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Subject: Gwidrite Heresies - Session Two rss

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Kai S.
Germany
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Drama Llama Roleplaying Society
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Participating Players
Game Leader – Kai
Maeveen – Sara
Nikolas – Fred
Saroc – Simon
Valbrand – Bavo

List of previous sessions

***

It is shortly after noon and the group is still investigating the razed Demorthèn stone circle close to the village of Niddrie, when they notice Morwenna seems to have wandered off, probably chasing a butterfly again. No one is that much concerned about her disappearance though, since she lives in the woods anyway and knows her ways around the area. Nikolas takes a step away from the stones to get an overview over the whole location, which is easy since the sides of the hill are completely barren. He continues further down the hill and notices broken twigs on the trees that surround the hill, but he isn’t sure whether these were broken off by an animal or a human being passing through. He walks up again and then looks out over the forest, hoping to maybe spot signs of smoke from a campfire or something similar. To the West he can make out the smoke rising from the chimneys of Niddrie, while way up in the North, probably close to the coast, a thick black column of smoke is rising to the sky, forming dirty black clouds. He thinks that it might be emanating from the Ashen Archipelago, islands in the Furious Ocean that were recently occupied by Rheizh. He turns to the flower decorations again, examining the ones Morwenna left on the ground after picking up what interested her, and estimates that the flowers were probably picked two or three days ago.

Valbrand, who is upping suspicion, turns to Maeveen: „Is there someone in the village who would come this way?“

„No, Sir Knight, I don’t think anyone would go here, if they had a chance. Maybe one of the other hunters, but they would clearly try to stay away. This is a shunned place, I don’t think we should linger.“

Nikolas wonders: „Why is this place shunned?“

Valbrand gives him a stern look: „Have you payed no attention while you were at the abbey?“

„This is an evil place“, Maeveen adds. „All of these old places are…“

Valbrand nods: „The spirits are not to be trusted or to be trifled with. But it seems there is nothing more we can find here, so we should return to the village before dusk.“ The others wholeheartedly agree and they all leave the stone circle. When they reach the treeline at the base of the hill, Saroc notices a small piece of cloth hanging from a broken off old branch at around waist height. Just as Valbrand spots the piece of cloth as well, Saroc picks it up and calls out: „Hang on a second, there’s something over here!“ Examining it more closely Saroc thinks this is a piece of a shirt, so he turns to Maeveen: „Could this come from that Viviana lass or do you recognize it at all?“

Maeveen takes a closer look at the piece and finds it is colored bright red, but doesn’t look that expensive. She doesn’t think it belongs to Viviana who usually wears muted brown or green colors when out hunting in the forest. Nikolas wonders who might be wearing red - and then suddenly realizes red is the color of the Blade Knights, even though Valbrand isn’t wearing a red shirt. Saroc points this out to Valbrand who checks his cloak for any tears or missing pieces but can’t find any. Saroc even goes so far as to match the color of the piece of fabric to Valbrand’s cloak, but finds it is a different color - while Valbrand’s cloak, even though utilitarian, is still of very high quality, the fabric they found looks more washed out. Going through the inhabitants of Niddrie Nikolas remembers most of them usually wear undyed clothes, so the shirt this piece of fabric came from is probably a prized possession. Valbrand squints his eyes as he examines the piece as well: „Not many people in the area will be wearing red, would they?“

Maeveen nods: „Usually not…“

Nikolas looks at the others: „This is the only lead we have for now, let’s keep an eye open once we’re back at the village.“

Valbrand adds: „I would appreciate if you don’t talk about what we’ve seen here.“

„I’m not even sure what it is we shouldn’t talk about - this is just an old stone circle in the woods with a few flower decorations…“

„It’s a haunted place“, Maeveen reminds Nikolas.

„Yeah, sure, if you prefer to call it that… and that piece of cloth means someone was here.“

„But that doesn’t mean they have anything to do with what happened up there“, Saroc adds.

Valbrand nods: „True, but it does mean someone went here recently, wearing red. And that is enough reason to investigate.“

„Maybe they can tell us more about what happened here, maybe they saw something…“

„Exactly… but first we’ll need to find this person. I have someone I wish to talk to.“ Valbrand starts walking towards the village.

„Let’s move it then, not long before the sun will be going down this time of year. Don’t wanna be caught out here in the dark.“ The others agree with Saroc’s last words and they all make their way back to the village.

***


About one and a half hour later the group (sans Morwenna) arrives in Niddrie, where Valbrand, accompanied by Maeveen, heads straight to the chapel: „Brother Callum, do you know anyone in this village who wears red regularly? Shirts, that is.“ Callum looks him up and down and Valbrand adds: „Aside from me, obviously.“

Callum thinks about this for a little while: „Well, several of the younger women, maybe, some of the girls. Why do you ask?“

„We found red fabric near the site. Do any of these young women have shown any inclination towards foolishness?“ Callum laughs and Valbrand adds: „More so than normal?“

„Brother Valbrand, girls, just as boys, young women, just as young men, they all have an inclination towards foolishness.“

„Granted. Some more than others, though.“

„I find it difficult to answer your question. I have educated all of them in the ways of the One God. If any of them shows a tendency for greater foolishness, that would mean I failed in my education.“

„I see. But it is also our duty to find those ones who were lead astray and lead them back. I’m just asking for your help in finding them.“

Callum clears his throat and hesitantly suggests: „You might want to talk to Jenrick’s daughter Elena… she is one of the more wild ones.“

„Thank you.“ Without saying another word Valbrand stalks off.

***


When Valbrand leaves, Maeveen stays behind. Callum turns to her: „Any what can I do for you, my child?“

„Why would anyone go up there?“

„I don’t know. That is what Valbrand and, by extension, you are supposed to find out. But… The Old Faith has very strong and deep roots. Maybe someone has hidden his true beliefs for years and now, finally, made a mistake. Or, maybe, a Demorthèn has moved to Niddrie and is trying to rekindle the Old Faith. Maybe it was a traveling Demorthèn and he’s long gone. What do you think?“

„I don’t know… it is hard to think that… someone from Niddrie would to something like that…“

„Why? Temptation is everywhere around us.“

„But consorting with spirits? Selling your soul for some… minor benefits now?“

„Soustraine teaches us that spirits are devious and that temptation lies at the heart of a lot of men. So a lot of men are willing to sell their soul to the spirits to gain momentary power, because they do not believe in an afterlife. They only care about the here and now.“ There is a long silence, then Callum adds: „You only have to look so far as to your friend Morwenna. I know she only pretends to be a true believer.“

„But… I don’t think she would’ve done the thing at the stone circle…“

„Of course not. But have you ever witnessed her attending any of the services held at the chapel?“

„Not really, no.“

„See, and that’s what I mean. I don’t think she’s involved in whatever is going on at the stone circle. But I do think that someone from this village was tempted into dealing with spirits. And that is what we need to find out. And more importantly, that is something we need to find out before Yorum finds out.“

„Why?“

„If we solve this mystery first, we can deal with this without a massive witchhunt. If Yorum figures it out first, people are going to be burnt at the stake.“

„But maybe this person deserves to be burnt at the stake?“

„Maybe they do, if they can’t be lead back onto the right path. But Yorum would burn them anyway. The problem is - I’m not sure what Valbrand would do. And that’s why I think you should keep an eye on him.“

„What about Viviana? Won’t she gossip?“

„Once you had left I had a long talk with her. She took an oath not to talk about this incident until I expressly allow her to do it. And Viviana takes such an oath very serious. So for now you are the only ones who know about this. And now you better follow Valbrand before he gets overzealous.“

Maeveen sighs and nods. After receiving Callum’s blessing she leaves, while Callum leans back and reaches for a bottle…

***


Saroc walks around the village looking for someone wearing a ripped red shirt for the next hour, but he doesn’t spot anyone. Meanwhile, Nikolas visits some of his patients, but also keeps an eye out for someone with a red shirt. At one point he thinks he sees a red shirt but when on second look he realizes the shirt isn’t red at all.

***


Since Maeveen knows where Jenrick’s farm lies, she arrives there at the same time Valbrand does, who has been asking around for the way to the farm. Valbrand greets her: „Maeveen, has Brother Callum sent you?“ When she nods, he continues: „Do you know Elena well?“

„As well as anyone else in the village, I guess.“

„Well, I suppose that counts.“ Valbrand shrugs and walks up to the farm. A broad-shouldered man with short black hair is pulling carrots from the earth of a few vegetable patches in front of the farm. Valbrand approaches him: „Afternoon, goodman! Are you Jenrick, the farmer?“

The man looks up and then obediently loweris his head: „Yes, I am Jenrick, Sir Knight.“ He stretches a bit: „What can I do for you?“

„If you have a moment to spare, I’d like to ask you a few questions about your daughter Elena.“

„Is there any problem?“

„Not yet, goodman Jenrick.“

Jenrick gets quite nervous: „May I invite you into my humble abode, Sir Knight? Maybe offer you a cup of milk?“

„That is not necessary, but thank you for the invitation.“

Jenrick shoots Maeveen a quick worried look, who tries to calm him down: „Don’t worry, Jenrick.“

The farmer gives her a forced smile: „That’s easier said than done…“

„She hasn’t stolen anything this time…“ When Maeveen says that, Valbrand’s head snaps towards her and he stares at the blacksmith intently.

Jenrick furrows his brow: „So, what has she done this time?“

„I would like to ask her first, if that’s okay“, Valbrand firmly says.

„Of course, you may ask her anything you want. She’s working the vegetable fields at the back of the house. I’m gonna call her immediately.“ Jenrick puts his tools on his shoulder and goes to the back of the house, where Maeveen and Valbrand can hear him yell: „Elena! Get here this instant! And if I hear any complaints about you, I’m gonna smack the teeth right out of your mouth!“

Valbrand looks at Maeveen: „He is exaggerating, I do hope?“

„I don’t know“, Maeveen whispers.

A little while later Jenrick returns with a teenage girl. She is maybe sixteen years old and rather thin, with black curly hair and bright green eyes. The girl bows when she sees Valbrand - and she isn’t wearing red, which he immediately notices. He then gives Jenrick a look that strongly implies he should get out of earshot - and the farmer takes the hint and immediately takes a few steps away to start pulling carrots from the earth again.

Maeveen watches Elena closely - she knows she is friends with Feyre, a girl who has recently lost her voice after a strange incident at the local pond. She leans forward and quietly asks: „Elena, have you and your friends been running around the forest again?“

„What? No, of course not!“

Maeveen thinks Elena is telling the truth - Valbrand though is immediately convinced the girl is lying. He looks at her sternly: „Confession is good for the soul, Elena. I think you are lying to me.“

Elena laughs nervously: „There’s nothing to confess, Sir Knight. I admit it - we have been running around the woods… all around the village and into the woods.“

„And you wouldn’t have gone east up the hill, would you?“

„No, no, no. East? We know danger lies in that direction!“

„That didn’t stop you, Feyre and Samuel last time…“, Maeveen cooly remarks.

„Well… it was exactly the incident you’re referring to that convinced us that danger lies in that direction. We’d never dare to go east again!“

„You will have to tell me this story later, Maeveen.“ Valbrand looks at the girl again: „Elena, do you possess a shirt in red?“

„Yes…“

„Has it recently been torn?“

„Not that I know of…“

„I assume you possess only one… could you fetch it, please?“

„Certainly…“ Elena walks into the house, slightly trembling. After several minutes she returns empty-handed: „I can’t find it.“

„How convenient…“

„Are you implying that I’m lying, Sir Knight?“ The girl’s voice gets slightly aggressive now.

„I predict future behavior by past experience.“

„You’re lucky you’re a knight, else I’d punch you in the face right now!“

„Elena! Think about what you’re saying!“ Maeveen tries to warn the girl.

„Seriously, who does he think he is“, Elena yells.

„A Blade Knight, obviously!“

„And I told him the truth! Now and earlier as well!“

„When did you last have the shirt?“

„Couple of days ago.“ Elena gets the stubborn look of a teenager on her face and she crosses her arms in front of her.

Valbrand turns to Maeveen: „Do you trust her?“ The blacksmith nods and Valbrand mumbles: „Thank you very much, then.“

Maeveen turns to Elena again: „Are you saying someone stole your shirt then? Or did you misplace it?“

„I don’t know - I simply can’t find it“, Elena replies defiantly. „Maybe my mom put it away; she sometimes does that.“

Valbrand stares at Elena intently, but this time he thinks the girl is actually telling the truth. He remains suspicious though and asks her: „Tell me, do… I mean, did you often head out of the village and into the woods?“

„Sure… to get away from my parents… and this miserable village.“

„I see. And in your… gallivanting… did you see others who did the same and went into the eastern direction?“

Elena looks confused: „What does ‚gallivanting‘ mean?“

„Walking around… playing…“

„We went in all directions back then. But now we don’t anymore.“

„What happened?“ When the girl doesn’t answer he looks at Maeveen: „Why don’t you tell me, since Elena’s gone mute all of a sudden?“

Reluctantly Maeveen replies: „Feyre lost her voice. We don’t know much more.“

„Thank you very much.“ The Blade Knight gets ready to leave - he doesn’t cross Elena off his list, but she passes his inspection for now. He nods at Jenrick and then walks away, with Maeveen following him. As they’re leaving the farm they can hear Jenrick yelling at his daughter: „How dare you speak to a Blade Knight like this? Are you completely out of your mind?!“ The girl screams back at him: „He called me a liar! And I was telling the truth!“ „Well, you have a habit of lying!“ Fortunately by now the two companions are out of hearing range… until Maeveen turns around and walks straight towards Jenrick, who yells at her as well now: „What is it, blacksmith? Can’t you see I’m busy?“ He then suddenly realizes that Maeveen is probably stronger than he is and he calms down: „Err… sorry, what is it, Maeveen?“

Maeveen looks for Elena but she has run off, after throwing a temper tantrum. She then turns to Jenrick: „The issue is about her red shirt. Have you seen it lately?“

„I think she was wearing it two days ago.“

„Was that the day she went into the forest?“

„I have no idea where she went that day - she disappeared in the morning and came back late in the evening, that little brat!“

„I see… it seems like she might have been getting her friends and herself into trouble.“

„Oh, that’s something new“, the farmer sarcastically remarks. He then gets a concerned look on his face: „And this is what the Blade Knight is investigating?“ Maeveen nods and he continues: „What has she gotten herself into this time?“

„We’re not sure. I’m sorry. We’re not even sure it’s really her. So calm down, Jenrick.“

„How am I supposed to do that?“

„Why don’t you marry her off?“

„Don’t you think I tried?“

„Go to another village, maybe you’ll find a suitable future husband there.“

„The last prospective husband I brought home she smacked in the face!“

„She’ll grow out of it…“

„ I hope so, I seriously hope so… because I’m getting tired of it! And if she doesn’t I’m gonna beat it out of her!“

„I don’t think that’ll help.“

„Oh yeah? I find it rather interesting that you take offense at me merely suggesting this while you’re completely fine with Wynne, the miller’s wife, getting punched every night. So stick to your own business. I’ll treat my daughter the way I see fit. Have a good day.“ Jenrick returns to his labor.

***


Meanwhile Nikolas visits Gudrun, a farmer’s wife, who will soon deliver a baby. She is not feeling well today, but is not in labor yet. Nikolas examines the symptoms but doesn’t think they’re serious, just regular pregnancy issues. Gudrun herself doesn’t seem to be too much worried about the symptoms either, so Nikolas soon leaves her alone again and goes back to his landlady to assist her with the daily work in the household.

Saroc starts inquiring where one could buy a red shirt if he wanted to get one. He learns there are several merchants from other towns in Gwidre who come by on a regular basis and two of them, Gwion and Turio, sell clothes. Both of them would be able to offer a red shirt for sale. Saroc recognizes the names - he thinks he talked to both of them on several occasions, but he’s not well acquainted with them. One of the villagers also mentions Saroc himself sold a few pieces of red clothing in the village a few years ago. Saroc then inquires if anyone bought a red shirt recently and who could recommend which one is the best to buy from, since he himself wants to purchase a few shirts for onward trade. He learns that ever since Yorum arrived in Niddrie no-one buys red shirts anymore - it seems Yorum thought wearing colorful clothes was not appropriate for followers of the One God. He tries to learn who the last person to buy a red shirt was, but no-one seems to know for certain. He offers a small reward for that information, claiming he needs it for his trade business, and then goes looking for Valbrand.

***


Maeveen and Valbrand are standing a short distance away from Jenrick’s farm and are talking about Elena and her father. Valbrand asks: „Is he always this cantankerous?“

„Mostly, yes. Sometimes he has good days, when Elena is not acting up.“

„I see.“ He pauses. „Soustraine tells us to temper our passions. Perhaps Callum should preach his next sermon on that.“

„Why not? You should suggest it to him.“

„I shall…“ Valbrand frowns. „I doubt it’s Elena. She lacks the focus for true heresy.“

„She’s just a girl. If she’s done it, she’s done it for a bet or something, not with ill intentions.“ Just as Maeveen says this, Saroc arrives at the place they’re standing at.

„Hm… those symbols were too well done to be merely simple intentions.“ Valbrand isn’t convinced yet and turns to Saroc, who addresses him now.

„Sir Knight, I’ve been speaking with some of the villagers and set them on the trail to come back to me with information on people who own red shirts. I promised them some coin - but in order to pay them I need to be paid by you for the guide work I carried out for you earlier today.“ Valbrand pays him the agreed upon five Ember Daols. „Pleasure doing business with you, Sir Knight. If I can be of any further assistance to the church, you only have to give me a shout.“

„Your motivation is exemplary, Saroc“, Valbrand replies in all earnestness. The trader slightly narrows his eyes and then just shakes his head, while Valbrand turns to Maeveen again: „So if it isn’t Elena, who else could do it?“

Suddenly they all spot Jenrick running towards them, holding a red shirt in his hand. Once he stops in front of the group, he throws the shirt on the ground and yells: „There! This is what you were looking for, right?“ When Valbrand nods, he continues: „It wasn’t missing it all!“

„Where was it?“

„Elena was trying to hide it in the forest. I saw her sneaking away just as you left!“

Valbrand picks up the shirt and examines it. He immediately spots a tear on the side of the shirt, where a piece of fabric is missing. Nikolas, whose practice happens to be only a short distance away from where the rest of the group is standing currently, hears the yelling and joins them, quietly observing the scene. Maeveen asks: „Is Elena still at home?“

Jenrick shakes his head: „No. She ran away once she noticed I had found the shirt.“

„Let’s go talk to Samuel“, Maeveen suggests. Seeing the puzzled faces of her companions, she adds: „Her friend.“

Jenrick looks at her: „When she comes home tonight, she’s gonna get the beating of her lifetime.“

„I’d rather ask her a few questions before that happens, so please hold yourself back until I have done so“, Valbrand tells the farmer.

„Oh… of course, if you insist, Sir Knight, then I will hold back my anger.“

„Like Soustraine taught us: passion must be controlled.“ Valbrand looks at the others: „Would it not be best if we ask Saroc for help in finding her? He knows his way around the village and forest… and he is something of a hunter, is he not?“ Saroc smiles, sensing another business opportunity.

Nikolas meanwhile wonders: „Excuse me, but weren’t we supposed to be a little more discrete about this whole matter? All this yelling might draw too much attention in my opinion.“ The others ignore his remark for now.

Valbrand turns to Saroc: „Can you track people?“

„Yes, that would be part of the business I run from time to time.“

„Then I have need of your services again.“

„And I’d be happy to do business with you again. If the girl mixes with those she should be avoiding, we need to find her sooner rather than later, in case something is done to silence her.“

„Agreed.“ Valbrand turns to Maeveen and Nikolas: „You can join us if you wish or go talk to this Samuel person.“

Maeveen shakes her head: „If Saroc can find her, that is the better option.“

With that they head off for the woods.

***


Saroc is leading the others into the forest, with Valbrand’s armor making a lot of noise. Occasionally the trader looks back at the knight with ever greater annoyance and moves further and further away from him. For now he has no issues following the tracks the girl left behind. When he thinks they’re getting fairly close to her, he turns to Valbrand: „Sir Knight, I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but you’re making a lot of noise in your armor and we may frighten the girl away. Why don’t you let me just move ahead and see if I can find her before any harm comes to her. I’ll bring her back so we can talk to her in a friendly manner.“ Valbrand agrees and Saroc moves away to try and sneak up on Elena. The girl seems to have spotted him though, since a small rock suddenly flies by his head and only barely misses him.

He calls out: „By all the black gods, girl, stop throwing fucking stones at me or I’ll knock your head off! You don’t even know me, I’m here to help!“ In response another stone flies by his head, again barely missing him. „Oy, stop it, girl!“ Since Saroc is yelling at the top of his lungs, Valbrand hear’s him mentioning ‚the black gods‘ and makes note of that. Saroc meanwhile is running to where the stones are being thrown from - several more stones are thrown at him, but Elena has rather terrible aim, so none of them hit their target. Saroc arrives at a small clearing and spots the girl standing on the root ball of a tree that has fallen over, with the roots and part of the tree acting as cover. Even now she continues throwing stones at him, but Saroc has had enough of this, dodges around the roots and drags her down from the root ball, pulling her arm behind her back as he does so. He then marches her back to Valbrand - Elena keeps struggling though and kicks him against the shins several times.

„Stop kicking me, you little bitch, I’m trying to help you!“

„Let go of me, you big ugly brunt!“

They arrive at the place where the others wait - Elena pales slightly when she is approached by Valbrand who sternly says: „I do not appreciate being lied to.“

„And I don’t appreciate being dragged before you with my arm bent behind my back“, she replies snappishly.

„Well, we both bear our discomfort with great fortitude.“ Elena gives him a very confused look after that remark, but Valbrand doesn’t seem to notice. „You did go east. You did go to the stone circle.“

„I did not!“

Valbrand holds up the shirt: „Saroc, would you give me that piece of cloth you picked up?“ The trader takes it out of his belt pouch and hands the piece of fabric to Valbrand who matches it against the tear in the shirt - it is a perfect fit. Valbrand turns to Elena again: „I found this at the stone circle. This is your shirt.“

„So what?“ Elena looks at him defiantly.

„Have you been there in the last two days?“

She laughs without humor: „And what if I have been?“

„What have you seen there?“

„Nothing.“

„Girl, someone has been making a sacrifice at the circle. I suggest you talk!“

„About what?“

„Do you know what the price for heresy of this magnitude is?“ When Elena doesn’t respond, Valbrand continues: „Very well, if you will not confess your sins…“

„I didn’t do anything!“

„But you’re also not helping! Are you colluding?“

„So, what if I went there?“

Maeveen tries a different approach: „Elena… just tell us what you saw.“

„We were simply walking past that hill. We didn’t do anything!“

„Then why are you so unwilling to talk about it“, Valbrand demands to know.

„Why are you so intrusive?“

„Because it is my duty as a knight of the Church to investigate and stamp out heresy. Now speak up!“

„I already told you, I didn’t do anything.“

„You were there two days ago. Was there anything unusual at the stone circle?“

„Not that I remember.“

„What did the stones themselves look like? Was there writing on the stones?“ Saroc joins the interrogation.

„We were at the foot of the hill, we didn’t go up. I don’t know!“

„Why were you there?“

Reluctantly Elena replies: „It was a dare.“

„So you dared each other to go to the foot of the hill? Or did you dare each other to go up towards the center?“

„Only to the foot of the hill.“

Valbrand thinks Elena is telling the truth this time, while Saroc thinks she is lying, so he takes a step towards her: „Don’t lie, girl, I can fucking tell a liar from thirty feet and I’m standing right next to you! Tell the truth, now!“ He tries to be as intimidating as possible. It doesn’t seem to work though: „I am telling the truth“, Elena insists.

„But not the whole truth!“

„We… okay, we went up there. It looked so forlorn…“

„What did you see up there?“

„The stones… and that slab of stone in the middle.“

„Was there writing on the stones? Any flowers around?“

„When we went up there? No.“

„What about after that?“

„… Okay, we put a few flowers on the stones. It looked so lonely.“

„Who is we?“ Elena gets that stubborn look again and doesn’t respond, so Valbrand continues: „You may think this is a game. But I can assure it’s not - this is consulting with spirits.“

„We’re not consulting with spirits, we just put a few flowers on the stones.“

„So it wasn’t you who slaughtered an animal and painted runes on the stones?“

„What? No!“

„You happen to know nothing else? You’ve lied to me before, girl, I’m starting to loose my patience!“

„And what are you gonna do me then, huh?“

„Things like these can lead to a trip to Expiation or worse.“

Elena pales even more and whispers: „It was just a game…“

Saroc looks at her menacingly: „Listen, girl, if you don’t tell the Sir Knight here the truth, what happens if Yorum finds out? What will happen to you then?“

„But it was just a game!“ Elena starts looking desperate and then suddenly tries to break free. Somehow she manages to slip from Saroc’s grip and darts away to the left, heading deeper into the forest. Valbrand is the first to react and tries to intercept her, but is hindered by his heavy armor and unable to catch up with her for now. The others are taken by surprise - none of them manages to even got close to Elena, who is heading into the thick undergrowth, where she is able to stay ahead of her pursuers long enough to finally disappear into the forest - she slips through some large bush and when Saroc, who is closest to her at his time, reaches the other side of the bush she is suddenly gone. He can hear the rustling of leaves in the distance, but is unable to discern the direction. He also realizes that, since she is much smaller than him, he probably won’t be able to follow her through the thick undergrowth anyway. Angrily he kicks a dead branch, snapping it in two, and swears loudly.

„She will have to come back sooner or later“, Maeveen points out.

Nikolas, who was the first to drop out of the chase, finally arrives at the place the others have gathered at, panting heavily: „Whew, did you catch her? It’s impossible to run with these slippers.“

„What does it look like“, Maeveen snaps at him, while Valbrand adds: „No, we did not. But she gave us something to work with.“

„By all means, we have to prevent that Yorum catches wind of it!“ Nikolas looks very concerned.

Valbrand gives him a curious look: „You all seem very intent on not trusting Brother Yorum.“

„Excuse me? She’s just a girl!“

„I wasn’t asking about that, I was wondering why you’re all not trusting Brother Yorum.“

Saroc tries to defuse the situation: „I never said I didn’t trust him, I just heard that he’s quite strict in his interpretation of church laws, to the point where he can be quite intense about it, that’s all.“

„You could also call him ‚overzealous‘“, Nikolas adds. „I mean, seriously, I’ve dealt with people like him before and it’s easier to accuse someone and get him punished than actually trying to find out the true reasons why people do the things they do.“

„You could say that Brother Yorum’s energy is better spent sermonizing than doing anything else“, Maeveen explains.

Valbrand looks at each of them for a few seconds: „I see… very well. But the girl did give us some information - she was there with her friends, and we know who those are. Perhaps they will be more pliable.“

Nikolas is confused: „Do we actually know her friends?“

Maeveen replies: „Samuel… Feyre, who lost her voice… Finn… and the one older guy, I think his name is Renan.“

Valbrand looks at Maeveen: „Why don’t you tell me the story about how that girl Feyre lost her voice?“

„It’s of course only village gossip… well, they say that they did something stupid. There’s an old pond in the forest… and, well, it’s supposed to grant you wishes if you sacrifice something to it. Samuel says that’s what Feyre did and she has not spoken a word since that.“

Valbrand gives the others a meaningful look: „And this is why these things are important!“

Saroc inquires: „Just out of interest - this girl Feyre, can she understand, can she react, like nod or shake her head, or does she just refuse to react to anything?“

„She reacts, but she won’t talk about what happened or answer questions.“

„But she might reply by shaking her head or nodding, so it might be worth talking to her as well.“

„Agreed.“ Valbrand nods. „But I doubt it would be good to rouse them by the time we get back to the village.“

Saroc looks at the sky and realizes it’s indeed getting dark already: „That girl shouldn’t be out in the woods after dark. It’s wrong of us to drive her into that… maybe I was a bit overenthusiastic, but she fucking throw stones at me, that little bitch.“

Maeveen shrugs: „She can take care of herself.“

„All we can do is pray for her safe return to the lord and to the village“, Valbrand nods. „But let’s take care of ourselves first though. We should return to the village.“

The others nod in agreement and they all start walking back towards Niddrie.
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