Aralu asked me to stay in Red Home for a day or so while they made preparations for Adda’s ‘punishment’. Apparently the help I was getting was Aralu themself fighting at my side. It came as a relief, I didn’t want to face the Ghoul alone. It was terrifying and I needed a little time out of Raven Wood to process what I’d been told about dad.
“So what was this ritual that he did?" I asked, we were sat at their little table once again for the evening.
“Not long after humans settled Raven Wood, and began venturing into the forest, we had some difficult encounters with them. Many were hostile, they did not want to share this land. Your father however was different." Aralu paused, they looked sad, their words were low and soft. “We became friends and taught each other much. The dark things of the woods were stronger then. More brazen. Aeddon stood by my side and fought because he knew that if the Elves fell, Raven Wood would be next. It wasn’t going well for us. A Blightbound had besieged this stead, and we were forced to fall back. Your father was a powerful ritualist. He brought knowledge with him when your people settled here. There was one ritual, one of binding that would purify the land within 10 miles of the casting circle, but it required the transference of a soul. Your mother had already been killed by the Blightbound, you were in Caersun’s care. I doubt your parents ever explained what they were doing out here."
They poured some sweet tea into a bone cup for me. I hadn’t asked how the tea was made. Some things are best left unknown.
“So he performed the ritual, and what, it killed the Blightbound?" I asked
“Indeed. I left his body and affects were they lay as a mark of respect and tended the trees around the site to ensure it remained hidden. I am surprised that you found him. But I am glad."
“Did you know who I was when I first visited?"
“I had my suspicions, you share some of his features. The eyes especially so."
“And now he lives in the sword?"
“Now he is the sword."
“And you can teach me to talk to him?"
“I can, and I will. I was uncertain of your readiness when we first met but you have proven yourself both worthy and capable." I was pretty sure that was the closest I was going to get to a real compliment out of them.
“Alright then.", I set my jaw, “How do we kill this monster?"
“We must find its lair, it will be well hidden in a place of great corruption”
“Adda said she found the book in the swamp, in some old Kotal ruins, what I can’t work out is why it’s written in Verese. Shouldn’t it be some old Kotal writ?"
Aralu nodded and said “I suspect that if you show it to me I will tell you it is written in Elvish. The Kotal were powerful magicians and their artifacts cause great mischief."
“Should I destroy the book then?", I patted my sling bag to indicate that it was there.
“I would suggest not. While there are no doubt rituals of great evil in there, there are almost certainly more benign incantations that could be valuable to you. The choice is yours.", they were watching my eyes while they said this. Looking for hints of greed I imagine.
I shrugged, “There’ll be time to work that out later. If I may, I’d like to question Adda. I need to know where she found it. I’m guessing the creature has made its lair near there."
“A reasonable assumption, I shall remain here. I think she finds us unsettling”
“She’s waiting to find out what her punishment will be, of course she’s unsettled."
They just shrugged, it was a much more emotive gesture for an elf than for any human. I made my way to the Iron obelisk where Adda had been tied up that afternoon. She looked miserable.
“What do you want tretch?" She pretty much spat the words at me.
“Just want to know exactly where you found that book Adda. May’n if you help the Elves’ll go easier on you." I kept my voice calm, I wanted to shout at her after what she did but I knew it wouldn’t help.
“What’s got in you Zan? You hate Elves. They killed your family remember?"
“No they didn’t Adda, I found my dad’s body”, I drew the sword, “And me and Aralu have unwound that history. I know what happened to my parents Ad, it weren’t Elves. Now tell me, where did you find the book?, I can’t help you if you don’t help me."
[Compel +Heart: Weak hit] (She’ll want something in return)
She looked around, it finally seemed to really sink in; where she was, what might happen. But same old Adda wanted something, anything so she could feel like she’d won in some way.
“Alright, I’ll tell ya. But only if the Elves promise not to kill me”
“I’ll ask but I can’t promise” I said warily. I stepped back into Aralu’s house for a moment and laid out her terms.
“We weren’t going to kill her”, they seemed surprised at the suggestion. “Her fate was to suffer the ritual of riting. It changes a person, burns away their wickedness. It is excruciatingly painful. Death is no punishment. It is an easy escape from facing one’s crimes."
I smiled, “Well, I won’t tell her that. Let her think she’s won something from us”
[Gather Information: Strong Hit]
I returned to Adda and said “They won’t kill you, now tell me where you found the book."
And she talked while I scratched down her directions on some parchment. With this info I couldn’t not find the place. I was ready. We were ready.