Quest for the Relics: Xanathak 2


So Javier’s map was to lead them to their next destination: Ezratowne. This puzzled Xanathak, but there must be a reason for it. Still, he said nothing as he accompanied the others back to Cisco’s ship, the Corsair, to depart for the mainland. Three hours later, they were sailing up the River Ezra, and another two hours later, they were docked in the port attached to the lower town. As they disembarked, they found a surprise. The Oracle herself, Marinelle Palomo, stood waiting for them alongside her bodyguard Tempestus Neptune. 

“Greetings, crew of the Corsair. My noble parents had me wait for you here.”

“How did you know we were coming?” Allegra asked, her eyebrows and nostrils flaring. 

Xanathak raised a hand. “I thought you knew this already, Your Highness,” he said. “But the Oracle can see the past, present and future all interwined. There is little she doesn’t know.”

Javier made an excited noise. “Can she tell me why the sky is blue and why the grass is green?” Marinelle giggled at this ridiculous request. Javier went as green as a cucumber. He wasn’t used to pretty girls laughing at his japes, unless they were coming from Lady Therese, and those were, mainly, mean-spirited and not always out of genuine amusement. 

“So tell me, why have you all come to Ezratowne?” 

Xanathak gestured to Javier. “Javier, pass me the map.” 

Still trying to collect himself, Javi did as he was asked. 

“We need your guidance, O Oracle,” Xanathak said humbly. “We procured this map in Freehaven. It told us to come here, but I confess, I’m having trouble decoding the rest of what it says and where it leads. It’s written in Pre-Anglica, and I was never the best student at bygone languages during my time at Doneth.”

Marinelle clapped her hands in delight. “A puzzle? I adore puzzles! Come on, let’s go back to my solar at the palace. We can all figure it out over lemon scones and honey tea.” And so they went, with Tempestus bringing up the rear, her hand on her sword hilt.  

All of them admired the magnificent, soaring architecture of the Aviary, the stronghold that was the home of House Palomo. The bustling lower town was nothing compared to the grandeur of the castle. Still, there wasn’t time for a leisurely tour; there was more important work afoot. They all kept a hold on their weapons, much to the consternation of Borys Blackgold, who had welcomed them at the gates once he had alerted Lord and Lady Palomo what was going on. The group went upstairs, feeling an odd tension in the air that spoiled the wonder they shared.

Tempestus stood guard at the door to Marinelle’s solar, saying in clipped tones that she would be on watch, neither caring about the map, nor indeed, what mysteries it held. The rest of them crowded inside, still murmuring with wonder about what secrets the inscrutable map held.

Xanathak spread the map out on the table, taking care not to damage it. It was old and as fragile as a bolt of silk, though it was inscribed on a vellum scroll. All in all, it looked to be of Predecessor vintage, though that was highly unlikely once everyone gazed at the unfurled map.

Marinelle cast her eyes over it, taking in the runes. She saw why Xanathak had led the crew there: a large arrow pointed from Freehaven to Ezratowne. There were no more obvious directions. Perhaps that arrow had been drawn on by the mysterious Lady Tessa? The map did not bear any marks of recent revision, though, so that was another riddle to unravel the longer they held the map. There was one place marked with a star that looked like a tile from Renyck, which, once Marinelle pointed it out, had to be a clue. At least, it was in Xanathak’s estimation.

“What is that star connected to?” He asked, squinting at the map. The region indicated seemed unfamiliar to him, although that could be due to his weak grasp of cartography, one of the subjects he had only narrowly passed during his time at academy. 

“The Hidden City of Absolon,” Marinelle whispered, awestruck. “It is rumored that the Lost Tomb of Zendrine Alesat himself is there, crouching in the ruins.” 

“Bloody hell!” Javier exclaimed. “House Zamora is from there. Perhaps that’s how the Duchess came by it, it was a blinking family heirloom!”

Marinelle turned and kissed both Xanathak and Javier on the cheek. “Well, there you have it then, we have our next destination!” Both men looked dumbstruck to have received a  simple kiss from one of the most revered people on the continent. A scrum at the door startled all of them out of their collective reverie. The sharp clang of swords alarmed them, and Matthias was in the lead, his hand reaching for Dyrnwyn, as they hurtled to see what the clashing was about - and it wasn’t good, as they learned when Matthias kicked the door open. 

Tempestus was crossing swords with a tall knight clad in slender scarlet armor, although from a single glance, Xanathak could tell this was no mere mortal - the feminine shape of the armor indicated that the wearer was a woman. Even so, no knight of the realm wore scarlet armor. That bloodstained color was only worn by...the Deathguard. 

“The Deathguard!” Xanathak shouted. “That’s impossible! They were all wiped out in the war!” 

“It seems history was wrong,” Robidas said as he shoved his way past the scholar. Tempestus only wore leather armor to aid her mobility. It was no match for the sword borne by her opponent. Matthias and Robidas surged towards the threshold but stopped short when Tempestus yelled. 

“NO! SHE IS MINE!” That momentary distraction was all her opponent needed to drive her sword into Tempest’s gut. Marinelle screamed as Tempest fell, coughing, to the floor. The scarlet knight raised her faceplate, revealing a woman with sinfully black hair, bloodsoaked lips, and a wicked smirk. She blew a mocking kiss in the direction of Marinelle.

“My master, Ricard Lusoff, sends his regards,” she said, moments before she pulled her sword out of Tempestus’ ruined armor and beheaded her in the same fluid motion. Robidas regained his senses enough to fire an arrow in the direction of the mystery knight, but in a flash of red mist the intruder had vanished. 

“Who was that?” Robidas demanded. 

“I know who,” Allegra said. “My brother Commodus’s concubine. Her name is Desdemona Jennet, but she left the same day Comm went into can’t be her.”

“Things just keep getting better and better,” Cisco said sardonically. 

4 Kudos


Displaying 1 of 1 comments ( View all | Add Comment )

Ze the Bard Space-Witch of Hey (Noiram Zero)

Ze the Bard Space-Witch o...'s profile picture

That escalated quickly

Report Comment

Yup, can't have too many mysteries to solve or characters to sustain!

by Byronic Hero; ; Report