Quest for the Silver Cleric Chapter 14: A struggle in the dark.
Once the sun set, we left the dock area and headed for the area Olorin had pointed to on the map. We didn’t sneak, but we were reasonably quiet as we moved through the streets. It took more than an hour for us to find a way to the Imperial burial area, and we found it had a large chain on a gate.
“Now, Orien would come in handy.”
“When subtlety fails, force must be used,” Tesmi said, and hacked the lock off in a stroke.
We slipped inside and I tried to focus on where we needed to go. A half-hour later, I said, “Here. It’s below this mausoleum.”
Tesmi forced open the door and we went inside. Olorin muttered something and a torch flared, providing a steady, if flickering, light.
After several minutes searching, I found a door in the floor and Tesmi forced it open. I started to go down the hole.
Just then, Aerina came into the mausoleum, “There are people gathering at the gate. Lady, You must go alone. We will prevent them from interfering.”
The others raced off, but Aerina stayed behind, “I will guard this entrance, Lady.”
I nodded and dropped into the hole.
I found myself in a large chamber and I tried to guess which direction to go.
Picking a direction randomly, I made my way. I must have guessed right, because soon I found another chamber with a large sarcophagus on a dais in the middle.
I crept forward, moving ever closer to the sarcophagus. I fully realized that I was now alone, just me and the body of the Silver Cleric.
I approached the dais and opened the lid. Time had been kinder than I might have expected, inside his silver armor he remained more or less intact. Besides the armor, he had a silver mace in one hand and a device in the other that I took to be his holy symbol. It was shaped like a sunburst, much like the one Aerina had, and it had strange writing on it. I went to touch it …
Something hit me hard enough to send me halfway across the room. I groaned, and looked up. I saw Aerina standing there, and she looked …. wrong.
She moved stiffly, and when she spoke, it was hollow. “The … void … commands … you must be … stopped.”
I felt sure she was fighting whatever was possessing her. She was holding the mace we had found in the village, and the malice I felt from the weapon was like a physical blow.
She was speaking some nonsense syllables, but they sounded familiar to me. I remembered when she had blessed the party just before we faced the goblins in that village, and this seemed like it, only backwards.
She was cursing me.
I found myself unable to move as she came up and raised the mace, ready to strike.
“Aerina, please, fight this,” I gasped.
“The … void … commands … you … must be … stopped,” she repeated.
Then a shadow hit her from behind and the spell holding me was broken. She wrestled with the shadow, and suddenly, I realized it was Orien, who I had not seen since we had arrived in the city. He had no weapon in his hands, but instead was trying to pin Aerina without hurting her.
“Do what needs to be done, Lady, while I occupy our friend!” He shouted.
I turned from the fight, stepped up on to the dais, reached into the sarcophagus, and touched the holy symbol of the Cleric.
And my world changed.
Suddenly, I wasn’t standing over the corpse of the Cleric, I was laying down looking up. I pushed myself up, and looked down at my body. Except it wasn’t mine anymore, it was that of the Cleric. At last I knew the secret the Cleric had taken to the grave.
The Cleric had been a woman.
Her life story flashed through my mind. She had disguised herself as a man, joined an order of clerics, and eventually was chosen to be the one sent to the Sea people to break the siege of the Dead.
And now I was her.
I grabbed the silver mace and noticed that the holy symbol in my other hand had changed. It was now a cross. I went over to Aerina, who was still struggling under Orien. I bent over, touched her with it, and she relaxed immediately, dropping the cursed mace to the ground.
“L … lady?” she stammered.
“You’ll be okay now,” I said, and helped the two of them up. I took a breath, pushed away the Cleric’s memories, and went to Orien.
“Ok, Orien, spill. You left us.”
“No, Lady, I did not. But the night before my departure, I was going close to Aerina’s cabin and heard her struggling against some evil. The next morning as we faced the barbarian ships I felt sure she had won, so I said nothing. But it occurred to me that we might just need to have a weapon up our sleeves.”
“So you slipped away when we got to the dock,” I said.
“Indeed I felt sure that whatever was trying to control her would focus on you, and I would have the best chance to take her by surprise, should it be needed. I’m glad I was correct.”
“Me, too. Now, we have to go get the others, I assume that the “threat” they were supposed to protect me from was a fake, Aerina?”
She looked down at the ground, “I’m sorry, Lady. I tried to fight it, but that mace made me send them away.”
“Its okay. You weren’t in control. But we need to get them together, now. We need to get back to your city quickly. The eclipse will happen in a couple of days.”
Orien went ahead of Aerina and me, and shortly he brought back the others. Aeneas said, “We saw and heard nothing.” Then he looked at me in shock, and said, “Lady? You’re … the Cleric?”
“We’ll talk about it later. Right now we need to get back to our ship without drawing attention to my new appearance.”
“I can cast an illusion on you, Lady,” Olorin said. He took a powder out of his robe, sprinkled it on me and said something under his breath. A moment later, I seemed to be wearing the outfit I wore the day I said, “Yes,” to this quest.
I looked at him, “This will do nicely, thank you. Can I move? Will I break the illusion?”
“Move slowly, and it will be fine, Lady. A noblewoman should move sedately in any case.”
“I will do my best.”
We moved slowly from the Imperial burial grounds, trying to look like we belonged. The docks were in sight when we heard hooves coming toward us. A minute later a group of soldiers were around us, and the lead soldier was dismounting and approaching me.
“Did you perform your ... respects, Lady?” he asked.
“I ... Yes, I did. Thank your King for allowing me to do so.”
“You can thank him yourself. He’s ... requested the pleasure of your company.”
I glanced at the others. I believed we could fight our way through this, but if a general call of alarm was sounded, we would be overwhelmed.
I made a decision, and said, “You guys go back to the ship. I’ll will come when I can.”
Aeneas looked worried, ”Are you sure, Lady?”
“I will be fine.”
The soldier waved, and a carriage came around the corner. “Lady, if you would?” He gestured toward the carriage. I refused his hand, worried that a touch might spoil my illusion, and got in.
The door was closed and soon I was headed back to the old Imperial Palace, with no idea what was going to happen next.
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