Vicissitudes in the Dark Woods (pt. 14)

A distant roar of arctic winds howl, deep in the recesses of Pan’s mind.

Essence is sucked in a torrent from the air of the room, dragged in some direction beyond Pan’s skill to recognise. As the caul of sorcerous silence settles over the room following Oliver’s appearance, the revenant feels like he might have an idea.
Quickly his eyes flicker across Rubin and Nella, slowly his hand creeps up to subtly grip the hilt of his shortsword as his mind scrambles for understanding. Casting back to when they’d lost the sorcerer, Pan recalls Rubin’s claim the sorcerer had cast an enchantment on him while freed from his bonds and fled. At the time the story fit, but now it was seeming like a deception.

“Thank you for joining us Oliver,” the High Priestess’ powerful voice breaks through Pan’s thoughts. “It is a blessed day that I may fascilitate this reunion between the three of you.”

Oliver’s energy is of pure toxic malice, but his eyeline is downturned and while his anger is on open display, it’s direction and meaning remains veiled. The sorcerer arrives and positions himself beside the High Priestess, making no effort to act beyond that.
Is he a prisoner here? Pan wonders to himself. That’s the most logical read of this body language, but if that was the case then the next most likely truth is that Rubin’s story was probably true with roles reversed. And that put the context of their current situation in far more dangerous territory.

Neitheer of Pan or Rubin break their stunned silence and after a hanging moment the High Priestess continues, “Young Oliver came into my protection not long before your number arrived here. One of my faithful found him seeking some unsavoury services in the quiet district and instead directed him to the church for clemancy against his crimes and penitent redemption from his sins. He has done good work here in this pursuit, but I fear he still has a long road ahead of him.”

Pan’s mind races through possible subtext behind that explanation. Somehow his instincts still told him the High Priestess was brazenly honest, but it didn’t add up, and even if she was that didn’t mean she was saying all of the truth. The church was indeed powerful, and in Verwich especially the crown was far from the sole authority, but even so interrupting a royal contract was a dangerous act.

“I am sorry, Priestess.” Pan bows slightly to buy a moment to find his words, “I believe you an honest woman so I will be plain with you. That man is the subject of a royal contract.”

Given the circusmtances, Pan felt it wise to leave the request and threat behind those words implied.

“I understand. Actually this is why I had him brought here when I learned you had come here.”

The High Priestess moved over to a desk where she took a sheet of paper and started to rapidly write something. Whatever she writes, it is a short message. When it is done, she folds the paper and starts to heat some wax for a seal.

“I hope you understand, but I do not intend to turn Oliver over to you.”

She presses the wax with a symbol Pan recognises as some variation on the mark of Atyx, he assumed it was that of the cathedral, or the priestess herself. Standing from the desk, the High Priestess crosses the room once more to offer the letter to Pan, his secret grip on the hilt of his sword being released before she was too close to not notice it. All this time Oliver and Rubin have stood silently, staring at the floor and watching this exchange respectively.

“This letter should suffice for the purposes of the completion of your duties. Whether my claim to him is contested by the authority is beyond your responsibility. I hope you and by extension your band feel adequately compensated and hold no ill will for any inconvenience I may cause you?”

Pan looked at the letter, he had no idea if what she said was true. He’d never heard of an incomplete contract being paid out, but then he’d never heard of one coming between the church and the state. Still, he wasn’t in any position to argue here, he thought. Cautiously he raised his hand to take the letter, but as he did the High Priestess gripped it tightly.

“I value the friendship of Telfor very highly, Pan. When you deliver this to him, let him know that if he is not content to come see me.”

With a bestial smile, the only kind her deadly teeth and jaws can give, she releases the letter. Pan nods, finding himself unable quite to verbalise a response. His lips feel dry, and he consciously suppresses and urge to wet them or swallow. For whatever reason, he fears this woman, but he doesn’t intend to show her that.
Offering another polite bow, Pan makes to leave. Turning himself from her, he looks over to Rubin, gesturing with his eyes his intention. The scholar nods, his previously jovial expression has been replaced with one of anxious anticipation. He exchanges fond farewells with the Priestess as Pan exits and waits just beyond the door for him.

Passing the threshold of the spell the revenant feels, more than he hears, ambient sound return. There is something unspeakably haunting, in a way you don’t consciously recognise about the feeling of magical silence. It is unnatural. And with the room barren of essence, it all being tied up in the spell, that entire encounter had been deeply unsettling.
Perhaps, Pan hoped, that was the real source of my fear. Priestess Nella. She is a dangerous woman, I suspect, but she didn’t do or say anything that should have frightened me so. At least, not directly. That last thought recognised the implied threat of the silence spell, and the position of power. He shook his head. He’d think about it later, right now he was too close to the situation. Too emotional, shaken.
A moment or two later, Rubin emerged from the room and the two began to walk back through the cathedral, escorted by another monk. They walked in silence. It had seemed like Rubin was about to speak at first, but Pan had silenced him with a look and a gesture. He might have felt comfortable talking here, but for Pan, that coversation would wait until they were back in the noisy streets.

He had questions for Rubin.

Just like I promised, we’re back into the story again. I feel like this Dark Woods section of Blood and Lies is not living up to that section of it’s name. Perhaps the Vicissitudes are approriate though, I’m not sure.

I hope you’re enjoying how this story progresses. I’m enjoying writing it, even if I’m not yet able to be regular with it.

Today’s featured art is the work of Notre Dame – Juhupainting, as usual I found them by searching online for a picture that fit the image I had of the feel for this story and this picture is rad and so is the rest of their stuff.

– Zairron

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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