Quest for the Relics: Marinelle 1


For as long as anyone could remember, perhaps even longer, the Shrine of the Oracle was held as a sacred place. No one dared to violate it, not even the elders of the Temple of Eternal Truth, who always considered the Oracle’s faithful to be heretics, and as such, their bitterest rival for the hearts and minds of the people of Anghvir. Marinelle, the only daughter of House Palomo, was the current Oracle.

The verdant lands controlled by House Palomo, Harmony Springs, were always beautiful, and this time of year, lotuses and cherry blossom trees bloomed in brilliant hues of violet and pink. Part of the reason the area had never been despoiled was its proximity to House Palomo’s preeminent castle, the Aviary. Marinelle toured the grounds of the Shrine with two supplicants, Trevin and Shona Osbourne, who had come to ask her if they would ever have children. 

They were accompanied by two others - Marinelle’s bodyguard Tempestus Neptune and Desral, the genius loci and resident spirit of wisdom for the Shrine. Marinelle’s normally piercingly blue eyes turned into a deep, almost translucent gold. One of the reasons why the Oracle was so revered was that she could see past, present, and future all in one thread, three parallel streams that conjoined into a single reservoir of time.

“In time, you will have one daughter and one son. Their names will be Briony and Julek. They will be born two years apart, but the circumstances are unclear.” At these words, Marinelle snapped out of her trance. “Desral, why is this?” 

“The waters of time are, on occasion, murky, my dear. All we can do is to follow through and deal with it as we go along.”

The future parents, overjoyed with their answer, thanked the Oracle profusely and left the grounds, heading back to their home in Ezratowne, the capital of Harmony Springs. 

A little while later, Marinelle sat in the courtyard drinking freshly-brewed oolong tea and eating cucumber sandwiches while playing Renyck with Tempestus. Renyck was a popular card-and-tile game whose name, when translated into Anglica, meant “kings and queens.” A slight breeze picked up, ruffling the players’ robes. They were observed by Desral, who knew better than to interrupt and offer his advice on the complicated rules - mainly to the grim-faced swordswoman Tempestus, who was fiercely loyal to her lady and had brittle patience for anyone else, even a spirit of wisdom. It wasn’t long before the castellan, Borys Culimar, called Borys Blackgold, came to find them just as the last round of their game ended. 

“My lady, your noble parents will soon be home from their trip to Mar Alyeska. You should prepare to meet them as best you can. Might I suggest you bathe and wash the dust from your fair skin?”

Tempestus bit her tongue. She had always believed that Culimar had an unseemly interest in Marinelle. Still, she said nothing, but her hand flexed as it reflexively reached for her sword. It would be a horrendous breach of etiquette to unsheathe it, though, so she remained alert but wary, like a scorpion’s tail waiting to strike.  

Marinelle shot a glance at her bodyguard as if to tell her to relax. Then she nodded before standing up and stretching. 

“In that case, I think I will go to the bathhouse. Tempestus, please accompany me.”

When Marinelle finished her bath, she stood up and gracefully climbed out of the ceramic claw-footed tub before toweling off and shrugging on a set of Arroyo cotton robes, which were light and breathable and bedecked with a dove pattern at the belt and done up in the colors of House Palomo  - blue and brown. She left the bathhouse and prepared to retire to her apartments where she could finish getting dressed to welcome her parents home, but she felt a cold breeze on the back of her neck, one that was unseasonably cold, not to mention unsettling. 

“Temp,” Marinelle whispered, “draw your sword, quickly!” 

Tempestus complied with a rare grin flitting across her solemn features. As if on cue, Desral came around the corner, an unearthly howl issuing from his mouth which was not at all like the composed and dignified spirit. He seemed, if anything...corrupted. His eyes glowed a fearsome red when they were normally a calm green. 

“The future may be unclear, but your fate is sealed!” Desral snarled, lunging towards the two of them. Temp shouted as she swung her sword at him, but it found no purchase. Of course it wouldn’t. Spirits could only be harmed by enchanted weapons, and Temp’s sword was only common if not high-grade steel, not even inlaid with silver. After all, House Palomo was far more well-known for their diplomatic brilliance than their martial prowess.

It happened faster than a heartbeat. Temp was sent sprawling by a glancing blow, her blade skidding out of her hand and too far out of reach to be any help. Then, as if in a dream, Marinelle didn’t hesitate. Instead of cowering or screaming for help, she stood proud and exclaimed a wordless command. A shimmering bubble of heat haze formed around Desral, who hissed and attempted to break through the forcefield. Marinelle’s eyes turned a burnished copper that reflected the sunlight so brightly that Desral recoiled and ceased his attempts to resist his sudden imprisonment. 

Mari shouted another command, and the bubble began to squeeze in on itself, as if a singularity was forming. Then she swiped her hand left to right. She dispelled the formerly-benign spirit of wisdom in a vicious explosion of ectoplasm. The blood-spray mist that was left resolved from a column of smoke into something far more sinister. 

“Greetings, o beloved Oracle! I am the warlock Ricard Lusoff and I must extend my congratulations, for you passed my first test!” The smoky figure cackled from underneath a crimson hood. “I also wish to taunt you further. I have captured several of the sacred relics of Zendrine Alesat, and it is only a matter of time until I turn them towards my ultimate purpose, but lo! Look above you!” Marinelle looked up, even though she dreaded what she was bound to see. 

A scarlet streak was arcing across the sky. The sinister figure laughed again. “The Harbinger has come and it spells your doom!” 

Once Lusoff’s illusion was gone, Marinelle realized that the comet was pointing south, across the Southern Sea, to where she knew the city-state of Freehaven crouched. 

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