Family Reunions

I headed out back with Klyce and Orrin, and watched him make quick work of the burial. Then I asked about my brother. He tells me that he let the succubus take him, and they’ll be back by tomorrow, after Phil is gone. He really believes she’ll do it, and that she loves him. UGH! They’ve only known each other for a couple of Days! He does agree we can hunt her down if they don’t show up.

Then the conversation turns to demons and the Machines, as Klyce wonders about feeding them into it for Mana. He’d rather that then all the human suffering of the mines, or the fae suffering in the current machines. I’d rather it just be undead in the mines and not have to deal with demons anymore. But that’s all long term, how are we getting Mana for the group now? 

He says he’s going to be talking to the Magia soon. I ask him to be careful, but he isn’t worried about them anymore. Not after everything we’ve gone through. I mention his family could be in danger, and the look in his eyes, as he said he would take them All Down… I tell him I’d help, my family’s all gone. He reminds me that I still have Gerald, and he’ll be back tomorrow. Then… Klyce gave me a hug… and went to take his family home. I wish he’d been my big brother instead of Gerald.

I stay outside for a long time after that. Looking at the graves of all the household staff. The people who had been my real family, when my parents and brother had been cruel to me. These people who had cared for me my whole life. Gone in one afternoon, to Demons! I still had to tell their families. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that. It’s all my fault they’re dead. I shouldn’t have brought this trouble home. I sit there, and I cry, finally, for all of them.

The sky is starting to get dark by the time I look up. Nat is laying on Orrin’s grave and Dalish is floating above it. I… I can’t deal with that, too. I head back inside, and find Maribeth and Remy drinking in the lounge. I stop to tell them that they and their families are welcome to stay here as long as they need. She asks what happened, and Remy and I tell her the story of the fleshy mansion and the ritual of Hell. I ask about how it affected Grandfather, and she said he was awful the whole time, but we did make him sweat so much she had to prove she was really there.

I head up to bed, and send to my brother. Tell me you’re alive. I expect to see you tomorrow. He replies that he’s alright, and with Crystal, and he will see us tomorrow. Ugh!!!

In the morning, Remy goes to fetch fresh food, Klyce brings over baked goods, and even Philomena comes to breakfast, though she doesn’t eat. I fetch Nat and Dalish from the grave, and we have a meal. They immediately go into a debate over spell scribing and mana, so I just enjoy the fresh bread. Ethereion’s Machine comes up, and then the voice’s desire for a body. We really shouldn’t let a spell free to roam, but they discuss it for awhile.

Then it turns into a discussion of mana versus genocide. Porter chimes in that demon machines would be far more difficult and dangerous, with less return. Plus, summoning demons usually requires murder in the first place. Klyce wonders about mechanical solutions to mana mining, but mana would rust out machines faster than it does people. Julian offers to get them a good deal from his father, and I tease him a little about the theft ring from school. A suggestion is made to check with Rictus, but Dalish doesn’t think we have enough new evidence for more mana.

What else is on our plate? The Church of the One God seems super sketchy, and we should probably do something there, but what? Nat wants to start by countering their anti-mage campaign with our own soup kitchens. Klyce suggests we use the Dawnmother’s church, since it is close to the One God church. We have the Deliberative coming up, where we have to vote on new primes and campaign against the Machines. We still have the Black Knight on the loose, not to mention Hank and friends who we have to meet up with again “when the time is right.” Nat wants to buy up some property somewhere, and Dalish has to write a report on the planes for the Deliberative.

Philomena then asks if we have plans for Remy’s Dad and Philomena’s Mom. They’re okay here temporarily, but there was a big financial hullabaloo, and we’re not exactly safe to be around in times of upheaval. Remy says he wants to send his Dad to join up with the rest of their Royalist family, just teleport him away south. But that’s tricky, so he suggests they both go live with the Rathbone family for a while, to get away from the city politics. I can take them in the afternoon, and we can get some raw mana for Gerhardt to refine while we’re there. Dalish and Gerhardt are going to set up an alchemy lab in my house for that.

Porter says he has to hash things out with Rictus, and then take care of things in the south. He allows that we can contact him through Dreams, but not with anything traceable. Klyce suggests they go check on his hideout first, make sure everything useful is cleared out of there before anyone else finds it. He agrees, and he, Klyce, and Philomena plan to do that in the afternoon, after Klyce fabricates me a new wall where the demons exploded part of my house and starts cooking up stew for the soup kitchen.

So, we break for the morning. Dalish goes shopping for scribing and alchemy lab materials. Remy goes to Etherion’s to get the last of the mana from his Machine. Maribeth, her mom, Nat, and I head down to the Dawnmother’s church. Maribeth takes the chance to talk to her mom about heading up to Bangoria in the afternoon, and she seems agreeable, though sad that she will be away from her children.

We arrive at the chuch in time for morning services, and it’s nice and relaxing to sit in worship. I’ve said my prayers, but hurriedly of late. After service, I have a chat about our soup kitchen idea. He’s happy to help easily listing off all the contacts and resources we’ll need. I let him know that Klyce will be helping on the food side of things. He says what the people really need is economic activity. Since the Petals were completed, a lot of mage business has left Brooklyn, and they are all hurting. I check my purse, and hand him all my money, about 500 gold, to get started with whatever he thinks is needed for the soup kitchen. Hire people to clean up the church, build an extension, whatever he thinks best. Nat adds on another 100g as well, leaving him astounded and eager to get to work.

Gathering back up for lunch after a productive morning, Remy explains to us that taking all the mana from Etherion’s place would collapse the mansion, killing the voice. That might not be a bad idea, and Porter and Klyce both agree. We might want to at least bring Rictus in on the decision, this is above our pay grade. Dalish ponders giving the voice a body still, but will talk to Rictus this evening about it. He was able to get 40 spell levels worth of materials, and discussion quickly falls into who gets what supplies.

Then the door opens, and Gerald arrives with Crystal. My heart is pounding in my ears, I’m so mad at him. I barely hear when he tells me they’re in love, and he’s sorry. She says she was just trying not to die, and that she was summoned here against here will. But she likes it here a lot better than Hell. They’ve even brought a picnic basket of food. I snipe a bit more about the murder and death, but we all head out to the front veranda for lunch. Klyce suggests they stay here for now, and Crystal asks me if that’s okay. I tell her sure, I have friends that can banish her if she doesn’t behave. Dalish takes this awkward silence and starts grilling her on Demon society and the history of the Towers. I just glare at my idiot brother for a bit, and then tune out, concentrating on images of the Rathbone residence for my spell this afternoon.

Demons Run

The rest of the polic station is alright, and the Chief assures us that he’ll just get some mages up to fix his wall. What are we going to DO?

The conversation shifts off the demon attacks momentarily and onto the cultists. They’re the best link we think we have, so Nat suggests trying to get their attention. She wants to graffiti the Dawnmother symbol around town, and then catch someone trying to change it to their symbol. To either question or follow them. The group ponders paying homeless people to do the painting and the monitoring. I think this is ridiculously dangerous and will just get those particular people taken and killed. But I’m overruled, and Remy buys paint and brushes. Then he convinces eight random people to agree to paint and watch the symbols around Manhattan. He tells them a bar to come to if they see anything. But then we don’t tell the bar, nor do we go to said bar. I’m not so sure about this plan.

Next, we go looking for Porter. We all head out to the military base outside of town. Dalish uses his authority to get us inside and we have some dinner in the mess while waiting to be seen. The general has time for us after dinner, so we head off to his office. General Burns used to be in charge of Porter’s unit and says it’s all classified. Dalish says he thinks Porter’s gone AWOL and has become an enemy of the state. Marybeth pipes up that he’s her brother. The general relents. He says that Porter was under his command for three years, but then his unit was reassigned to New Gnosis three month ago by Prime Wiest, for unknown reasons. He has not further information, other than he’s somewhere in the city. With Wiest dead, no way of telling whose orders he is following now. There were 18 men and women in his unit, and all of them were called into the city to serve Wiest. The general gives us a paper so that we can go to Records and get the names of the people in that unit. We are then dismissed.

Remy suggests checking in on the house before we do any more running around, so I send to Gerald. He replies back, repeating the words “Everything’s Fine…” over and over in a dreamy voice. We RUN back home. There’s a black plume of smoke, once again rising from my home. Rushing in, we find it contained to an outer wall, and Philomena is working to put it out. There is a Lot of Blood. Philomena shouts at us, and Klyce sends us all inside while he helps her. The house seems alright, until we get up to the study where everyone was sheltering. The room is covered in blood and demon gore. Marybeth’s mom, Klyce’s mom and sisters, Philomena’s parents are all there and okay. Gerald and Philip are gone. I start shouting for Gerald, when they tell me Philip chased the demons away, but no one had seen my brother. Nonononono!!!

I send to him again. This time I get a female voice back, saying Gerald is otherwise occupied. What? Dalish! How could that happen? How could someone else answer my sending?? It sounds like those succubus ladies we met! Dalish says she could be controlling or possessing him. Remy and Nat check his room, but there is simply the smell of sulfur and perfume. Dalish cleans the study of the blood while Remy checks Marybeth’s mother for signs of Grandfather, and Nat looks around at the remants of the fight. It looks like there were eight demons. The three closest to the family were obliterated, and the other five busted out the wall to get away. I try to send to Philip, to tell him the family is okay and ask where he is. The reply is a strange, chilling tone, saying he’s not done, yet.

We have to go find him. Demons are running loose in the city and he’s chasing them with a butcher knife. Klyce stays with Orrin and Philomena to protect the families, and we race north. HeyHey and Dalish fly above the streets to see if they can spot the wake of demons. They find two more alleys covered in blood. Then we hear a disturbance ahead and rush forward. There is a crowd surrounding another splattered mess.

Police are draped over Philip, trying to arrest him or at least restrain him. I toss up sparks to get their attention, and Dalish tries to use his authority to declare it a mage matter. They say he’s disturbing the peace. Remy tries name-dropping the police, but then Philip throws one of the men into a lamppost, probably breaking his back. We all freeze in shock, long enough for him to throw another man through a wall. Dalish rushes over to save the first man. Nat puts a couple officers to sleep. I fail to levitate Philip out of the mess. Remy convinces the last guy to just let go, then sames some curses and the officer who was pointing a gun at Philip disappears. Nat sends HeyHey through the broken wall to stabalize that cop, and tries to get the crowd to disperse. I rush forward, and tell Philip I just want to get him out of here, and Dimension Door us out of the crowd and ahead. He immediately takes off through an alley, and I rush back to tend to the wounded, praying to the Dawnmother to heal at least a little of the damage he caused. Remy wakes the sleepers and tells them to get medics for their friends, and we’re on the chase again.

By the time most of us catch up with him, he’s standing over a dead succubus and is back to confused, scared Philip. Nat wonders about casting speak with dead on it, but we go back and forth on it. It doesn’t have to tell him the truth if it knows she’s an enemy. Can we trick it? What questions should we ask? What could it answer? Dalish mentions that there’s a nest somewhere, and that takes high priority. We need to know which side it’s on, and if it knows where Grandfather is. What about Rictus? If we say they’re interferring with our investigation, maybe he’ll take us seriously. Maybe he can make it talk? Let’s take it home, at least. We shouldn’t do this here.

We get home, avoiding the police, and explain to Klyce what happened. Okay, we have a lot of pots on the stove. We have to take stock. We could talk to the newpaper/penny dreadful publisher, but he’s in Brooklyn. We need to go to the Hall of Records for the names in Porter’s unit. We could visit Professor Wiest and see what she will tell us of her father’s plans. We could try to get into his office in the Tower of Justice. We could talk to Rictus and the Succubus corpse. We start with this last because we have a body, somehow, still.

Dalish sends to Rictus, and we head downstairs to meet him. In my father’s study, it turns out. We lay the body out on the table for him to examine, and he does, at length. Remy mentions the nest we think is in the city. Dalish says there are many variations of these creatures that are hindering our ability to investigate the Black Knight. Dalish tells him about the trade of souls. Rictus reforms its head and then sets it back to normal, messing with time around it’s skull. He puppets an arm. He stabs it a little and smells the blood. Dalish explains the between place. Remy mentions one kidnapped my brother, and Rictus isn’t all that concerned about Gerald. He asks what we need, and we explain about asking it questions about the next and the cult. He asks where we learned of such a spell, and when we say Satiel, he nods. She made the spell, it turns out. He doesn’t have any better ways to go about it. He can’t force the truth without a soul present.

We then set to creating a list of questions. Where’s your next. Who’s your boss? Where is Mr. Pumbleby? What’s your plan? Where’s Gerald? Nat wonders about using detect thoughts, and if there’s enough of a brain left to do that. Rictus says no, but won’t stop her from trying. Nat settles down to cast. The detect thoughts doesn’t work, but the corpse does start talking.

Where is your lair?

The nest is unreachable by mortal man.

What is your connection to the cult of the anti-Dawnmother?

The Blood of the Dawn will usher in the Dusk.

How is Peter Pumbleby connected to you and yours?

He is the bridge between this world and the next. He will usher in the great dark.

Where is the ritual happening?

Within the nest.

How do you access the nest?

I teleport.

And then she went silent. We ask Rictus if he knows what Wiest was doing with Porter’s unit of 18. He was not aware of what he was doing with them, but they were quite a capable assassin squad in the south west and Central America. Nat asks if we can have his authority to check his home and office. He agrees, but warns that his daughter may not care about his authority. Remy asks for mana so that we can “deal with this like mages, and not Police Officers.” Remy asks for 150 motes when prompted, and Rictus give us 100. Saying we can revisit if needed. Then asks Dalish to stand very still and tosses the corpse through his shadow. He says he expects Dalish to stay in touch and then steps through his shadow himself. We divy up the mana and gather up to take watches and rest for the night.

Family Matters

While waiting for Dalish to come out of his paralysis, Nat leads Marybeth, Klyce, and myself back down to Old Town. We map it all out and bury the dead, which are now just bodies instead of trying to kill us. When Dalish does get up, he almost immediately has Remy kill him, so he can become fully a lich. So then, we wait for him to reform his new undead body for another six days. He gets back just in time to head home.

We have a debate about his phylactery. Sure, it would be safe here, in the Rathbone castle, assumedly. But if we get sent to the western territories and he dies, he’s going to have a heck of a time getting back to us. We have to take it with us. Dalish decides that I ought to be the one to protect it. Sure, Dalish, Rictus never mind controls me and makes me do things, I’m sure it’ll be safe. But I don’t say that, I just take it. Hopefully Rictus won’t do that again for while we’re all together.

Travel back to New Gnosis is pretty smooth and uneventful. When we arrive, we can see the Petals have been completed in their glory. We also see a large military presence at the gates, search all comers. We join the line and learn from the people around us that two Primes have been killed in the last three days!!! But Rictus sent for us weeks ago…

Lt. Col. Dalish gets us waved through the gates by flashing his rank and Rictus’ name. We drop our spoils from Lord Tepish’s castle in the bank on our way to the Hall of Justice in the Petals. Remy decides to be Alok Rathbone for the time being, and Orrin stays with him while we head up to see Rictus.

He isn’t there. Aleria is, however, a much nicer sight to our eyes and hearts. She tells us that Rictus is off hunting the assassins, but he wanted us close. She offers to answer any questions we have. She tells us that we’re to remain in New Gnosis for the time being, but will have to find our own lodging. School did re-open, but we’re not students anymore, so we can’t go back there. Marybeth asks about her family, and she says that they were caught up in an investment scheme and ruined. She also tells us that as far as she knows, there has been no Fae or Magia trouble in the city lately. Having no more information about what we’re supposed to do, we all head out to check on finances and family.

I head, alone, back to my house. No one but the groundskeeper is there. I wander around a bit, and it feel so empy. I ask, and he says that they never came back from the Caribbean a year ago. I assumed they had just gotten home and were done gloating. Gerald is still here, it looks like, so I leave him a note saying I’ll be home later. Then head for Klyce’s bakery.

Remy has brought food for us all to have a nice dinner, so we sit around and fill each other in. Dalish has apparently rented an entire floor of a hotel in Brooklyn. Remy definitly wants to take Alok to see what had happened to the people there. Klyce wants Alok to look at his little sister, who is still unconscious at the schol infirmary. Dalish asks for his phylactery back to take and show Rictus tonight, so I hand it over. I let folks know that my folks are missing, and everyone is welcome to stay at my house, if they want. Marybeth asks us to go with her to meet up with her mom, and most of us volunteer.

After dinner, I take Nat, Gerhart, and Alok back to my place. Gerald arrives shortly after we do, but he’s so distracted, I have to yell out to him to get him to even notice I’m there. He rushes over apparently very excited to see me. He even gave me a hug! After blinking for a few moments, I ask after Mom and Dad. He says they went on vacation, but the last letter he got was from the Caymans, and he hasn’t heard anything from them since. Didn’t he send to them? No, he doesn’t know that spell.

Then he apologizes! To me! For being a terrible brother! He asks if we can start over. I’m in such a state of shock, I agree. I even defend him, that he didn’t know any better than to treat me the same as our parents did. He says he should have and we go a couple rounds, before I just relent and say sure. We can start over if he’s really going to be nicer. I’ve died a few times, I can bury a childhood hatchet. Seems less important now.

He’s a little put out by that, but I push him past it by asking about school. He says they hired new teachers and things are pretty safe. At least as they ever have been. I try a sending to Mom, but nothing comes back. Remy offers him the sending spell, but he gets a bit creeped out and heads to bed. So, I put everyone else in rooms for the night.

The next morning, Nat tells us she had some crazy dreams. A cult doing a sacrfice to bring about the darkness with an inverted Dawnmother symbol. The red and black knights cutting open sack of bodies, one of which was Remy. They had Areana with them and she was holding a jar with a brain worm in it. Gerhardt says it sounds like the clone pods.

Then we get into a really strange argument with Remy about contacting the Knights or Areana or others and it just goes down hill until he tries to send to her, and gets nothing, so we drop it and head out to see Marybeth and her mother. When we get to the cafe, we see Marybeth already talking to her mother. With Marybeth right beside us, in disguise.

Death, Sacrifice, and Family

We have a short discussion about our next path. Klyce is worried that the locked door to the throne room is too obvious, and we should check the basement first. Having no better arguments, we all agree and head downstairs to an even worse dungeon than the attic. This one has clearly been used, if not for some time. There are no bodies here, and no creatures attacking us. So, we investigate and Nat finds on Iron Maiden that will not open.

Nat tries a few times, but just cannot get it open. Dalish casts Knock on it, make a very loud noise, and still doesn’t open it. It does, however, catch the attention of something. There are suddenly winds in the room, and a growing moaning noise. Just as I’m about to take control of the winds, five ghostly shapes enter the room, the moaning crescendos, and there is only blackness.

When I wake up again, Natty is leaning over me, with blackened, smoking eyes. Oh no! Oh Dawnmother! Natty what happened? What have you done?

She made a deal, she says, to get us back from the Dancer. Gerhardt limps in from the hallway then, naked, and with a deformed leg and shriveled arm. He tells Dalish that his master sucks and gave him this body. He says my body didn’t work, thank the Dawnmother, and Dalish’s hadn’t had time to regrow yet. We gather up Gerhardt’s original body, and some woman in rags they found in the Iron Maiden and head back upstairs.

Klyce and Nat decide to minimize the risk and take all two keys each, and turn them all at once. There is a click and the keys dissolve. Smoke pour out of the door and becomes a giant figure of Death. It stares down at us for a moment before shrinking down to a more human size.

He asks if we seek audience. Yes. We have proved ourselves worthy, but there is one final test. “Face me, Face Death, Or Take the Hand that Fate Deals You.”

We have lots of questions, that he mostly won’t answer. He says we have to draw a full hand, but it doesn’t matter who draws what. Remy tries to step forward, but Klyce stops him so we can decide what to do. He has to stop Nat from jumping forward, too. We decide that we’ll draw the hand, we have faced too much death already in the last day. I think we should each draw one card, but Marybeth and some of the others want to protect those of us that just came back from death.

Remy steps forward first, and says he will draw three cards. He drew the Star, Euryale, and Ruin. I didn’t seem much on the first two cards he drew, but on the last, his clothing got shabbier? Nat stepped up next and drew two cards – Talon and Gem. On the first one, her dagger disintegrated, and on the second, a huge pile of gems appeared at her feet. This deck is Crazy! Marybeth stepped forward next. She also got Ruin and her clothes got ragged, and a look of fear overtook her. Klyce stepped up next and drew Vizier. Nothing much happened to him, either, though he looked very thoughtful.

With one card per person drawn, though not by every person, Death declared our hand drawn. He bowed and the doors opened to the throne room. We head forward, and I put my arm around Marybeth. I don’t know what happened, but those cards were very strange.

Lord Tepish sits in a throne at the end of a long plush carpet. He wants to know what we’re doing. You took over Nat’s castle. He asks after Stephen. We don’t know, you were the one looking for him. He says he’s been preoccupied with Van Helsing. Who then crashes through a window, Tepish waves and he falls through a hole in the air. He says he’s sent him to the Shadow Realm, but he’ll be back. He keeps coming back, faster and faster for the last 200 years, on an oath of vengeance.

Nat presses on Stephen’s parentage. Lord Tepish says he is his father, he slept with his mother (and father) on their honeymoon in his country all those years ago. They stayed with him for three weeks. We talk about Stephen not turning until he died, and the boys go on bout the seed of evil. We talk about the curse and the meaning of evil. Klyce tries to redirect the converstion to getting us a map of the castle so we can go find Stephen for him.

Then Van Helsing reappears, and stabs Lord Tepish. This time, the fight lasts a lot longer. I’m very annoyed by Van Helsing, this is all his fault, making this last so long because he won’t let Lord Tepish finish his business and be gone. He’s put us all in danger, and some of us have Died! So, I toss some spells at him as the fight goes on. Marybeth tries distracting him, and Dalish sends spells at him, too. The rest of the group just watches and stays out of it. Part way through, Nat says Van Helsing has Dawnmother symols on him, and I slow my attacks a little, but I don’t see them, he’s jumping around so fast. Lord Tepish turns into a huge firey bat monster, and I back the rest of the way off. Dalish is still throwing spells, but at his possessions now, and Marybeth’s distractions are less effective. Eventually, Van Helsing is killed once more.

Lord Tepish says that Van Helsing will be gone for a couple years now, and we can get back to our business. He can grant us full access to the castle, and stave off some of the confusion it causes, so we can find Stephen and bring him to talk. But Remy has some questions, since we just helped him. Lord Tepish is distracted by the help we offered and doesn’t answer Remy right away. Instead, he offers Boons to the three of us who helped. Dalish asks for help on his quest, with getting the things he needs to finish his process. Marybeth asks for protection for her family from Van Helsing. Both of these things are granted. I don’t know what to ask for, I have a lot of things on my mind. He says that’s alright, he owes me a boon, and I can ask whenever I decide.

Remy starts in again. About giving more than taking and doing more good than bad. Lord Tepish says he tries to minimize the harm his curse causes, but Remy thinks he ought to do more. I tell him to knock it off, as he has absolutely no idea what Lord Tepish does with his life and his time. Lord Tepish then asks Remy what is the worth of a man. Remy says it is the hearts he fills, the hope he gives, and the lives he saves. Before I can reflect on the arrogance of that answer, Lord Tepish asks another question. What is the worth of a man who lives forever, who is cursed to live off others, to have ruin in his wake. Ruin that is outside his control? He then offers that time will likely see Remy wrong that his actions do more good than harm. I’m furious with Remy, but there’s no time, and he’s let it drop.

We head off to find Stephen, and the castle is much easier to navigate, the monsters don’t attack us, either. After a few hours, we do find Stephen in his lab, locked and staked through the heart in a chest. Remy removes the stake from him, just like we did with the servant in the entry, and he, too, wakes up. Klyce tells him that his dad wants to meet him, but Stephen misunderstands that his father has asked for him. Dalish, Nat, and Klyce explain what has been going on. I ask if he’ll just go meet the guy so he’ll leave. Nat further explains the mine fiasco and the shadowman. We really just need this all to finish so we can deal with things.

Stephen says he wants to talk to their parents first, so I send to Lord Tepish and he agrees. He head into town and find the family at the inn we left them at. Nat spars with her older brother and then we get into the room. Stephen demands an explanation, and his mother is uncomfortable with us all there, so we leave the family to their business.

After a while, they all come out, including Nat’s father, dressed and ready to go talk to Lord Tepish. We head back to the castle and lead them into the throne room with no issue. He greets them warmly, and leads the family into a side room to have another private conversation. Nat tries to listen in, but she can’t hear any of the words. Ten minutes later, they come back out.

Stephen says that the timing of his birth indicates he is certainly not Lord Tepish’s son, but they do have similar gifts, and he could learn a lot from him. He’s going to take him up on the offer to go away for a while and learn what he can. Klyce reminds him not to miss the wedding. Nat reminds him to keep in touch. He tells Dalish and Nat that he left notes downstairs that may have cracked the trouble with Grandfather Skull. Lord Tepish hands Dalish a small chest, that he turns into a large chest, with the ingredients he needs to finish his process. He tells me to contact him when I’ve decided on my boon. He will do whatever I ask, within his power. Then, Stephen and Lord Tepish leave the castle.

Family & Duty

“Shandor died to save me. It’s my fault he’s dead. If only I hadn’t been so clumsy. If only I hadn’t panicked when the beasts came.”

“Don’t be silly, child. Shandor would have stayed to kill that beast even if you hadn’t fallen.” Tekla chided her daughter. “It was his calling, and he never shied from defending the Family.”

“That’s why I have to go, Mami. He called me to follow. He asked me to protect her, as he died.” Gilly looked up, eyes filled with tears. “As he died in my arms.”

“No, Gilly, my dearest, please. We don’t raise blades, we read Tarot, we sing. This is your calling, ever since you were a babe.”

“Na, Mami, the Unchained Demon and the Guardian call me now. You saw. I… I have to protect the Mother and the Family.”

“Oh sweet Gilly, please, it could mean something else, it could just be portents of the evil coming. It doesn’t have to be you.” Now her mother had tears in her eyes.

Gilly looked at her mother, so strong and Talented. They both knew what it meant. She had to try. Try to make up for Shandor’s death. Try to fill the hole he had left. Gilly was terrified, but that didn’t mean she could give up. He had died to save her, now she must offer up her life to protect them all.

“We can’t stand in her way, my darling.” Simen wrapped an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “This is her path now, this is her Journey. And if it is not, she will return to us soon enough.”

Tekla buried her face in Simen’s chest, and her patted her back, looking over his only daughter.

“Gilly, be sure you do this for the right reasons. Not because you feel guilty about Shandor. Shandor made his choice, and it is not for you to take the blame for a death he earned.”

“Na, Papi, I know.” She dropped her gaze to the ground. “I am called by the Tarot and by Madam Nadya, but I felt the call the moment he spoke, before he died.”

“Gilly, look at me. I want you to be sure. Be sure it is not just guilt calling you.” Tekla had stilled, but he held her close.

“No, Papi.” Gilly raised her face and looked at him. “I do feel guilty over his death, but that’s not why I’m doing this. There are so many safer ways to fix that. I will write him a song to honor his life and death.” They both smiled. “But this, I have to do this, I cannot turn my back on the call of the blood. Please, Mami, Papi, don’t turn your backs to me “

Gilly’s tears began to flow again. Her parents rushed to embrace her. Shushing sounds and reassurances. They would never, she was Family and their family. They loved her, no matter her Journey. They would always be her family.