayor being heckled by the townsfolk regarding their troubles.
Aye! Me an' mine need t' get back to herdin', we do...'fore the wolves have gobbled me flock entire!
Errm...calm down, everyone, please. I assure you everything that can be done is being done.
And what is that?
Aye! You just hired a group o' those adventurers, didn't you? Where in the abyss are they?!
Well... they haven't come back yet, no...
Oh! We're doomed! Doomed! We must flee the village!
We must flee before more people go missing!
Now, now, people... come, this is no time to panic...
Please... listen to my husband!
[ahem] Yes... well... we are looking for another group of adventurers, here, to handle the situation...
T' kill them ogres and evil kin, y' mean!
Yes! Ever since that band of monsters moved into the area, we have had nothing but trouble! They're eating people, that's what!
Ye're both daft! 'Tis the wolves that have been wandering the hills, sure enough! Hungry, they is!
It's not wolves, you fool! It's Umar herself, returned to haunt us and steal our children!
Umar? Don't be tellin' that folk tale now! Can't ye see that it's the ogres, plain as th' truth?
People, please! We must first find out what happened to our ranger, Merella... and then track down the source of these murders. More adventurers will come soon.
Well, they can't come soon enough!
Ye best be doin' something, mayor... or we need t' be fleein' to the city for our safety!
I am trying to do something! I just... Everyone remain calm! Panic will not help! I... I am going to return to my home, now. Everyone go home... please...
As we were very, very tired, we headed to the local inn for a night's rest, and maybe a little information.
There're a lot o' things t' be said about yer inn, Vince... but 'humble' ain't the one I would be pickin', aye?
Hush, boy! An' keep callin me "Vince" an' I'll have ye strapped o'er a log! The name's "Vincenzo"!
'At's a lotta rot. Ye hears that name from a Sembian trader an' suddenly yer puttin' on airs! Pfeh!
Never mind the boy. He's an ignorant lout I took in out of pity. A simpleton who doesn't know his place. Is there aught I can do for you, my good Lord?
I'd like to see your services.
Of course, of course! I've not many rooms, mind you... all th' frightened folk who've fled into the village have me near filled up. Only a room or two left.
Jus' don't mind the rodents while yer sleepin'...
Silence, boy! There are no foulsome rodents here other than you! [ahem] Ah... now, my Lord...
What do you think of all these killings around here?
Ah, Vincenzo knows the truth! My family has been in this here area for a long, long time... an' the tales of the witch, Umar, have been passed down, they have!
Yer not gonna get into that rot again, are ye?
Silence, boy! Perhaps I should give you to the witch instead, as an offering, eh? Leave ye out on the doorstep with a lace of garlic tied around yer neck?
I thought that'd shut yer trap. Now, then, me Lord... I can tell ye all about th' witch, Umar... a tale sure to curl your ears, if ye'd care to hear it.
Go ahead, I've got the time.
Like I said... me family has been around these parts for a long time. We were here back when th' witch herself plagued these lands o'er seven hundred years ago. Umar was a wicked one. No one e'er saw her except when she came down from the hills to steal some unfortunate soul. Shepherds, babes... anyone who weren't careful. She'd torture 'em, ye could hear their cries durin' the night. People tried to find her, but only the victims' bodies would turn up... mutilated an' dead.
Don' know why they jus' didn't kill her...
'Cause they couldn't find her, ye stupid boy! Were ye not listenin'? An' besides, she were a powerful witch with plenty o' magic fer any fight. Strange thing is, me Lord, Umar jus' vanished one day. Maybe she were killed, maybe not. But every century or so, it's said she comes back to th' Hills...
Ha hah! This is whar it gets funny, yer story!
I'm warning ye, boy... ye'll be out on yer arse faster than ye can blink, if ye keeps this up! [ahem!] As I said, every century or so, she comes again. People disappear, tortured in the hills. An' only sometimes are th' bodies found. Once Umar's sated herself on blood she returns to whence she came. This is jus' like them other times... people forgets so easily. 'Tis the witch, I tells ye.
Has nobody tried to find this witch in recent years?
Well, there was a group o' mages some years back who came. Young ones... apprentices, I gathered. Two fellas and a young lass, sure enough. They were sent by their master t' look into the Umar witch... or so they said. Nice enough group, but t'were obvious they expected nothin'. Aye, true enough. Them three went into the' Hills... an' they was ne'er found again. 'Cept for the lass' journals... I found those meself, out in the woods. More victims of Umar, herself, sure as daylight. Ye can read it in the lass' journal, sure enough.
Do you think I might be able to take a look at this journal?
Aye, ye can... I had a copy or two done up by a scribe friend o' mine some months back. Ye can have one, if ye likes.
A copy or two? More like ye gots a whole store-room full o' copies of that journal, ye bleedin' banana!
Well, so what if I have? 'Tis a good story, more or less! Make me bloody rich one day... an' then where will ye be, ye little rugrat?
More an' like ye wrote th' journal yerself, I'd wager!
I did nay such thing! Here ye go, me Lord... use it as ye will. But beware the witch if ye goes into the hills. She's not sated yet... not by a longshot...
And he gave us the journal.
We thought it to be peasants but peasants aren't this clever. Joshellus says it's the witch. I hear her when I sleep. I don't want to sleep. I don't want..."
The journal ends here.
As I read, Jan stole off to the back room. It was, as the stableboy said, full of copies.
Very full of copies.
Very, VERY full of copies.
And they just kept going! It was mind boggling.
Anyhow, we then went to the Minister's house to speak with him about the call for adventurers.
We come because the little boy, Delon, said that there was evil here in need of a butt-kicking! And good for us that we have our boots on, yes sir!
You did? Then the boy did get to the city after all. Ah, I am pleased to hear it! You... you have come to our aid, then, yes?
I would like to know more about what is going on here, first.
Herrrm... yes, of course. It's a gruesome business. I'm sure that little Delon told you some of the story, but I should elaborate on it for your benefit. We've had a run of... killings and disappearances here, as of late. People murdered in their beds... their bodies disappearing... bodies found with the skins inside out. Normally we would turn to our local ranger-protector to aid us in a time like this, but our ranger, Merella, has vanished. Several men went to her cabin southwest of the village... and they found no sign of her. It is not like her to be absent for so long. I... I fear the worst. Soon after, shepherds and farmers from the outlying holds began disappearing. People heard strange noises at night... and we have no ranger to turn to! Everyone's frightened... but they're scared to leave, as well, lest they get caught out in the wilderness by whatever has been doing the killing. And, of course, everyone has ideas on what's behind all of this...
It's the ogres, my husband... you know it is.
Errrrm... my wife, Eina. And yes... many people think it's that group of ogres who moved into the area just before the killings began. Likely is, too.
They're in the hills... too close to the village, I say!
Yes... you can find 'em in the hills a bit north of here. 'Course, others think it's a pack of very large wolves that's been ranging the hills for some years. And still others claim Umar, herself... the great witch of the hills... has returned. Legend has it she was responsible for deaths much like these ones.
Pfaw! That is just old legends! Umar has been gone for over five hundred years, my husband!
Yes... true. I suppose I should warn you... I've already hired the famous knight, Mazzy Fentan, and her troupe... but they haven't been back.
Ah, Asim, a fellow knight doth require our aid. We must give it!
Does that mean you will help us?
Whooo... all this talk of Umar brings back memories, let me tell you. My great-great-cousin One-knee was one of the adventurers that hunted the Great Witch of the Hills a long time ago. Said she had a fondness for little children and that her house was made out of chocolate candy, of all things. Personally, a house made of turnips sounds much more appealing, but One-knee stated decisively that the house was delicious, nevertheless. According to his stories, the witch was dead... something about getting shoved in an oven... but then gramma Jansen said that One-knee was pretty delusional, so who knows?
Wolves? Ogres? Witches? Oh my! It is too much for Minsc's poor head to comprehend! Which of these are evil? The edge of my sword shall find the truth!
Oh, you bet I will! Heheheheh.
To be honest, I think you should check on the ogres and their fellows before chasing after legends and such. So... will you... will you help us?
I will make the attempt, yes.
Oh, most excellent! Please, my Lord... go to Merella's cabin and find where she has gone. My... men are too frightened to go that far from the village. Her cabin is west of the village, in the valley. It... it should not be hard to find. There are other, older cabins in the hills... abandoned for many years. Or go north from here to the river and find that Madulf and his beasts. I have little doubt that they are responsible for all of this, but we must be sure.! I am relieved that you have decided to help us. You have the run of the village, my Lord. If you... need anything else... do not hesitate to come to me.
Oh, most glorious day! One step closer we come to being true heroes, yes indeedy! Even little Boo's fur stands on end from his anticipation!