For those who need to catch up, previous installments can be found below:
- Chapter 1: Blood and Butterflies
- Chapter 2: Murder and Glass
- Chapter 3: The Sin Pit
- Chapter 4: Tussles in The Tangle
- Chapter 5: The Assault on Thistletop
- Chapter 6: Secrets Behind The Curtain
- Chapter 7: Murders At The Mill
- Chapter 8: Halflings and Ghouls
- Chapter 9: Fox in The Hen House
- Chapter 10: Something Rotten in Magnimar
- Chapter 11: The Crumbling Tower
- Chapter 12: Demonbane
- Chapter 13: Trouble at Turtleback Ferry
- Chapter 14: The Taking of Fort Rannick
- Chapter 15: Water Over The Dam
- Chapter 16: Mad Lovers, And Lost Captains
- Chapter 17: The March of The Giants
- Chapter 18: The Taking of Jorgenfist
- Chapter 19: The Secrets Beneath Sandpoint
- Chapter 20: At The Gates of The Runeforge
- Chapter 21: Storming The Halls of Evocation
- Chapter 22: The Bowels of Necromancy's Tomb
- Chapter 23: The End of Runeforge
But what did the Companions find awaiting them in Magnimar? A test of their minds and spirits, as well as a mysterious, new companion.
Is My Heart Yet Pure?
|Our hands were forced... but was there another way?|
As the days passed, the young Varisian found her steps returning to the same, abandoned chapel where Zhakar had found Demonbane awaiting him. He was there, standing quietly in the stillness of the place dedicated to the dead god Aroden. His hair blew in a breeze that wasn't there, and the steel of his gauntlet and manica seemed to flow and flex, responding to the moods of the one who wore them. For ever since his return from the Runeforge, it was hard to call Zhakar a man any longer. When he turned, the light that lived in him glimmered in his eyes. It frightened, but comforted. That light would not tolerate the presence of evil.
"Something troubles you," Zhakar said, placing his right hand atop the head of the Runeforged pick on his hip. The steel stilled, quelled by the presence of the weapon that wounded transmutations.
"We killed them," she said. The words came out of her like a popped cork, the rest tumbling out in a jumble. "Not in a fight, not like the others. I broke them. I wiped their minds clear. They couldn't do anything and... and..."
"And you wonder if that stained you," Zhakar asked, taking a step closer. Mirelinda wrapped her arms tightly around herself, barely suppressing a shudder. She nodded, but wouldn't look up. "Do you trust me?"
"What?" she asked, her head coming up in surprise.
"Do you trust me?" Zhakar repeated, a smile that was something of the man he'd been when she first saw him at the festival so long ago quirking his lips.
"Then close your eyes," he said. "And I will show you how little you truly changed."
Mirelinda almost argued, but shut her eyes. Once he was certain she wasn't going to open them again, Zhakar tilted his head back, and let forth the Light. The whole chapel illuminated in a burst of brilliant radiance that washed over the two of them, filling them like a wave of purity. Mirelinda gasped, her eyes shooting open once it has passed. Zhakar looked down at her, and nodded.
"Are you blind?" he asked.
"No," she said. "And I feel... I feel..."
"Good," he said, nodding. "Take that as a sign, then. Those who are merely selfish creatures feel nothing when the Light covers them. Those who are wicked are blinded. We should take no pride in what had to be done, but we did not lose our souls for doing it."
A Mysterious Stranger
|And just who the hell are you?|
Not all of the Companions would take that journey, though. Zordlan would remain at the Society lodge, looking for any further mystery they could use to their advantage. And Bostwick, though he had walked far with them, said that his path was elsewhere. He wasn't sure what awaited at the end of his journey, but he knew traveling to Zin Shalast was not a part of his path.
While Mirelinda, Thok, Chikara, and Zhakar stood on the docks awaiting the ship that would take them upriver the following day, they saw a strange sight. A woman was on the deck of the ship... or, more accurately, a feminine figure.
She was slender and petite, wearing a dress that was not suited to either the practicalities of travel or the idea of modesty. If the cold bothered her, though, she showed no sign. Black ears like that of a beast sat atop her head, and a tail curled round her waist. Her eyes were an impossible hue, and silver rings pierced her skin in unexpected places. A light scent of jasmine seemed to waft from her, but oddest of all was that she sat on a small cloud... a cloud that seemed to obey her whims and directions.
No sooner had the dock touched down than she floated closer to the Companions, her smile bright, wide, and satisfied. She called Zhakar by name, and told him she'd been looking for him everywhere. She called him nephew, and while his face gave no sign of disquiet, the steel of his gauntlet writhed until he managed to get control of himself again. Ivory was her name, and though he had never prayed to the Lady Arshea, blood called to blood in times of turmoil. So the Lady had sent Ivory to find him, and to bring him back into the fold.
Once the Companions explained their current task, Ivory's delight dimmed. A serious matter, and one that would require the utmost of care. Finally, she shrugged. If Arshea had waited more than two decades for Ivory to find Zhakar, surely she could wait a little while longer while they attended to a matter of such import.
Next Time on Table Talk!
Who is Ivory? Is the tales she tells about Zhakar's lineage true? If so, can she reveal what it is that's going on inside of him? And will she be what helps the Companions finally put to rest the machinations of the risen Runelord? Find out on the next installment of Table Talk!
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