Part 23: Chapter SeventeenAn agonizing pall of silence hangs over the scene, until finally Athtar sighs and relaxes his posture, his sword hanging limp in his grip. "You have my condolences on the loss of your sister."
Kyric lets out a strangled, mocking laugh. "You have a cruel sense of humor, elf."
Athtar gains Awareness, spending one XP
The knight shakes his head. "You misunderstand me, it's clear you lost your sister long ago. The rift that your father opened in the Fairfax family, that may have led us to tonight, but I promise you, killing children who have done you no wrong will only make things worse."
"Worse?" Kyric chuckles, a deep belly laugh with teeth. "How could it get worse? Do you think I want Rochelle and Phillip to die? That I wanted Sonia to die? Or even Regina? Light and shadow, they're my own blood!" His laughter dies. "I just wanted what was mine. Can you imagine what sort of reign I would have had, with my sister by my side? How strong our county would be today?" He twists the knife against Rochelle's throat, sneering. "But she couldn't have that, could she? She couldn't just... let me have what was mine!"
"And now she is dead," insists Athtar. "And Sonia is dead. And if you do not stop now, then Phillip will lose another sister - just as you lost yours." Kyric begins to weep, and his grip on his dagger relaxes.
Mark one progress in Peace
"Becoming Count can't replace what you have lost," the elf whispers. "It will not bring anyone back. The whole of the Fairfax family is now in this room. Your family's future is in your hands."
Athtar has Persuasion, mark one additional progress in Peace
"Kyric," says Rochelle. "I'm sorry for what happened to you. But this is not the way to get justice." She reaches one hand up to his wrist. "Let me go."
Eight progress has been marked in Peace
Shuddering, Kyric lets out a breath he didn't seem to realize he was holding. The dagger falls from his hand, and he deflates, his shoulder slumping, his stance collapsing. Rochelle steps carefully away, and Urk and Braxton waste no time in pinning him to the wall and restraining him.
Urist releases Phillip, who immediately dashes over to embrace his sister. The two hold each other as everyone looks on, Kyric's face burning with shame and tears at the sight. The arcane storm swirling around Urk peters out, and Aria releases a long, heavy sigh as she eases her drawn bowstring back.
With Kyric safely restrained, the fear and exhaustion of the last few hours catches up with the party in a rush. Soldiers clad in mail and Belmont red arrive, leading to a moment of tension before others in the blue of the Cunninghams join them. Under Braxton's direction, they escort Kyric away.
"For the record," Minar announces. "There's no way that should've worked."
Aria looks off in the direction Kyric had been taken, almost disbelieving. "I was so sure she was dead. How'd you know Kyric would snap on the family angle?"
"I didn't," Athtar admits, inclining his head to Deepmind. "I simply noticed Kyric's abiding attachment to the Fairfax family, and how angry he became at the notion he had betrayed them, rather than the opposite. He could not sustain the anger he felt toward his sister to a niece and nephew who had not wronged him, so long as he could be made to see them."
The catfolk returns a wry smile. "Awareness of a brick, huh?"
Urk sniffs. "URK WAS ABOUT TO SMITE KYRIC WITH PERFECTLY AIMED ICE LANCE ANYWAY, BUT ELF WAY WAS GOOD TOO."
There's a heavy clunk that causes five heads to turn, as Urist has fainted dead away. Minar sighs and hauls the Dwarf to his feet, slinging an arm under his shoulder. "Come on, it's been a long night. Why don't we get out of here and get some sleep, yeah?"
One by one, the adventurers drift into the great hall. Regina's body lies on the only surviving table in the place, resting atop a dense carpet of flowers and other memorials. Her own masquerade disguise, the black-and-white dragon, lies next to the white lamb that had been meant for her daughter, Sonia. Rochelle and Phillip stand vigil next to the table. Rochelle wraps one arm around her brother's shoulder as they stand and grieve, leaning on each other, neither quite falling because the other is there.
The party stands silent for a moment, paying their own respects, and then stagger out the front door of the manor, heading toward the Swan. The first light of dawn kindles in the eastern sky, and the birds begin to sing.
Completed "Paper Faces"!
Kyric is placed in the guard station's cell until the following day, when after some debate, Rochelle has him escorted to the main hall of Fairfax Manor to stand trial. Standing before the entire household, notables from the village, and members of the nearby nobility, Kyric offers no defense for his crimes, so it falls to Phillip to argue for him, which he does with passion. Rochelle pronounces a sentence of exile, never to return to the barony on pain of death and promises that Baroness Katrin will honor the decree.
Together, the Fairfax siblings set about restoring their household and their county, often seen riding together through the village and the outlying lands. Rochelle strengthens her forces, adding ten new soldiers in under a month. Phillip returns to his studies with Celyse, who now also serves as one of Rochelle's chief advisors in matters of state. Braxton, too, becomes a member of Rochelle's inner council as well as the captain of her guard.
Ursula has the mural in the Countess Inn repainted to show a fierce warrior woman, sword and shield in hand, defending a young man, with the black and white dragons of Dragonholt rising to either side of her. The rest, she explains, will be added in time.
Rochelle rewards all the party richly for their part in the affair, both with money and honorary titles. "How does Defenders of Dragonholt sound?" she asks, while visiting the party at the Swan the day after Kyric's trial. "I've also been thinking of creating a few landed knights in the county. If you're interested in settling down."
"I am honored," Athtar replies. "But I am a hedge knight at heart. Our quest is finished here, and there are more adventures to be had in the world."
"URK'LL TAKE THE JOB." The orc sage casually rests her Rune Sword over her shoulders. "SPIRITS SEEM TO FAVOR URK HERE, AND URK BECOMING ATTACHED TO DRAGONHOLT ANYWAY. PLUS, URK ALWAYS WANTED NOBLE TITLE BEFITTING URK'S GREATNESS."
"I think we've had enough Dragonholt for now," says Aria, throwing a cheeky look to Minar as he lets out a groan. "The Princeling and the Anders Sisters might be on to something with their musical tour, maybe we can catch them up."
"So long as it's somewhere new," grumbles Minar. "And maybe with less bean farming."
"Alas, the breaking of a fellowship," declares Urist, his tone mournful. "I suppose I'll return to Nerekhall, then. The shop's likely suffered in my absence - I shall count myself lucky if my apprentices haven't poisoned one another." He tipples the last of his mysterious, technicolor vials into his tea. "What do you say, Deepmind. Are you returning to the city as well?"
The hyrrinx rests a hand on her chin for a moment, as though considering the option. "Hmm... nah, I don't think so. Guess I've caught the adventuring bug too." She glances sideways at Athtar and smiles.
"Well, wherever you may roam, you will all always be welcome in my county," says Rochelle. "Spirits, but that's still strange to say."
"You'll grow into it," Aria assures her.
"AND ROCHELLE WILL HAVE GOOD HELP," adds Urk, before overbalancing in her chair and dropping the Rune Sword with a clatter. "URK OKAY!" The countess smiles at her would-be knight's antics, thanks the adventurers once more, and leaves them to their impromptu celebration.
"Well then," says Athtar, refilling everyone's cup. "I think we can finally close the book on this quest. The..." he pauses frowning. "Fairfax Affair?"
"Too many Fs," says Aria, shaking her head. "Hard to set it to a beat. How about 'The Tragedy of the Bandit Lord'?"
"URK THINK TITLE SHOULD EMPHASIZE DRAGON ATTACK, MOSTLY BECAUSE MUCH BIGGER DEAL THAN NOBLE THING BUT ALSO BECAUSE URK DID MOST OF THE WORK."
"We'll think of a good name later," says Deepmind, raising her mug. "For now - we did it!"
The victorious adventurers bring their cups together in a hearty cheers, and the celebration continues through the day and night. Though the party would soon go their separate ways, the bonds of friendship forged over those days of intrigue and adventure would last a lifetime. This, they would later decide, was the true Legacy of Dragonholt.
(You did it! Epilogue and wrap-up to come tomorrow!)