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Subject: Gwidrite Heresies - Session Eight rss

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Kai S.
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Drama Llama Roleplaying Society
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Participating Players
Game Leader – Kai
Maeveen – Sara
Morwenna - Jonna
Nikolas – Fred
Valbrand – Bavo

List of previous sessions

***

Morwenna, Maeveen and Nikolas are dragging a very reluctant Bran to the penitent’s cell in the church. As they approach the cell, which is located in the basement of the church in a small square room, Renan, who is still kept in the cell, stares at them through the metal bars of the cell’s door with a worried expression on his face and curses loudly. Especially the presence of Bran seems to make him uncomfortable - and the village idiot also struggles visibly to get away from the cell and its occupant.

Maeveen cheerfully says: „Well, Renan… you see, we have a little bit of a problem here. You won’t talk, he won’t talk, but both of you know something about what happened to Elena. So, we thought we might put you into the same cell until either of you decide to talk.“

Renan looks even more worried: „What?! You can’t do that!“

„Why not? We have two suspects and we only have one place to hold them.“ The blacksmith shrugs.

„Why are you even holding me,“ the young man demands to know. „I’ve told you everything I know.“

Nikolas leans forward slightly: „But did you tell us the truth?“

Renan doesn’t answer and instead nervously glares at Bran: „You can’t lock him up in here!“

Maeveen looks unimpressed: „Why not?“

„Well, the cell is too small, there’s not enough space for two people!“ Renan tries to occupy as much space in the cell as possible.

„Oh, well, I think there is,“ the blacksmith replies. „It won’t be comfortable, but… that’s not the point with being imprisoned.“

„He won’t fit in!“ The young man throws himself on the ground, blocking the entrance.

„Renan, now you are making a fool of yourself,“ Nikolas calls.

„Yes,“ Morwenna nods. „Besides, you are aware of who we are going to put in there… he might just think you’re a mattress.“

Renan glares at them: „Just fuck off!“

„Okay, then… shall we just put him in the cell and then go?“ Morwenna smiles at her companions.

Maeveen and Nikolas nod cooly and then proceed to lock the village idiot up in the cell with Renan - their plan is to put pressure on the young man so he talks and right now it seems they need to up the pressure by making good on their threat to put the two in the cell together. The instant they open the door to the cell, Renan jumps to his feet and tries to make a run for it, but Maeveen immediately grapples him and throws him back in the cell, not even having to use both of her arms. Morwenna and Nikolas push Bran into the cell as well and then close the door again. Renan scrambles away from the village idiot, pressing himself against the wall and staying as far away from Bran as possible - who does the exact same thing, while they both eye each other like two scared animals.

Nikolas sighs: „Now, there’s an easy way out of this situation, Renan…“

„There’s nothing I can tell you,“ the young man calls.

„Why not?“ Maeveen glares at him.

„I already told you everything I know!“

„But you’re story doesn’t add up,“ Nikolas replies.

„But it’s the truth!“

Maeveen frowns: „Are you saying there was no-one else with you when you talked to Feyre? A man?“

„There was no-one else there, and that’s the truth,“ Renan calls. Both the blacksmith and Nikolas keep a close eye on him, especially looking for the milky eyes they saw Tristan getting earlier, when he tried to remember something - but they don’t notice any of the signs they saw on the baker.

Nikolas leans forward: „Listen, Renan… people in the village are already getting at each others’ throats because of what’s happening in this area! You’re much better off in the cell than outside!“

„I’d prefer you let me decide where I’d like to stay, Nikolas.“ He laughs nervously. „I’d be more than happy to trade places with you, if you don’t feel safe outside!“

The doctor glares at him: „When did you switch boots with Bran?“

„I told you, the morning after Elena was attacked,“ Renan replies.

„Bran?“ Nikolas looks at the village idiot, who merely lets his gaze wonder and then snatches a small bug off the wall and eats it.

„Well, this is obviously getting us nowhere,“ Maeveen sighs. „Let’s return in a couple of hours.“

„Should one of us stay behind to keep an eye on them?“ Nikolas is getting a bit anxious.

„Go ahead, if you want to…“ Maeveen says over her shoulder, as she’s exiting the basement.

The doctor sighs: „No, thank you…“ He hurries after his two companions, leaving the two young men alone in the penitent’s cell.

***


As the three companions step out of the church, they find Valbrand waiting at the door. Nikolas smiles at the knight: „So, Valbrand… any news?“

The Blade Knight ignores the question and replies: „Any word from him?“

„No,“ Maeveen shakes her head.

„This case is going nowhere,“ Nikolas adds.

Valbrand sighs: „I wish I had the skills to put him to words, but… no. This is not what they sent me for…“

„Do you think it’s a good idea to keep these two troublemakers in the same cell?“ Nikolas tries again.

„Well, probably not, but…“ Valbrand shrugs. „But a threat that is not followed through becomes a useless threat.“

„We did check them for weapons, didn’t we?“ Nikolas looks at Morwenna and Maeveen for confirmation.

„Yes, I did,“ Valbrand nods. „I agree that leaving them alone for too long would be unwise, but I think that Renan will find the passing of time to go rather slowly…“ He looks in-between worried and angry.

Nikolas frowns: „Why are you so upset, Valbrand?“

„Because this case is going nowhere?“ The knight closes his eyes for a moment. „You said it yourself just a moment ago…“

Morwenna suggests: „Maybe we will just need to give it some time and… after a while one of them is going to talk.“

„The problem is that we don’t have time,“ Valbrand replies sharply. „If we don’t find an answer soon, the village will find it for us!“

„Well, that’s one way to solve the situation,“ Morwenna remarks.

The group falls silent when they see a pale, haggard and tired-looking Jenric approaching them. The farmer says: „A word, Nikolas, if I may…“

„Certainly,“ Nikolas nods and the two walk a few meters away.

„Nikolas, it has been several days now… when will she wake up?“ Elena’s father is obviously distraught.

„Jenric, I’m… I’m really sorry, but… she might remain in this condition for quite some time. It‘s entirely possible she wakes up at this very moment or… well, in a month or… it’s difficult to tell.“

„But, there’s gotta be something you can do! You’re a doctor! You’ve been at a monastery, they taught you medicine, right?“

„I’m afraid I already have tried everything I know.“

Jenric gets desperate: „Is there anything else we can do? I’m willing to try anything, Nikolas, I want my daughter back!“

„I understand that, Jenric, but, well…“ Nikolas looks at the church for a moment. „There’s always another option…“

„I have prayed night and day ever since you brought her back, Nikolas!“ Tears start streaming down the man’s face. „I have attended every service, which I have never done before in my entire life!“

„Did you ask Brother Callum or Brother Yorum for help?“

„Of course, I did! They’ve included Elena in their prayers, but…“

„You are aware that those strong in the faith are able to work miracles…“

„I know, but… we are mere farmers… do we have the right to ask the One God for a miracle?“

„Well, I don’t think the One God discriminates between the rich and the poor, Jenric.“ Nikolas sighs. „And I think we could transfer Elena to your farm now, if you prefer to have her stay at her home.“

„Yes, I’d vey much prefer to have her back home…“

„Okay, I’ll arrange for that as soon as possible.“

The farmer wipes the tears from his eyes and pleadingly asks again: „But, again… there’s nothing else that you know of? No herbs, or anything?“

„Well, if we had more resources at this village, like a library, or something, then maybe…“ Nikolas knows that the next settlement with a library of the required size is several days away.

The farmer nervously fiddles with a worn pouch on his belt: „Nikolas, I… I have saved a small amount of money, so… if this is about money, then…“ He blushes and looks down, as tears again come to his eyes. „I’m willing to give you everything I have!“

Nikolas sighs: „Please, Jenric, keep your money. It’s…“ He sighs again. „Let’s get Elena to your farm first, the familiar environment might be enough already to wake her up.“

Jenric takes a deep breath: „Just answer this one question, Nikolas, and, please, be honest with me: will she ever wake up again? I need to know!“

The hope and the fear in the farmer’s eyes are almost too much for Nikolas to bear - he looks down for a moment, before he says: „Well, Jenric… it’s entirely possible that she will never wake up again. However, I have seen miracles like these happen - people who had been unconscious for weeks, for months sometimes even… they suddenly woke up again and continued living as if nothing had happened. Others… well, others didn’t… it’s impossible to know for certain how it will turn out for Elena. I wish I could tell you for certain, but… the best thing you can do right now is care for her… give her the love and warmth she requires… I have witnessed cases in which that helped…“

The farmer seems to shrink, his shoulders sagging, as he slowly nods. „I see…“

Nikolas clumsily pats him on the back: „Come on, let’s get to my practice and visit her…“ He takes the man’s arm and leads him away - and the farmer follows him like a obedient child follows an adult…

***


In the west the autumn sun is slowly setting. Morwenna looks at Maeveen and Valbrand: „So, for how long do we keep Bran and Renan in that cell together?“

Valbrand nods: „I don’t think they should spend the entire night together.“

„Well, they’re in there together now!“

„I know.“ Valbrand turns to Maeveen. „You know Renan best. How do long do you think before he cracks?“

„I don’t know,“ the blacksmith shrugs.

„Alright then.“ Valbrand sighs. „But I think this is the last push we can put on Renan. If he doesn’t speak after this, we have no more power over him. Except perhaps a Sigire…“

„Stop speaking about it,“ Maeveen calls. „Either call for it or stop speaking about it! Don’t go around bringing it up every second we talk!“

„Yes,“ the Blade Knight nods like a chastised child. „I will work on that.“

„But, no, he seems afraid,“ Maeveen continues. „He seems really afraid but… he still won’t talk.“

„The simple question then is: is there something he’s more afraid or is he speaking the truth?“

„I can’t tell,“ Maeveen shrugs.

Morwenna nods: „Yes, indeed it’s very hard to tell.“

„Renan seems like the kind of man who’d sell out his mother for the right prize,“ Valbrand states, to which the two women nod in agreement. „But the question then is: who else is threatening him? What else?“

„Feyre, maybe,“ Maeveen suggests.

While Valbrand solemnly nods, Morwenna calls out in surprise: „Feyre?! With what would she be able to threaten him?“

„The man who was with them,“ Valbrand suggests. „The man who clearly has a certain…“

Maeveen says: „The man who Renan claims wasn’t there?“

„Tristan said he was and he seemed to have a strange effect on him,“ Valbrand replies.

„True… but could that have been a false memory planted there? To throw suspicion on someone else?“

Valbrand shrugs: „It would be… logically thinking it would be a very strange thing to do, but… what does logic matter in these cases?“ He sighs.

Anxiously Morwenna asks: „What are we gonna do? I mean, we can’t just let them stay there for the knight, can we? And it’s getting dark soon!“

„No, we can’t,“ Maeveen agrees, a hint of annoyance in her voice.

Valbrand nods: „Indeed, and that means at some point we will have to release Renan, because we are out of reasons to keep him, really…“

A man comes approaches the three companions: „Excuse me! I’m looking for a woman named Wynne. Do you happen to know where I can find her?“

„Why are you looking for her?“ Maeveen asks. The man shows her his Carath, the iron-shod walking stick that identifies him as a Varigal, so she gives him directions to the mill where the miller’s wife Wynne lives. He thanks her and then walks off.

„A Varigal,“ Valbrand wonders. „Weird… they’re expensive, aren’t they? What message would be important enough to send a Varigal?“

Maeveen sighs: „You really have to stick your nose in everyone’s business, don’t you?“

„Me? Yes.“ Valbrand smiles.

Morwenna calls: „Well, I’m kinda curious as well. I haven’t seen that many Varigals around here, so…“

„It’s a curiosity,“ Valbrand agrees. „I will… there’s much more happening here than was in the monastery. It is weird adapting…“ He looks in the direction Nikolas walked away in. „I remember the one time Brother Tomas cursed - it was the talk of the entire monastery for at least two weeks! It is a certain adaptation that is required…“

„Yes,“ Maeveen sighs again. „Just start gossiping, Valbrand, and you’ll find yourself fitting right in.“

The knight laughs, a rare thing: „I will try not to!“

Maeveen nods: „Good.“ She looks at the church. „I think we should speak to Callum.“

„About what?“ Morwenna is confused.

„He was the one who set us on this thing,“ Maeveen replies. „We have been to the stone circle, other things have gotten in the way… now we don’t know where to go anymore…“

Morwenna and Valbrand nod and they head for the parsonage, where they saw Callum earlier.

***


The three companions step into the tiny living area of the parsonage, after knocking on the door. Valbrand is with the two women, but is standing in the back, since he and Callum are still not on good terms. Callum, who is sitting in an old chair, nods at them: „Greetings, my children.“

„Greetings, Father Callum,“ Maeveen says. „We need some guidance.“

„What kind of guidance do you need?“

„Well, you asked us to investigate the stone circle and we did that. And it was as Viviana said, that someone had been there and put flowers on the stones… and, well, that led back to Elena and Renan and Samuel and Finn, who admitted to having bets to do such a thing. And now we’re investigating who attacked Elena. And I honestly don’t know what to do, because…“

Valbrand takes over: „The two suspects are Renan and Bran.“

„Where are they now?“ The old priest asks.

„In the penitent’s cell,“ the knight replies.

Callum frowns: „The church has only one penitent‘s cell, so… they‘re both in that cell at the same time?“

„For the moment.“

„Do you think that is a wise decision?“

„No, but we had to keep them somewhere.“ The knight continues in an extremely factual manner: „Bran was placed at the crime scene by boots, the same bootprints that Renan was wearing. Renan says that Bran switched boots with him, Bran said the same thing. We cannot get a clear answer out of either of them: Renan, probably, because either what he says is true or he is lying; Bran because there is not much sense to be made from that man. He makes a perfect scapegoat, but he is also a potential…,“ he hesitates for a moment, „well, murderer. That is our problem.“

„I see…“ Callum sighs. „And what steps have you taken so far?“

„We questioned both, looked at physical evidence at the crime scene, looked at both of their alibis…“

„And what does that have to do with the stone circle?“

„We believe… well, at least I believe that they are connected. Elena was one of the people who went there and who put the flowers on the stones and, as strange as this may sound, Renan is connected to Feyre, who has been acting peculiar, as I understand ever since coming near the old Demorthèn shrine. She has also… her father is also acting extremely peculiar when questioned about the alibi of Renan, as in he could no longer remember what he had heard. Every time we questioned him about it, his eyes went milky and he became less and less coherent. So… my understanding is that we’re dealing with something here that is connected.“

„I see…“ The old priest strokes his beard.

„He also spoke of a male voice speaking to both Renan and Feyre, but when pressed Renan said there was no-one present at the time… and, of course, Feyre does not speak. Further examination of the old Demorthèn shrine also shows that the old oak has been regrowing and has not been put down.“

„I will have to think about this. Come back after Estellines.“ Callum is referring to the evening mass, which is held when the first stars become visible and which is the last mass of the day.

Maeveen nods: „Will do, Father.“ Since it is now shortly before Vesperines, which is the fifth mass of the day, they will have to wait for quite a while before they will get any help from the old priest, so they leave the parsonage for now.

***


Nikolas and Jenric, with the help of a few of the other villagers, carry Elena over to her father’s farm. After giving him some additional advice on how to best care for her, he walks back to the church, looking for his companions, who are just now leaving the parsonage. They join up again and Nikolas asks: „So, how did it go?“

„Well, we are to return after Estellines,“ Valbrand replies.

„And what about the two troublemakers in the penitent’s cell?“

„He asked if it was wise to keep them together. I said I did not think so, but that was the only place to keep them.“

Morwenna anxiously suggests: „Should we go check on them?“

„Perhaps best,“ Valbrand nods.

Suddenly a muffled bloodcurdling scream comes from the church’s basement. The four companions exchange an alarmed look and rush towards the penitent’s cell, Valbrand ignoring Callum’s orders for now. In the cell they find Bran standing over Renan, the latter lying on the ground in a pool of blood. Valbrand hurriedly unlocks the metal door and rushes Bran, tackling him and pushing the man to the wall, while yelling: „Nikolas, check on Renan!“ He turns to Bran and hisses: „You will hang for this!“

The village idiot replies with a soft voice: „The shadow… it was inside of him… I could see it in his eyes…“

Valbrand starts reciting a psalm: „Though I walk through the valley of death I fear no evil… for the lord is with me!“

Nikolas kneels down next to Renan - and he immediately realizes that the young man is dead, his skull cracked and partially caved in, probably having been smacked against the wall. „He’s dead, Valbrand, there’s nothing I can do for him!“

The Blade Knight is clearly enraged, holding Bran’s face against the wall, so Morwenna approaches him and soothingly says: „Valbrand, be careful. He doesn’t understand what he’s doing!“

The knight yells: „He has killed a man! And your constant attempts to make his actions less than they are…“

Morwenna cuts him off angrily: „I am not trying to make his actions less than they are, I’m trying to prevent you from falling down into the same trap!“

Valbrand calms down a bit: „Point taken…“

„So, leave him be! He will hang for this, but that’s a different thing. And it does make me sad, because he doesn’t understand what he’s doing.“

„He’s a danger to everyone around him!“

„Yes, I know,“ Morwenna replies, a sad look on her face.

Nikolas has continued examining Renan’s body and notices a few scratch marks on Renan’s face that weren’t there earlier when they talked to him. He can also see similar marks on Bran’s throat, so he looks up at Valbrand: „They were fighting in here. Damn…“

Morwenna sighs: „And the outcome is unimportant in the end, because whoever survives will hang anyway in the end…“

Nikolas suddenly has an idea and starts looking for the shadows Bran mentioned, but in the confines of the tiny room it is difficult to tell. He grabs a lantern from the church upstairs and lights the cell - but there’s nothing out of the ordinary to see in the cell. „Well… Bran obviously murdered someone in the cell…“

„I’m not sure if he actually murdered him or if they just started fighting and it got out of hand,“ Morwenna replies. „But I think we should take Renan out and Bran should stay in.“

„This is my fault,“ Valbrand mutters.

„No, it’s not your fault.“ Morwenna says. „You weren’t even here when we put Bran in there.“

„Yes, perhaps… but I supplied the idea.“ The knight lets his head hang low for a moment and mutters: „Stupid! Stupid foolish pride!“

Yorum and Callum enter the basement at this moment, coming from opposite directions: Yorum from inside the church while Callum took the outside stairs that lead into the basement. The old priest, who is accompanied by Judoc, the captain of the village guard, looks at the body that Nikolas is carrying out of the cell. „What happened here?“ Valbrand ignores the question and instead binds Bran again, but Nikolas informs the new arrivals about the events. „Will you have to examine the body or can we prepare him for burial?“ Callum asks.

„There is nothing I can do for him,“ the doctor replies. „The wound to his head is too grave, he died instantaneously… so, yes, I think he can be prepared for burial. Does he have any relatives?“

„No,“ Judoc curtly replies. „None that we know of.“

„I’ll fetch a spade,“ Valbrand solemnly remarks.

Nikolas stares at the body: „These are troubled times…“

Yorum addresses the Blade Knight just as he’s about to leave the basement: „Brother Valbrand, what is to be done with Bran?“

„He has committed a murder,“ the knight replies. „What is the custom here for murderers?“

„He is to be tried by Maraizh,“ the young priest tells him. „This is not a crime against the church, but a worldly crime.“

Valbrand nods: „Then we shall put it like that, that he is definitely the murderer of Renan and a suspect in the assault upon Elena.“

„But the latter is tied to a crime against the church, is that correct?“

„Yes, potentially.“

„Then we will tell Maraizh that the trial for murder has to be postponed until the investigation is complete and the mystery has been solved.“

„If you think it wise.“

Yorum nods: „Yes, in fact I do.“

„Very well,“ Valbrand says. „But… I doubt we will be getting much out of Bran.“

„Then I suggest you talk to the people who seem to be involved in this“

Valbrand nods. „Very well…“

„Good.“ The young priest gives him a thin smile.

Valbrand nods in agreement, but he feels uneasy as he does so - the young priest‘s behavior reminds slightly of that of a Sigire‘s. Now that the crisis is over though, he quickly leaves the church again - Callum still hasn‘t allowed him back in.

***


As Valbrand is standing outside and thinking on what he just noticed, he sees a rather large group of people forming and Balduin, the annoying farmer, is right in their midst. „What is this,“ Valbrand mutters, just as his three companions emerge from the church as well.

One of the men, actually one of the members of the village militia, calls: „What was going in there?“

„Callum will be out shortly to inform you,“ the knight replies calmly.

„We have a right to know what was going on in there! What was that scream?“

„You will know once Callum comes out and tells you. It is not my place,“ Valbrand replies. Several of the villagers are getting restless, muttering amongst themselves that there‘s something going on in the church that they apparently are not supposed to know about. Others speculate that this must‘ve something to do with Elena. The knight remains standing at the front door of the church, keeping a watchful eye on the crowd. Nikolas, meanwhile, walks back inside looking for Callum.

***


In the church‘s basement Callum is busy wrapping Renan‘s body in a piece of cloth. He looks up when Nikolas arrives: „Give me a hand, Nikolas, would you?“

„Yes, of course.“ The doctor kneels down next to him. „People are gathering outside, Father Callum! They want some answers and those are hard to provide right now…“

„I was afraid of that…“

Nikolas calls: „How could this happen to this place? This used to be a quiet village but now it‘s turning into a madhouse! I wish I knew what caused this… while some of it seems to be manmade, there‘s also something sinister going on. You should‘ve seen what we saw earlier at the pond… that accursed sapling… there was something supernatural going on!“

„I see…“ the old priest finishes wrapping the corpse in the piece of cloth. „We will discuss this after Estellines.“

„I wonder if this village is prepared for what‘s happening to it!“

„The Lord is with us, Nikolas, don‘t worry.“ He gets up and leaves the basement.

***


The crowd outside calms down when Father Callum steps through the doors. „My children, I have terrible news. Renan, a valued member of our community, has passed away under tragic circumstances. Vesperines will be held as the funeral rites for poor Renan, so I expect everyone to attend. I will explain everything else during the service. Now, please, disperse and return to your homes.“ Most of the villagers follow the old priest‘s orders, but one small group defiantly remains standing in front of the church, Balduin among them. Valbrand is standing to the side, keeping both Callum and the remaining villagers in view, but the old priest soon walks back into the church where he starts preparing for the funeral mass.

About an hour later, the four companions step into the church, where all the villagers have already assembled for Versperines - even Valbrand is allowed into the church this time. The mass is held by Callum and he does so in a very appropriate way - it‘s solemn and mournful but has glimmers of hope. The fact that Bran killed Renan is also carefully withheld by the priest, who instead calls the death an unfortunate accident. As the service progresses everyone‘s very quiet and sitting very still - except for Nikolas, who is sitting in the last row of seats, rocking back and forth, because this latest turn of events has shaken him quite a bit. He came to Niddrie to find peace and quiet and now this place has turned into Limbo.

Once the service has ended most villagers leave and head home so that when Renan‘s body is lowered into the grave, only a few villagers remain present. After the funeral has been completed the four companions exit the graveyard and realize that the group of villagers from before, the one that included Balduin, has remained standing just outside the church where they are apparently discussing something, going silent whenever someone walks by too closely. Morwenna eyes them warily: „They are planning something…“

„Quite obviously,“ Valbrand nods.

„Probably lynching Bran,“ Maeveen suggests. She has kept a close eye on the people during the service, trying to gauge their reactions to Renan‘s death - most of them seemed to be in shock, but more by the fact that someone died, but not by the fact that it was Renan. Instead, they seem to think that Renan had it coming for a long time.

„Undoubtedly.“ The knight glares at the villagers. He also watches out for Feyre, Samuel and Finn, but surprisingly Renan‘s friends are nowhere to be seen - and he now realizes they did not attend both Versperines and Renan‘s funeral. „So, do we try and question Finn and Samuel? I think that‘s gonna be our best solution right now.“

„I guess we could do that,“ Maeveen replies, „unless we want to get involved with Maraizh…“

„My biggest worry is just what they‘re up to,“ the knight sighs and looks to Maeveen. „But we must find out what we can still… this matter is not yet resolved. The only question remains is what they know and how we can find out. And, quite frankly, confronting the mayor is not a good plan, I think.“ The blacksmith nods and the four companions walk into the village.

***


They head to Samuel‘s home first, but the boy is not there, so they then make their way to the farm of Finn‘s father, where thy find both Samuel and Finn sitting on an old tree trunk, a little bit away from the main house. They both look worried, but not sad. Valbrand turns to Maeveen: „Should I talk or do you want to do it?“

„I‘ll talk,“ the blacksmith says and approaches the two boys, who stand up when she gets close. „How are you, Samuel? Finn?“

„Greetings, Maeveen. It was shocking news,“ Samuel replies. „Are the stories we‘ve heard true? Did Bran kill him?“

Nikolas frowns: „Who told you such a thing?“

„Balduin did.“

Maeveen sighs: „Of course…“

„So, is it true?“ Finn seems very nervous.

„Do you think he would have been able to do it?“ Maeveen asks.

„Yeah, I think so…“

„Why?“

„Well, we… we saw him do something… something really weird and creepy at the edge of the forest once. Renan was afraid of him and he saw how Bran killed a deer once… and it seems that he was right to fear him.“ Samuel doesn‘t look her in the eyes.

„So you think he did it without reason?“

„I don‘t know… I seriously don‘t know, but…“ Samuel sighs. „What reason would he have to kill Renan?“

„I don‘t know.“ Maeveen looks intently at the boy. „Did Renan maybe do something to him?“

„We‘ve already admitted to that, we were… we did some things to him. Maybe he just flipped.“

„Maybe. But if he did it, maybe he killed Elena as well? Or tried to kill Elena?“

„Maybe…“ Both boys look down.

Maeveen sighs: „Well, it seems like the next target is you then… your group…“

Samuel gets pale and nods: „Yeah… that‘s what worries us… first Elena, now Renan…“

„Mhmm. It sounds like there‘s a reason. Probably more than flung mud.“

Nikolas speaks up now: „What was really going on at that stone circle?“

„What?“ Both boys seem confused.

„You were playing around at that stone cirlce.“

„So what?“

„I get the impression that after you started fooling around the stone circle, weird things started happening in this village!“ Nikolas leans forward slightly. „Did you get involved with things beyond your understanding?“

„If there‘s anything you‘re no telling us,“ Morwenna says, „now would be the right time to speak up. We‘re only trying to help!“

Finn and Samuel look at each other and it‘s obvious that they‘re struggling, so Nikolas calls: „Come on, start talking! One of your friends already died! Do you want this to continue?“

The boys again exchange a long look, then they slowly nod and Samuel says: „Well… Feyre… she has not been herself lately…“

Maeveen frowns: „What do you mean?“

„Have you looked into her eyes?“

„Yes, we have,“ Valbrand says.

„Then you know what we‘re talking about. She‘s different, something is not right with her!“

„As if someone else is looking through her eyes,“ Nikolas says.

„Something is not right!“

„How long?“ Maeveen leans in closer.

„Several weeks.“ Samuel sighs. „We didn‘t notice at first. I think Elena was the first to notice.“

Valbrand asks: „And do you have any idea when she started noticing?“

„I don‘t know, maybe three or four weeks ago.“

„Did Feyre notice? Did she know Elena knew?“

„I don‘t know, I really don‘t know!“ The boy looks desperate. „And she doen‘t speak anymore!“

Maeveen takes over again: „But this was not connected with her loosing her voice?“

„No, that was earlier. She lost her voice and then we started noticing that she was different.“

Nikolas asks: „She made a sacrifice at the pond, is that true?“

„Yes, she did.“

„Did she loose her voice after she made that sacrifice? Did she start acting strange after that?“

„I can‘t tell, Nikolas. I didn‘t notice it at first, it was Elena who pointed us towards that. It was maybe two or three weeks after she was at the pond!“ The boy is getting annoyed by now.

„I see…“ Valbrand looks at the others for a moment and nods. „Starting to make sense… to some extent.“ He turns to Samuel again. „Tell me, was Renan aware of the change? Had he grown closer to her recently?“

„I don‘t know, but they seemed to stick together most of the time.“

„Was that a new thing or has that always been the case?“

Finn shakes his head: „No, she used to not like him that much.“

„I‘m starting to see…“ Valbrand starts pacing.

„Did her behavior change in other ways as well, besides not speaking anymore?“ Nikolas asks.

„It‘s difficult to tell,“ Samuel says. „She seemed to be much more confident all of a sudden, even though she didnt‘t speak anymore… but it didn‘t seem to bother her that much… that she was unable to talk all of a sudden, that is… and from one day to the other she suddenly became the leader of our group…“

Morwenna asks: „Did all this happen when she started to hang out with Renan more?“

„Yes…“

„How did she manage to become the leader of your group when she doesn‘t talk,“ Nikolas demands to know.

Samuel and Finn both look down, while the latter says: „She can be very convincing…“

„But how does she tell you what she wants you to do?“

Samuel shrugs: „Sign language.“

Maeveen takes over again: „So what did she make you do?“

„She made us go to the stone circle, put flowers on the stones… those kinds of things.“

„I see… anything else?“

Samuel shrugs: „Not really. But, for the most part, we suddenly were not that important anymore, instead Renan was suddenly the most important one.“

Valbrand nods: „He was her peon.“

„Kind of like that, yes…“

„Have you heard her speak since the incident?“ Maeveen inquires.

Both boys shake their heads: „No.“

Nikolas mutters: „The strange voice…“

Maeveen continues: „Do you know if she has been back to the pond and the old oak?“

„I don‘t know,“ Samuel replies.

„Should we talk to Feyre then?“ Nikolas suggests. He looks at the two boys: "So now it‘s just the three of you, you realize that?“

„Yeah, obviously…“ Finn gives him a dirty look.

„Is there anything, even a tiny little thing, you left out?“ Morwenna looks pleadingly at them.

The boys remain silent, so Nikolas asks: „Did Feyre make you tell me of those things you found at the mayor‘s house after the fire?“

„No, she did not,“ Samuel says. „We really found them there and thought you might know what these are.“

The doctor nods: „Okay… because I don‘t think those are related to what‘s happening here…“ He turns to the others. „Is there anything else we want to ask them?“

His three companions shake their heads, while Maeveen says to the boys: „Be careful! And let us know if anything happens.“ The two boys nod and sit down again, their heads hanging low with a worried expression on their faces.

***


As they walk away from the farm, Valbrand says: „It all makes sense now!“

„How?!“ Morwenna stares at him in disbelief. „How does it all make sense now? What happened first? Did she make that sacrifice at the pond before she changed or after?“

Valbrand shakes his head: „Let me put it like this: I now know why Elena had to die.“

„Why? How?“

„Simple: Elena knew! We were going to question Elena about what had happened at the stone circle. That was a very clear thing that happened with Jenric. She knew that Elena would speak, so Elena had to be silenced. Renan was the one to do it, because he was Feyre‘s peon.“

Morwenna frowns: „You think Feyre is actually behind all this?“

„Given the information we have now, given what we‘ve seen in Tristan… behavioral switch that seems to have happened within Feyre, the way Renan behaved… I think so!“

„Do you think she‘s possessed?“

Valbrand slowly nods: „Something of the sorts, yes… I think we must go see Brother Yorum!“

„That‘s scary,“ Morwenna whispers.

Nikolas nods: „Yes. And I think there‘s nothing that we can do about it. I don‘t think any of us has ever dealt with a possession… I certainly haven‘t! I mean, I had never even thought this possible!“

„It‘s possible, but…“ Valbrand sighs. „Let‘s talk to Brother Yorum…“

***


It is about half an hour until Estellines when the companions arrive back to the church, where they find the young priest praying at Renan‘s freshly dug grave. Valbrand approaches him: „Brother Yorum, it seems that according to the words of the two surviving friends… well, Feyre‘s suspicious behavior combined with what has happened clearly indicates that something is rather wrong with her! A while ago she changed personalities, she took over their little group, sent them up to the stone circle to hang the flowers and Renan became her close confident. Elena noticed and, I think, because we were going to question her, she was silenced. “

„I see…“ The young priest slowly nods.

„Bran was merely the scapegoat.“

„Then why did he kill Renan?“

„Because he‘s a madman? Because they can‘t stand each other, because Renan attacked him? Perhaps there is more to this, but I think the center is Feyre.“

„Then I suggest you arrest Feyre,“ Yorum calmly says. „And then we will have to deal with her… accordingly.“

Valbrand nods: „Very well…“ He turns to the others, nods and walks towards the bakery. Nikolas, meanwhile, looks at the young priest in surprise - he seems way too calm, as if he knew all along. The doctor specifically looks for any signs of the man‘s eyes glazing over, but there‘s nothing suspicious to be seen, so he follows Valbrand and his companions.

***


Once they‘re some distance away from the church Valbrand stops and looks at his companions. Nikolas says: „Well… that was quite peculiar, wasn‘t it?“

Morwenna nods: „Yes, he was way too calm!“

„Especially given his nature,“ Valbrand agrees.

Nikolas calls: „So what‘s going on in Niddrie? I don‘t understand anything anymore!“

„I have reason to think that Brother Yorum is a Sigire,“ Valbrand states. „He at least behaves as one. I could be wrong, but he had a bit of the same…“ he quickly looks to Nikolas, „we had one at the monastery, an old retired one. He had the same… gravitas, but I could be wrong.“

Morwenna gets very anxious: „So, if he truly is a Sigire, what does that actually mean from our point of view?“

„Not much, but… his behavior struck me as odd.“ Valbrand looks back to the church. „Especially that he was strangely calm…“

„Maybe he knew all that already,“ Morwenna suggests. „Would that make you calm?“

„It would not make me calm,“ Valbrand replies with a half-smile.

„Well, when somebody tells you something you already know, aren‘t you calm then because you‘re not surprised anymore?“

„True, but if I was already in the know and had a swordsman at hand, I would send out my swordsman to deal with the problem!“ Valbrand frowns noticeably.

„Does it matter?“ Maeveen looks at her companions. „At all? Whether or not? I mean, I think our course of action is clear: either we get a second opinion or we go to arrest Feyre who might do whatever she can do!“

Nikolas sighs: „Do we actually have the right to arrest her? There is only one cell available in the church and that is already occupied by Bran… and we don‘t want to set him on the loose again, right? If we arrest Feyre, where do we put here? And how do we confront her?“

„Well, then we‘ll see what Father Callum has to say about this, don‘t we?“ Maeveen shrugs slightly. „Because I would not go to Feyre and say ‚there‘s something odd with you, I think you‘re possessed‘. Because if she is in fact possessed…“

The doctor nods: „We should have a priest with us then!“

„Or a really big sword,“ Maeveen adds.

They all agree to talk to Father Callum first before confronting Feyre, so they walk over to the parsonage.

***


As they‘re walking Nikolas asks Morwenna: „Say, do you have any herbs that clear one‘s mind or get rid off the effects of a drug? Is there anything like that?“

„You wanna clear your mind?“ The herbalist seems surprised.

„Not mine, of course! I‘m looking for something to sober someone up, because… you see, when we talked to Feyre‘s father, he was… dazed and confused.“

„Well, of course there are some herbs that give you clarity, but… depending on what was causing his state they might not help. But, yes, I do have some herbs. Do we need them right now?“

Nikolas sighs: „It‘s just that I feel so helpless… I have no idea how to deal with this entire situation! I so wish there was a rational explanation for this and something we could do about the things that are happening here. Don‘t you feel the same?“

„I kinda do, but on the other hand I don‘t,“ Morwenna replies. „I have seen some things that cannot be explained rationally, so… I don‘t really expect that to happen in life anymore, at least not always.“

„And how do you deal with it?“

„Sometimes I don‘t. You have seen me having nightmares.“

Nikolas nods: „Yes. And I‘m worried what will happen should we fall asleep tonight… given what happened over the last couple of days.“

Morwenna gives him an affectionate look: „I try to concentrate on something that is simple and true… like, counting all the herbs I know in my mind… things like that, when something gets overwhelming. Something safe, something I know that is true.“

„I tried that, but… as of late it seems to slip from my grasp…“

„I guess we all know how that feels, so… I do have some herbs if you‘re having trouble sleeping that will help you to sleep better.“

„Yes, that sounds good. Perhaps some valerian?“

Morwenna nods: „Yes, valerian root works really well. It stinks and it tastes like crap, but… just put it in some regular herbal tea that will cover it a little bit, but, yes, that‘s helpful.“ She pats him on the shoulder. „It‘s gonna be okay.“

„Thanks, Morwenna.“ He blushes when she touches his shoulder.

***


The companions arrive at the church shortly before Estellines and attend the service, except for Morwenna who hurries back to her hut to get some valerian root for Nikolas. Fortunately the service is much shorter than usual, probably because Vesperines was longer than normal. Once the service is over, the companions, including Morwenna, follow the old priest to the parsonage, where they sit down in the tiny living room. Callum looks at them: „So… Renan‘s death was unfortunate.“ Everyone nods and the old priest asks: „Is there anything else you want to share?“

„Yes,“ Maeveen nods. „Finn and Samuel think that Feyre is involved. They say that Elena knew that something was wrong with Feyre, apart from her loosing her voice, and that she might have done this to Elena to make her not talk.“

„Or made Renan do it,“ Valbrand adds. „Because apparently they became extremely close. She was also the one who told them to go and put the flowers on the stone circle.“

„And why would she do that?“ Callum asks.

Valbrand shrugs: „She went to the Demorthèn shrine, did she not? The old oak?“

„That in and of itself is not a crime.“ Callum says.

„I agree, but she made a sacrifice. Perhaps that is why she has been acting differently. Her father seems to be having difficulties remembering things, especially when concerned with a voice he heard when it was both Renan and her alone in the backyard - a male voice. Has she not spoken because she is incapable or because her voice is not her own?“

„I see…“ The priest sighs. „This is troubling news…“

„In the extreme.“

„Then I suggest you talk to Feyre. If she indeed is the lynchpin of all this…“ Callum looks at them intently. „But be careful.“

Nikolas speaks up: „Father Callum, there’s something else you should also know about.“

„Go ahead, my son.“

„Bran said that he saw shadows everywhere, even seeping into the villagers. According to him, everyone is already afflicted with those shadows and… he also said that was the reason why he killed Renan.“ He sighs. „On its own this could certainly be considered the ramblings of a madman, but… when we were at the pond and the old oak, we actually saw shadows creeping towards us. Is there any kind of spiritual purification you could provide? Anything we can do to ward this pagan site off?“

Callum sighs: „Nikolas, I’m afraid I don’t have the skills to conduct such a ritual of purification.“

„Is there anything we can do to have someone with the necessary skills come to Niddrie and perform the ritual?“

„Certainly, we could send for someone with the skills required.“

Maeveen interrupts him: „So is that going to happen if Feyre turns out to be possessed by something?“

„Should that be the case, then we most definitely need to do something about that. We can try exorcising the spirit…“

„Can you do that?“ Nikolas seems surprised.

„I can try, Nikolas, but I am not a trained exorcist.“ The old priest looks out the window for a moment. „Maybe Brother Yorum has the necessary skills, but if we are unable to exorcise the spirit…“ He leaves the sentence unfinished.

Maeveen slowly nods: „I understand…“

Valbrand sighs: „Yes, understood.“ He turns towards the door. „Let’s go talk to Feyre and see if she joins us.“

„Walk with the Lord,“ Callum says. „And… Brother Valbrand...“ He gets up, walks over to a small chest, from which he takes a small bread that he then breaks in half. He hands Valbrand one half and keeps the other to himself. They both interlock their arms and then consume the bread - a ritual that signifies reconciliation.

Valbrand bows slightly: „I have been foolish and too ruthless. I apologize.“

„You are still young, Brother Valbrand. It is the prerogative of the young to make mistakes.“

„As long as they do not repeat them… which I inevitably believe they will…“ The knight sighs. „But now there is duty.“ He turns to the door and leaves in a somber mood, followed by his three companions.

***


A little while they arrive at the bakery. Night has fallen by now and it is almost completely dark - a single light can be seen shining on the upper floor of the building. Valbrand bangs his fist against the door and a few moments later Feyre herself opens the door. She smiles softly when she sees the knight, almost as if she had been expecting him. „Evening, Feyre,“ Valbrand says. „Would you walk with us?“ The girl nods and follows him outside. „Thank you.“ Valbrand leads her to the church and, much to his surprise, she doesn’t resist. When they reach the steps to the church, he asks: „Tell me, Feyre, was it your decision that Elena had to go?“ The girl gives him a confused look - and Valbrand thinks she is genuine.

Once inside the church Valbrand takes a seat on one of the pews and motions for her to do as well. Feyre sits down on the pew right in front of him, turns around and puts her arms on the back of the pew, resting her chin on her arms, and gives him an expectant look. Maeveen frowns and tries to figure out if the girl has that strange look in her eyes again - that she seems way older than her years - but it is dark in the church, which is lit only by a single candle, since it has been closed for the night - she doesn’t notice anything out of the order about Feyre’s eyes. Maeveen asks: „Feyre, are you suffering a loss of memory?“ The girl shakes her head in response. „But it was you that decided you should go up to decorate the old stone circle with flowers?“ The girl thinks about this for a moment and then shakes her head again and points towards the graveyard. Morwenna asks: „Renan?“ This time Feyre nods. Nikolas has lit a lamp in the church and now steps closer: „And what about that sacrifice at the pond, Feyre?“ The girl shrugs. „Was that your idea?“ Again she points towards the graveyard. „But it was that incident that made you loose your voice, wasn’t it?“ The girl makes a gesture that indicates that she doesn’t know. Nikolas leans forward slightly: „It was after you made the sacrifice that you didn’t speak anymore, wasn’t it?“ She makes a gesture indicating ‚probably‘. Morwenna takes over again: „So, would you say that Renan was some sort of leader, if all the ideas seemed to be coming from him?“ This time Feyre nods enthusiastically. „Of the entire group?“ The girl nods again.

Valbrand coldly states: „I think you’re lying to me! I also know what your friends have told me: they tell me you have been acting strange ever since you returned from the sacrifice!“ The girl raises an eyebrow and makes an innocent face. „Also, your father was acting strange when we asked him about the night before Elena being attacked! He could not seem to remember, his eyes went milky! And it seems very convenient that you and Renan became very close soon after…“ Feyre listens with interest, her chin resting on her folded arms again. Valbrand sighs: „Feyre, what actually happened at that pond? What spoke to you?“ The girl doesn’t react, so Maeveen asks: „Was your wish fulfilled?“ Feyre shakes her head at first, but then thinks about this for a moment and indicates that it was partially fulfilled. „What was your wish?“ Valbrand leans forward, intently staring at her.

„Valbrand, she can’t speak,“ Morwenna reminds the knight.

Nikolas shrugs: „She’ll find a way…“

Feyre looks at Nikolas and then very pointedly to Morwenna, winking at the doctor.

Morwenna takes a deep breath: „So you wished for love?“ The girl nods. „Renan?“ Feyre lets out a soundless laugh and shakes her head, her eyes clearly indicating that she thinks Morwenna is out of her mind for suggesting she’d be in love with Renan. She then proceeds to indicate gagging when she thinks of Renan. Morwenna blushes slightly and suggests: „Somebody from the village?“ This time Feyre nods. „One of your friends?“ The girl strongly shakes her head, indicating ‚they’re mere boys‘.

Suddenly a thought crosses Valbrand’s mind - Brother Yorum arrived in Niddrie about four months ago and he is the typical strict-looking young priest… He takes a deep breath: „Brother Yorum?“
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