Part 62: The Darkest Corner of Hope
Chapter 47 - The Darkest Corner of Hope
Music - "Halls Beneath the Ground"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
Previously on Divine Divinity:
I just heard the news. Congratulations, Jenna. Look at you. Just 28 years old, and you're going to be an ambassador. Even for you, that's impressive.
Thank you, but it's not as impressive as you think. The Dukedom of Ferol is mostly just farmland and forest. I won't have many real responsibilities when I'm there.
The handwriting of the letter suggested that it had been written in a panic, it was fast and erratic, with no flourishes.
Jeremiah Liro - I'm a friend of Jenna. She's missing, I may not survive long. Hiding from assassin while writing this. Something terribly wrong in Stormfist. Don't know who to trust. Come to Ferol. Urgent.
That was it, aside from an "R" scribbled at the bottom in an even hastier fashion than the rest of the letter.
I'm on the run, stranger. My name is Richard, and I was a noble knight, stationed at Stormfist Castle, but I made a grievous mistake. The late Duke's son has sent an assassin after me!
My name is Jeremiah Liro.
Jeremiah Liro from Idfrennia?! Is it really you?
Yes, I'm from Idfrennia, how do you know-
Thank the Gods you got my letter!
Tell me, please! What happened to my sister? Does Jenna's disappearance have anything to do with the reason the Duke's son sent an assassin after you?
I'm afraid so. That malignant brat, Janus, wants me dead because I questioned the circumstances of his father's death. Something about how the old duke died seemed fishy to me.
"You got Jenna involved in your investigation, didn't you." I said quietly. "What were you thinking?!" I shouted.
It was a few weeks ago. I entered my room in the castle, and lit the lamp. I was about to remove my armor when I heard something move behind me. I moved just enough that the bastard's sword skittered across my plated shoulder instead of plunging into the gap at my neck.
Richard paused in his story. "Still, I was unprepared for the attack and fell forward, bouncing off of a chair. I was unarmed at the time ... Like all evil men, he felt the need to have a good gloat over me when he thought me helpless. "That's when I kicked him in the nadgers. I knew that they might also have sent someone after Jenna."
Richard paused for a drink of water. "I made it to her room, but she wasn't there. I knew something was wrong, though."
I braced myself for bad news.
"Signs of a struggle?" I asked. My voice sounded hollow in my own ears.
There could have been, although there was no blood, thank the gods. But someone had clearly been there and searched the place. Some things were out of their usual place.
'Their usual place'? Was he... No, that's not important now.
I left a note telling her to meet me at a spot we knew in the farmlands.
How stupid do you think I - the GUILDMASTER of the assassins - am?
I just thought you might like the bodies of your men back. Well, not men anymore...
You?! All right... all right... You win, I will tell you everything you need to know!
Tell me about Jenna Liro!
He seemed confused, but it might have been a trick.
The Ambassador to Stormfist from Idfrennia! Jenna Liro! Did you fulfill your contract to kill her?
He didn't seem to recognize the name. Yarun relaxed slightly.
I don't know who you're talking about. The only contract we had at Stormfist recently was for your Sir Richard. I know nothing about the girl.
There weren't many guests in Stormfist Castle at this time. The room which had been Jenna's had been cleared out completely. There was no sign of anything personal; it was now just another guest room. Having come all this way, I wasn't going to just give up. I looked around, and spotted something beneath the bed. It was a silver earring in the shape of a rose.
I recognized it. Mother had given it to Jenna as a birthday gift... It was the last birthday gift she had given to Jenna before she died. Jenna treasured those earrings. She would never have left one behind carelessly.
The sender of the letter, "I"; who was he? Who were the "we" he spoke of - the Black Ring? Were "I" and Elrath members of the Black Ring? "I" seemed to be close to Janus... and so was Elrath.
Could Janus be a member of the Black Ring? ... No, that doesn't make any sense. Janus can't be aware of "I"'s plan to poison the barracks - Janus loses his power if the dukedom gets overrun by orcs. So it looks like Janus has a traitor in his court. ... but does that connect to the assassination of Pendrak Ferol? If so, how?
Chapter 47 - The Darkest Corner of Hope
24 Sembten 1218
I regained consciousness lying on a filthy and cold dirt floor. The air was chill and damp, and I heard the squeaking of vermin nearby. Underneath my throbbing headache was the now-familiar sensation of an anti-magic field. I heard nearby footsteps, definitely bigger then rats, so I kept my eyes closed. Not that it mattered if they knew I was awake.
I am so screwed. ... That was about as neat a trap as I've ever walked into. Elona could have taken me out at any time after I entered Stormfist. But instead, she made sure that I was thrown out in disgrace in front of credible witnesses. There will be enough doubt that no one - well, not enough people anyway - will believe what I have to say once I get out of here.
Once I get out of here? HA! Yeah, yeah... that's going to happen. Idiot.
Is this what happened to Jenna? Was she caught like I was? Did they take her to someplace like this? Did they tor...
Did they torture her? Is she dead? Is my sister dead?
I tried to stop thinking about it, but I couldn't help it. I involuntarily shuddered. It didn't escape notice.
I know you're awake, Marked One.
I opened my eyes. I was in a filthy cell. Judging from the dirt floor and rock walls, I was underground. Elona was watching me from outside the cell door. I got to my feet and Elona started to... change.
I couldn't be sure without the use of my magically-enhanced senses, but I didn't think it was an actual transformation. She was dispelling the permanent illusion she'd surrounded herself in. Her real form was that of a shrunken, ugly hag in shabby robes.
She must have set up the anti-magic field in the castle. Probably crafted it to make an exception for her own spells, and gods know who else.
I might have lost my sister. I might end up being tortured to death. But I'd be damned if I was going to start the conversation by groveling or begging for my life. Besides, it would have been a waste of breath.
I walked up to the door, to show that I wasn't afraid of her. It wasn't exactly true. Part of me was scared. But a much bigger part of me felt that I didn't have anything left to lose anymore.
The woman made a sound that might have been a laugh. But I could tell that she wasn't the type to laugh; she was the type to cackle.
I love it when prisoners show defiance. I'll enjoy remembering this later, after you are broken. My name is Iona. I only tell you this so you'll know what to scream as you're begging for mercy.
Iona... "I"! You're the one who told Elrath to poison the well in the barracks! You're with the Black Ring.
Iona gave me a slow, sarcastic round of applause. "Very good," she said patronizingly, rolling her eyes.
You need not worry about the good doctor. He'll be dealt with for his failure to cripple the Ducal army.
Are you insane? If that had succeeded, the orcs would have overrun the entire dukedom! I don't know what's in it for you, but I'm pretty sure Janus wouldn't like it - he can't boss around a dukedom empty of people!
Iona gave a blank stare for a split second.
You mean that...
She cut herself off. Then she gave a nasty smile.
... Janus is just another gullible fool, much like you. It was incredibly easy to manipulate that little brat. Give him a little power, point him in the right direction, and his ego does the rest. But if I were you, I wouldn't worry yourself about him. You're going to die down here.
I don't think so. Zandalor found me once, he'll find me again.
Ha! Zandalor can't help you. He'll shortly be in the cell next to yours.
They don't have him yet? That's the first good news I've had in... in... I can't remember anymore.
It wasn't really much consolation. Still, I decided to needle Iona with her slip-up. Perhaps if she got angry, she'd make more mistakes. It wasn't as if trying to make her happy would save my life, or spare me any suffering. I was pretty sure that she was the type to torture people just for fun.
So you don't have Zandalor. Thanks for volunteering that.
Ha! Without his magic, he's just a feeble old man.
And that likely means that he's still loose at Stormfist. You're really a font of information, aren't you, Iona?
Smirk while you can, Jeremiah Liro. ... But your false bravado doesn't fool me.
"It's been over a week, and yet the feeble, powerless old man still eludes you?" I taunted.
That made her mad.
"You shouldn't taunt someone who has ALL the power, worm!" She snarled. "Do you want to see what power I have? Then I'll show you!"
Iona snapped her fingers at someone to her right. I heard heavy footsteps approach from that direction. I peered through the bars into the gloom, trying to see what was coming.
Slowly, an orc emerged from the darkness. And behind him was... I gasped.
There are very few moments in the lifetime of anyone, where your strongest desire and your darkest fear meet.
Most people never have such a moment. This was mine.
She was gagged, her dress was dirty, and she looked tired. But it was a sight most welcome... it was my sister. Her right ear still had the mate of the silver rose earring I'd found in her room at Stormfist.
Despite the dire predicament we were in, my heart soared to see her alive. I honestly hadn't expected to see her again. But underneath the newfound hope, fresh fear swelled up. There wasn't a kind bone in Iona's body, so why was Jenna still alive?
Jenna's face was pale from fear, and the lack of sunlight, but otherwise she looked healthy - oddly healthy, in fact. But still, there was something different about her - the way she was moving and standing. When she saw me, her eyes widened in surprise, and she subtly tucked her left hand at her side, turned away from me.
The orc guards removed her gag. I realized that I still hadn't said anything. But what could I say to her, "everything is going to be all right?" That sounded ridiculous under the circumstances.
I had trouble speaking. My voice sounded foreign to my own ears. I was barely able to choke out "Have they-"
I cleared my throat and spoke again. This time, I was trying hard to keep the tremble out of my voice, for Jenna's sake. "Have they hurt you?" I asked.
She shook her head no. "W-What are you doing here?!" she asked.
It sounded like she hadn't spoken in a while. Her voice was uneven. I could tell that she had the same emotions as I did - we were both glad to see the other, but unhappy to see them in the hands of Iona, and scared for what fate awaited them. She was also giving me a very strange look.
I came here because I got a letter from Richard.
Even though they were sending assassins after him, he still found the time to write a letter and secret it in the castle's outgoing mail.
Jenna looked down at the ground and fidgeted nervously with her hands. She didn't want to ask the next question, but she did anyway.
Richard? Is he... is he -
I found him. He's alive, Jenna. He's safe, and I've made arrangements to ensure that he stays safe.
Jenna gave a sigh of relief, but only a small one, given how dire the circumstances were.
Thank you, Jeremiah.
She absent-mindedly played with a ring on her left hand. It took me a second to realize what it was.
Is that a wedding ring? You married Richard?
Talk of such matters might seem like a silly, trivial thing to worry about, when we were both locked in a dungeon awaiting torture and death, and we certainly did have much more important things to worry about.
But that was actually the point. Jenna had been locked up for at least a month and a half. I knew that she'd be glad to be getting her mind out of the dungeon, even for only a few short minutes. Down here, it was perhaps the greatest gift we could have given each other (save rescue, of course).
Yes. It wasn't that long ago, just... just before the old duke died and everything here went to hell.
Well, you must have known. Why didn't you write me? I would have come.
Maybe if she had, all this could have been prevented... somehow.
No! This is NOT her fault at all.
"It... it was a secret wedding," Jenna said, avoiding my gaze. "It's not really allowed, or... proper for a knight in the service of Ferol to marry a foreigner like me," Jenna said evasively.
I could tell that Jenna wasn't telling me the whole story. She held her arms close to her body and rubbed her left wrist nervously. It was then that I finally realized what was different about her. I saw that she wasn't in the same shape as when I'd seen her months ago. There was a very slight, but noticeable bulge in her mid-section.
"Jenna? Are you... are you pregnant?" I asked incredulously.
She looked down and nodded, "I-It's Richard's baby. We..." A tear carved a channel down her dirt-streaked face.
"Jenna, it's all right. It's going to be fine," I said. It seemed to help comfort her, even though we both knew it was only a hollow promise.
Jeremiah, what happened to you?
Me? What are you talking about?
What happened to your hair?
I'd completely forgotten about my hair. It had only been a month or so, but I was now used to seeing the wrong shade in my reflection.
My hair? It doesn't matter. It-it was a... a... a magical accident.
Iona spoke up for the first time in a while. "He was Marked, girl. Show her," she directed at me.
I reluctantly presented my right wrist and pulled aside the bandages to reveal my glowing tattoo.
By the gods... what does it mean?
It's a death sentence, that's what it is!
A death sentence?!
I really didn't know if I was going to be fine, but I wasn't going to worry Jenna. "Ignore her, she's lying. I'm fine," I lied. I don't think it fooled her, but I couldn't help that.
Iona cackled wildly at some joke I wasn't a party to.
Lying? Ha! Even thrice-cursed Zandalor would have to admit the truth of it!
I knew that they weren't going to just let Jenna go, but I went through the motions anyway.
What do you want with me, Iona? Whatever it is, I'll do it, just... just let my sister go!
"Jeremiah!" Jenna protested. "These people are mad! They want to bring back the Lord of Chaos to kill EVERYONE."
I... I know. But Jenna, your life...
Now that we have you, we don't really need her alive anymore.
She is of no importance. We only needed her to lure you here, Marked One.
What's so special about me? This doesn't make any sense! I wasn't special until I became Marked... wasn't I? ... I only became Marked after Jenna was already taken! ... This doesn't make any sense! Was there something special about me earlier? Was I Marked for a reason?
If you don't need her, then let her go.
I don't think so. She'll be useful leverage, at least. Tell me, Marked one, tell me about the talking white cat?
"Jeremiah..." Jenna said, looking straight into my eyes. I looked at her, reading the look on her face as only family and very close friends can. It said:
Don't tell them anything.
I gave a subtle nod and returned a look of my own.
I stared Iona right in her horrible malice-filled eyes. "A talking cat? That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard of in my life," I said defiantly.
Iona's face turned sour. She gestured to one of the orcs, who put a knife to Jenna's throat. Jenna closed her eyes. "I'll ask again," Iona said. "And I'll warn you that I never ask a third time. Tell me everything you know about the white cat."
"Jeremiah... please," Jenna said, her voice wavering. Another tear rolled down. I could feel a matching tear on my own face as well. "They're going to do horrible things, Jeremiah... not just to me, but to everyone..." mid-sentence, her voice changed, regaining the strength and the edge I remembered from back home. "Whatever they threaten, whatever they do..." She opened her eyes and started right into mine... "Don't give up, no matter what! Promise me that no matter what it takes, you'll stop their mad scheme!"
They kept her alive until now for some reason, didn't they?
That doesn't mean that they'll keep her alive if I don't co-operate.
Iona must know that if she kills Jenna, she's got no leverage... well, besides torture.
Jenna is all I have left. If Iona isn't bluffing, I'll have killed her, ME!
Will they really keep her alive once they're done with me? They'll never let her leave here alive.
My stomach twisted itself into agonizing knots. More tears fell from my eyes.
"Go ahead, gamble that I'm bluffing, Jeremiah Liro," Iona threatened. "... and the last thing your sister will ever see is your face as you end her life. You'll get to see her expression, as she realizes that at the last, you have betrayed her."
I did look at Jenna's face.
It's all right.
I made my decision. I closed my eyes and slumped, looking down at the floor. "I'll tell you what the talking cat said, Iona. It said..." I took a deep breath, then I straightened up and looked Iona right in the eye. "It said... GO FUCK YOURSELF YOU HIDEOUS CRONE!"
Jenna smiled, even though tears were still running down her face. Iona turned red with fury. "YOU INSOLENT DOG!" She regained some self-control. She spoke to the orcs. "Take her away to... to... to... JUST TAKE HER AWAY!" she spluttered in fury.
Relief flooded through me... Iona had been bluffing.
Jenna was taken in the opposite direction as the way she'd come in. I grabbed the bars and watched as they took her away.
"Jenna, I will save you, I promise!"
"I know! Please, Please Jeremiah, don't give up! I need you to come find me!"
"JENNA! JENNA, I LOVE YOU!"
"I LOVE YOU TOO!"
It was slightly risky, but I decided to press my luck by taunting Iona. "Congratulations, Iona. I arrived here weak and vulnerable, and you somehow managed to turn that around. You've just strengthened my resolve tenfold," I said.
Iona pretended like it was all part of her plan. "Of course... that just means that it will be all the sweeter when I break you," she said with mock sweetness.
That's not going to happen.
When I've finished with the other Marked One, I will return... then we'll have some fun. I have demon blood in my veins and I was torturing captives before I learned to walk. Trust me, you'll soon tell me everything I want to know.
Iona teleported away. It was a little bit of information which might have been useful.
Maybe the anti-magic field is only confined to these cells, if I can just get out... IF...
Jenna's alive... she's still alive...
On the downside, I've just made Iona really, really, REALLY pissed off, they still have Jenna at their mercy, and I'm still stuck in this cell and completely helpless.
... I am so screwed.
Next Time: Iona's Dungeon
Behind the Scenes
What's fake in this update?
- Everything except Jeremiah's first line and Iona's last line.
- In the game, Jeremiah stands stock still in the cage until Elona teleports out. So not only did I have to photoshop Jenna and the orcs in, I also had to reposition Jeremiah (it wouldn't have been right for him to stay back, he'd have wanted to get as close to his sister as possible from his cell) and photoshop Elona in over-top the photoshopped Jeremiah.
Here's the actual short cutscene from the game:
Video - Captured by Elona/Iona - (Voice Acting)