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Even More Notes Toward Padharig's Next Letter
[Continuing in the not-really-letter style, as we haven't had down time to write yet...]

Not a moment was given to us to worry what the Colossus destroying the protection over the Red Yard might mean because the guards closed in along the outer wall, approaching from both sides. They wore samplings of armor and insignia that shifted by the moment, many Blackbyrne or older still, some quite recent. None seemed to welcome us as friends and allies, though. Each group of guards, though, was commended from their back ranks by tall, hooded figures of dire aspect.

Yvor was first to act, firing an arrow at one of those commanders, passing thru an insubstantial portion of it as its shape shifted. It glared back at him and the weight of its gaze seemed to weaken the bold archer. The twin commander on our other side threw back its hood and revealed nothing, a lack of features that demanded attention, twisted the will. But we resisted and fought on.

I summoned a jet of seawater to push back their vanguard and Jokhula turned added layers of ice to that water, encasing the guards to one side, leaving only their half-spectral commander. Jarrad fought the other squad, blade and shield preventing them getting any closer to us, cutting them down as they try.

With Ailie's aid, I was able to press one commander against and over the wall as it tried to turn its faceless gaze toward Dama Kaela. Yvor put two arrows into the space that wasn't a face on the other and he toppled over the outer wall to the rocks far below.

In the distance, we could see the Colossus had now turned its attention in our direction, so we wasted no time. I wove the winds to slow us as we jumped from the wall into the courtyard, then dashed across it, still seeing countless shifting, temporary images of times past, growing denser as we approached the postern gate of the keep itself.

Jokhula's magic forced the door and, passing through it, we came into a fully developed image of the past. Blackbyrne housekarls cluster around a central figure, followed by Blackbyrne Himself, unmistakable even had we not seen his features on those cursed coins. He shouted orders, to hurry the escort along as the MacKinzies were at the main gate. He ordered they stop for nothing, make their way into the mountains, and upon reaching the monastery, to be sure that he -- and it was at this moment we could see the figure more clearly, a woman carrying a child -- was to there receive the 'second mark'.

She protested. Said he should come as well, as the keep was lost, but he refused. "If they find me here, they will not look further," he said. And, from what I know of the history of things, that was so. When Blackbyrne fell, there was no tell of any escaping. Certainly no lost child that was more than a rumor.

The image faded, but even as it did the effect of it was not totally gone. Jarrad, Yvor and I had lost some of our natural color, the dimness and shadow of this place leeching it from us, though the women seemed, for the time, unaffected. The stomps of the Colossus grew louder beyond the walls, pressing us on.

Dama Kaela knew the Keep some, more than the rest of us who had visited the true one but once, and that being secreted through by guards. She led us to an inner door toward the great hall, which Ailie opened.

There, another scene showed itself before us, signs of recent combat and MacKinzie plaids hanging as trophies along the walls, bloody where heads hung from them. Blackbyrne sat on the throne, his throne at that time, spinning his crown idly around a finger as he looked at the same mirror we had used to gain our way here. "It is as you were promised," says a voice from the mirror, whose surface none of us could see, which I do not think any of us regret. "So long as one drop of your blood remains, you are undying." He laughed and raved, how the MacKinzies were all but extinct and once the mongrels of Fraser being taught their place, so he would rule again. And then the images faded.

The throne room of the present was no less horrific in its own way, if not so gore-laden in its decoration. Instead, twisting columns of earth and crystal entrap the throne and reach upwards to where the private chambers are likely to be. Sir Jarrad senses nothing dire about the columns themselves, despite the unnatural appearance, so we determine to make our way upwards, to find this world's echo of the MacKinzie Himself if we can.

Time-echoes contine as we make our way up the private stairs, but there seems nothing here in the present, not even to guard the most private door. Inside, there was indeed a figure, seated and engulfed by the crystal column, some energy being drawn out of him and downward along the column, but we had little time to examine this before a terrible surprise beset us.

Lady Alice stepped from the shadow and sent arrows toward us, striking Ailie and Kaela, though Sir Jarrad's shield blocked the one coming toward me. A shadow of Cabhain burst through the far door, his features changed by a tattoo on his cheek, a symbol of shadow. And even as we engage these, trying to get past Cabhain's impossibly fast staff to quite Alice's bow, they were joined by Ursula, more enraged than when we last saw her, maddened beyond control. How had these, our allies, been brought here? We did not know... but had no choice but fight.

Cabhain and Ursula did their best to block our way, but Jokhula flew and Dama Kaela's magic slipped between phases of his shadow-world to bring Jarrad and Yvor past as well, and once we were able to place ourselves to our own advantage, the tide turned. But still, our allies turned enemies showed all the power of the Cycle they should have, and were terrible foes.

I sent lightning along my blade to strike down Lady Alice, and as she fell her features twisted and faded, seeming both like and unlike those dopplegangers we had faced before. As if taking the form of one touched by the Cycle had locked them in some way. I had no time to examine it.

Ailie struck down Cabhain, who faded as if made of shadow not doppleganger flesh, and I called on what lightning I had left to strike at Ursula, which seemed only to anger her further. The distraction, though, was enough to allow Jokhula to rime her in ice and Yvor, showing it likely that they had practiced this coordination before, launched arrows into her briefly stilled form to bring her down.

We paused to regain our breath and our sense of the situation around us.
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Padhraig Journal Entry 30
The others had found me before I quite returned to myself, but I quickly informed them of the warning we had been given and all agreed it was worth accepting.

The way back to the docks was not so easy as the way up had been. In part, it was that the company was not so distracting, but also the situation had become much more dire. Fires were spreading and the watchmen were hard-pressed to contain the threat of the burning dead.

Sir Jared sent his hawk to scatter a handful of the creatures and give the defending band the time needed for the rest of us to sweep through and finish them. The rain grew heavier still, unseasonable in its fury, but the fires were barely dimmed.

A group of children had been hidden in a cart, but the horse had been maddened by the flames and now charged heedlessly down the rain-soaked streets. Again, Sir Jared was key, this time aided by Jokulla and Yvor, as his skills with wild beasts were sufficient to calm the creature, and thus save the children.

Two threats arose next, forcing us to divide our attention. Jokulla, Cabhain, and I focused on the threat to the city's primary food warehouse, which they had started to set ablaze as the others went to protect more citizens who had holed up in a fountain, scant protection against unnatural fire.

I am not quite certain how they overcame their problems, but ours were quickly managed by Jokulla's powerful draconic magic, a wave of ice smothering the flames and battering the skeletons. I assisted mostly by keeping the massed numbers from dividing so she could work her art.

Those were the last distractions before we came to the docks themselves. And indeed, the fleet was the target, a massed force of blazing dead led by a small capering figure swathed in flames of its own. A small handfull of guardsmen held a wavering line against them.

I drew on the most potent magic I knew and granted my allies the gift of greatest speed, and again we raced across the waves. Again, Jokulla's magic, enhanced by her icy origins, turned the battle quickly. Exploding balls of ice quashed the burning skeleton's force of animation, and I was able to rush past and send a jet of seawater to sweep the tiny figure from the docks to the waves below, where Ailie waited with her knives lest simply drowning was insufficient to end it.

We had gotten a good enough glimpse of it, though, that Jokulla, Dama Kaela, and I all recognized it as the workings of a wizard. A homunculus, no doubt working the will of its creator.

And, as the storm started to break, we caught a brief glimpse, out at the horizon but still impossibly large despite the distance, of a terrible ship flying the banner of the red spear.

He had decided to strike us directly, and had dealt our city no small wound. But, for now, it seemed we had driven him off.

I do not think it likely, though, that this small setback would turn him from his plans. Emrys was still free to act as he willed, and we had many we needed to defend.
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Padhraig Journal Entry 29
I asked Dama Kaela, respectfully of course, if she might join us in readying the Fenstalker for the next season. We had the alchemical solution, but it must be applied quite carefully. And between her very cautious attention and Seilchce's eyes, which of late I am able to see thru if I concentrate sufficiently, we were able to make certain even the narrowest parts of the ship were adequately treated with the fireproofing solution.

As we came near to an end of that task, Allie arrived with two strangers. No, not strangers, that is completely the wrong word, though they were not people I knew. They had the essential essence of something additional, and it was clear from a simple word spoken in the lost tongue of Ancarian that what seemed true was. It was rather frightening. The essential entity that aligns with Cabhan had made quite clear how rare gatherings of such folk are. And here were two others, come to join our cause. Which meant our cause was that much more in need.

And, as they had arrived on a ship just in from Suthgard, I was certain they also brought news that Bran Occris had evaded the brand (or worse) he'd earned and escaped custody, which they confirmed. I was certain we'd cross paths with him again soon enough, and this next time I would finish the task properly.

The man of the pair, introduced simply as Yvor, spoke little, watched all closely, and did his best to vanish from attention, which was made easier because his companion, Jokulla, was of a more exotic appearance, younger than her greying hair suggested at first glance and glistening faintly with what seemed at first to be a dusting of fine crystal but was, in fact, a delicate rime of ice. It did not take much focus to see the magic about her, but it had a tone to it I could not easily place, and I am well familiar with elemental magic.

I held my curiosity at bay for the time, as we arranged a private dinner that night, at the Drummer where Allie had her room, where more full stories might be shared. I needed finish the work on the Fenstalker without distraction creating gaps, and it would be best if we were all together at once.

Or so we thought. In fact, the conversation that night was jumbled and confusing, many of us talking over one another to share the impossibilities we had witnessed. Yet Jokulla and Yvor took every word in as easy fact, even the least likely pieces. They must have seen their own wonders, though neither spoke much of their past. Save that Jokulla did confide to me that her icy affinity and some part of her magic came from draconic ancestry. A sorceress, then, born to her powers. But also a student of the arcane arts to focus them. Her magic was doubtless potent indeed.

We made our plans, then, to sail the day after the Blessing, to sail for Tiranin with these two new partners but without Lady Alice, to discover the truth behind her family's banishment from that city, and to find just how deeply the Red Spear's influence (for it could be nothing else) had reached.

The festival day came, dawning grey and heavy with clouds that threatened storms. Ioco and Linnet were Captain and Lady of the procession, another sign of their fast-growing influence down Seaside and beyond, and neither Lady nor King demanded unusual tributes nor offered warnings. My first procession as a Captain went well, though I felt some small piece false to my station carrying the fine wheel in my polished armor. But I had risen quickly as well, it was clear. And the next year was likely to be as full or more.

The formal procession done, the celebrations quickly started. Small gatherings in the streets, in many homes and all the taverns. The mood was as bright as the threatening clouds and uncertain future allowed, and I accepted a few drinks from fellow captains before stowing my shimmering armor in my small cabin on the Fenstalker, changing to fine new clothes I had purchased for the evening, and making a less formal procession to the temple of the Shining Lady.

Magrat was there, of course, and also dressed for the occasion. I don't know that I'd seen her out of her acolyte's habit, but she seemed comfortable in it, and not nearly so nervous in my company as I was in hers. Still, I led her across the city, through streets still somewhat crowded with revelers, the day's drinking having overcome the cloudy skies quite effectively. Several captains offered greetings to me as a peer, and I gave the same back. Today was a day for captains, after all. But my attention never went too far from my companion, even if we spoke very little.

At the home of Ioco and Linnet, there was something of a surprise. We were greeted at the door by Con Stewart, the branded once-pirate we had spared, who Ioco announced was now his Second. He had made more than a little good of his opportunity, and we shared a drink to his advancement. Linnet was frowning slightly, though, and looked rather darkly at Magrat as she introduced a lady-friend of hers hurriedly, so much so that I don't actually recall her name. We proceeded to dinner, and she'd been seated far enough away that we were barely able to share a dozen words. She seemed bemused by something, though I cannot be certain just what.

Diner itself was fine, though tense. Magrat was charming and friendly, but Linnet remained touchy and sharp. She made it quite clear that she did not like my plan to depart so quickly, nor to focus on others' problems when Halvor had plentiful threats to face. Ioco took my every claim of duty as encouragement to pursue his own bold course, and I could not both answer her and dissuade him. I was about to offer another effort toward it when there was a fiercely loud crack and bang outside, then another and more, quickly followed by shouting.

We dashed to the door, though I tried to have the others stay behind. Ioco would have none of it, and swore he would rally a response from the folk of Seaside, and Magrat insisting her place was at the temple in any emergency. Both were, of course, correct, but that did not mean I welcomed them facing danger. Linnet, at least, had the sense to stay safely in her home, with her lady-guest.

Leading Magrat, I headed through the streets, the smell of smoke already heavy through the drizzling cold and damp. Rather quickly we found the cause of the alarm, smoldering casks from which had burst fire and reanimated dead. I thought we had dealt with the lot of this particular threat, but clearly Emrys had a vast supply of Aegyrean Hellfire and dead men.

I fought my way past one, only due to Magrat's healing magic as without my armor, I was too easy a target for its searing claws. Knowing that, I changed my course slightly and we turned toward the docks and the Fenstalker, Magrat's hand in mine lest we be separated.

Someone had already barricaded the dock, two carts turned to their sides and doused well with seawater against flame. The Fraser guardsmen started to warn us off before they recognized me. They told us my crew was already about the docks, armed and watchful, which word I greeted gladly. All help would be needed this night.

We quickly boarded the Fenstalker, and I asked Magrat's help to quickly don my armor, still gaudily polished from the earlier procession. For her protection, she took a cudgel from the ship's armory and I offered her my left gauntlet, which I rarely wore as it made my casting difficult. She accepted, but made me promise to retrieve it in person, that she would not be taken as a thief. I gave her my word of that gladly, and we left the 'Stalker, offering more encouragement to the guards, and returned to the streets.

We reached the temple without crossing the path of any more of the skeletons. Perhaps there were fewer than I'd feared, or perhaps town watch and Fraser housecarls, each seen working in force, were proving successful in containing them. But there was smoke and screaming, as even but a handful could do terrible harm.

At the temple, Magrat thanked me for what she assured me had been a lovely evening and was sending my on my way when her prophetic aspect came over her. "THE DOCKS, BEWARE THE DOCKS! ALL ELSE IS LURE AND DISTRACTION!" she said before it vanished and she resumed her friendly tone, offered me her prayers for the Gods' Speed, and, to my surprise, stepped quite close indeed and quickly kissed my cheek.

I stood in the chill mists that wouldn't quite become rain and watched her rush into the temple, her left hand glistening silver, and wondered just what other surprises this night would hold. None as pleasant as that too-brief moment, of that I was certain.
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Padhraig Journal Entry 28
[OOC: Since we might be adding new players soon, and since I had the day off, I thought I'd post this the day after the session rather than a day or two before the next session. Keep things up-to-date!]

We stripped the belongings from the poor girl the Silver Coins had used as their puppet, finding very dangerous daggers apparently seasoned to kill anyone with a deep connection to the Turning. Ailie and Sir Jarred claimed one each, for safe keeping. Her cloak, which I believe helped proof her against my magic, I took, and her gloves, which perhaps explain as much as the coins her spectacular speed and skill scaling the clifface, we gave to Dama Kaela, just in case we needed her speed and her gift of flying was already spent.

As the others debated the best destination for the Blade's armor and rings, I turned my attention to the dark altar. I focused on it carefully, lest its magic prove too powerful, and found it was near to that. Quite near, in fact. It was an unholy thing, and was set to trigger some sort of higher gate, perhaps if someone tries to remove the unhallowing, perhaps if it gathers enough energy. For it was gathering energy, slowly by constantly, from something below.

We were too spent and wounded after the fight to risk that now, and the coins and open back-ways into the Frasier Mines needed to be dealt with, as did Cabhan, who none of us thought would stay tied for long. We made our way out, carrying him. Sir Jared and Lady Alice went to the keep to see Cabhan into a secure cell, Dama Kaela, Ailie, and I went to the temple to settle the coins.

Dama Greywell was glad to hear we had ended the threat of the Argent Blade, but was uncertain if their normal methods would properly deal with so many coins, even if the silver are individually less powerful. She would take every caution, she assured us. She also told us she had sent word to their oldest archives in Southgard to find any other hints of similar magics. Dama Kaela said she would do the same, to her mentor in the Grey Mage's service.

She then told us they had tried, carefully, to divine more, but received nothing in reply. Save for Acolyte Magrat, she said, who had gotten something faint and confused. So, of course, we asked if we might talk to her. I had hoped for just such a chance, something about how she had behaved on my last visit still leaving me not quite certain if I had it right.

She came, and said she was sorry what she had was so slight. She'd had a vision, or perhaps just a dream, of the keep, the earth below it torn in two, and the chasm spewing silver and blood. Which, if we had been any less successful in our work of the night, may well have been. And might still be if we cannot properly contain that altar come dawn.

I tried to focus on what she told us, but she still seemed to be acting oddly. Every time I looked her way, even if she spoke to Dama Kaela or Ailie, I rather thought she was looking at me. And Kaele and Ailie had most unsettling smiles, as if they saw something I could not. I thought it an opportunity.

I asked Magrat if, after the Blessing of the Fleet, she had temple duties to attend to, and she said Dama Greywell allowed her people to enjoy the celebration as they might. Ailie muttered something I did not quite hear, and I pressed on and asked her if she might perhaps join me any friends for a dinner. She said she would like that. Which, I think, means I had not read her wrong. I do hope Ioko and Linnet will not mind more pleasant company than my grandfather. He would never have have come anyway. He gets more drinks bought for him the night of the Blessing than any month of the year, still being a fisherfolk favorite good luck charm.

Ailie and Kaela still had those odd smiles as they looked at one another while we made our way back to the keep, but said nothing. Perhaps I did something wrong after all. Magic is easy for me, and matters of the Turning are frustrating but slowly reveal themselves, but sometimes other people can be endlessly confusing.

What we found at the keep was of that sort. Cabhan was not himself, but in an oddly positive way. Kistri, his Turning Persona, claimed to be protecting him from malign influence. And he seemed rather frightened that anything might call six such people together, as he seemed to recognize us all at a glance.

We asked as much as we could, though he said he did not like the sea and so had little to say to me. Ailie, though, he was quite familiar with, and Sir Jared. Or, rather, the Moonthief and the Oak King. I tried to press him for details, names of our enemies. He had few, but said there were the Three Daughters of the Unwraveler, the Moon Drake, and the Barrow Knight, as well as a beast-man known as the Earthbreaker. None of which sound overly comforting.

He said we really should ask Andros, at which we had to confess that Andros had passed from this realm. He did not seem to believe that was possible, but did not deny our words directly.

He told Ailie the Moon Drake guarded its namesake, and its claws could slice open the day and let the night in. But if she is the Moonthief, it seems likely they must clash.

He told us every Cycle is different, but each climaxes in a Choice as much or more than a battle. He could not say what our choices, or our rivals, might be, however, since as he had said, every Cycle is different.

Even as the others left for the night, I pressed him to help me better understand some of the more cryptic stories in the journal, of how (as I gathered was true) a Turning might be cut off before fully beginning, of the hints of madness and terror in the stranger passages. I have made notes of what comments he offered in the margins of the journal by the entries themselves, as that seems a more reasonable way to keep them clear.

Eventually, even I grew tired to asking questions, as he certainly must have been of being barely ever able to answer them, and I left him to recover, and I found a bed and fitful sleep.

The next dawn, Cabhan was restored, with no memory of the time passed. And we, refreshed and prepared with spells we hoped would aid us, returned to the altar.

Dama Kaela looked at it now, and saw much as I had, and to find the source of its power from below, we thought to carefully make our way down the two deep glowing shafts. A sounding found them to be some eighty to ninety feet deep, but the source of the light was not even a third that way. Lowering on carefully secured rope, I found a cavern, and the others followed me down to explore it. It was not so deep, but in it was a basin formed of stone, filled with dark, brackish water, and holding a male body, weighted down by a large sphere of stone, dead for some time. Dama Kaela estimated two to three weeks, so less than the time the Argent Blade had rampaged. But we had no doubt there was a relation.

The other shaft offered a similar discovery, save that victim was a woman. With coordinated timing, Sir Jared and I made to remove the stones, which were terribly heavy but not impossibly so. Lifting them proved they were carved at their bottom with sigils and runes, which had pressed themselves into the flesh of the two sacrifices.

It also caused the power to cease to flow, and the light to vanish. Ailie and Kaela lit our way as we bundled the two up and carried them to the larger floor above. We also broke the basins and did notable damage to the rune carvings, because such things need not remain behind for later foul uses. The stones shattered to rubble when we did so.

Dama Kaela had prepared for this possibility, and she called on the spirits of both victims so we could learn their history. The woman was Aeife Ennis, servant of the Maiden, taken by the Captain of the Red Spear and held for some time before being brought here and sacrificed. She told us she had family in Moures Landing, and we all agreed word could be returned to them, as best we could manage. The man was less glad to tell his tale, one Abernaeth Stone, taken by pirates from no-place he would tell us. He said he was held with some thirty-two others and had 'freed' ten of them before he was separated and brought here. It was rather clear the desperate way he had 'freed' them, though.

We carried them up, that they could be properly laid to rest, and returned to our personal chores and preparations, knowing we would sail again after the Blessing. I had much to do, never having need of such arrangements as a captain before, and I still worry I may have missed something, though I have checked my list and spoken to other captains.

The next day, a ship arrived from Tiranin, flying MacKinzie colors. A courier from it made his way straight to the keep, then away again. We sought out Lady Alice to learn the news, and it was dire. Clan Frasier had been banned from the capitol, on pain of imprisonment. Lady Frasier shared with us her own vision, from that dark seeing Zolos's servant had granted us. She had seen herself firing a fatal arrow at the MacKinzie, and his last words being that the land had told him the hand that would end him, but he had not believed it. Apparently, something had changed from that seeing, but not for the better.

Though we could not now bring her with us, the Fenstalker could still sail to Tiranin and learn what might be, and we resolved to do just that.

I made my checks, and found that not one of our crew wished to leave our service. I admit, that was rather a surprise. They were fishers and small ship crew, not heroes of legend or ones bound to the Turning. But they were loyal and brave, and I will do all I can to honor that.

Also, in less threatening news from Tiranin, shipment arrived of the alchemical treatments that would refresh the Fenstalker's proof against fire. I set my retained crew to seeing this applied properly, which took much of my time away from pondering the confusing revelations of these days.

Dama Kaela's mother invited me (and I believe each of us, though I have not found time to ask) to a fete after the Blessing. Of course, I am quite spoken for, even if I had any wish to accept her hospitality, which I do not. Dama Kaela and her history has made clear she is no one to be in debt of.

The Blessing of the Fleet is soon. I have my ceremonial wheel, my offerings for the Lady and the Storm King. My sails are clean and new, every line and rigging fresh, and the holds are already mostly stocked for our travel (though I leave some room for Ailie's mercantile instincts, which regularly prove remarkable), with only the most perishable waiting on the last morning. We will sail, I think, with the first good tide on the day after the Blessing, back into the unknown dangers that worked against us.

While Grandfather tells me he does know the actual date of my birth and has told me at least three different days with equal certainty, like many folk in Seaside, I count my age by the Blessings I've seen (though, of course, no one remembers their first several). This will be my eighteenth. A year ago, I returned from the strange academy Nenya Chevic delivered me to, not knowing what I would find at my home. Now, I am captain of a fine ship, warrior of a battle older than time and the gods themselves, and thankfully aided by fine, strong allies. My foster-brother and [here a word are two are scratched out thoroughly before continuing] his wife also prosper beyond their years, though I mislike the risks both are taking. I will, perhaps, have one more chance to change their path before I must return to mine.

Storm King, do not turn your anger on me, because we will sail into great danger, and I would not have this impossible year be my last.
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Padhraig Journal Entry 27
The events of the next few hours remain complex and a bit confusing. I think it's very likely I'd had more than a little too much to drink with the captains before being drawn into this matter, or perhaps the magic of the silver coins is sufficiently different from its gold and platinum cousins to render its effects bewilderingly distinct.

She moved impossibly quickly, pulling herself with the coin tentacles from rooftop to rooftop. Not that the buildings in this part of Seaside are built for such use, and the houses swayed dangerously. I tried to use magic to snatch hold and keep her close, but could not aim well enough at her ever-shifting form, clouded with darting silver.

"My quarrel is with none of you," she said, "Only the wealthy, the parasites. Stand aside and let me finish my work."

Clearly she didn't recognize Dama Kaela properly, nor have any idea the sort of wealth we had come upon in our travels. But none of us found her argument convincing. Murder was no answer to excessive greed.

My second attempt with the force hook spell succeeded, and I was drawn close enough that my blade could reach her, but it was deflected by the swirling coins. And the house beneath us shook so violently I worried it would collapse.

And then she sped away, coin tendrils taking her up the cliff face and away as fast as anyone but Cabhan could easily pursue, at least until Kaela gave magical flight to Sir Jared. But before we could stop her, she slipped into a subtly hidden cleft in the rock and slammed a doorway behind her.

Ailie, once she reached it, set her skills to opening the door, and the rest of us made our much slower way up the rocky slope. Once opened, the way uncovered a stone passage, roughly hewn, cut into the mountain and leading to the north-west.

Leading, if it went so far, to the silver mines.

We rushed forward, perhaps too heedlessly, and I was surprised when the floor beneath my feet gave way. I had magic ready to protect me from falls, and drifted to the rocks safely, but then had to climb out of the pit some dozen yards deep shamefacedly. Though I will say, the fall cleared my head quite notably.

From then on, we made our way more carefully.

Alice tracked our quarry, and led us deeper into the caverns, until we were clearly in the outer workings of the mines, finding stones sorted into piles by what we concluded was their original content of raw silver. Little was left in any of them now, though, and we can see signs she lingered near the one-time rich pile before moving on. She had more silver to her call now.

Deeper in, and past an old, broken-down mine car left precariously ready to crash forward if a tripwire pulled it free. But she moved down, deeper than any workings of the mine (which we could hear now, not so very distant), past crude drawings on the wall that showed exaggerated, decadent wealth. Her anger shown for any who came so far to see.

Her voice came from the darkness ahead. "I don’t want to hurt you. But if you try to stop me, my friends will. Just leave now. My friends remember you, and do not like you much. Captain Padhraig, convince you friends to leave. I have no wish to harm you.”

"Your friends are a greater wickedness still," I replied, as the rest made ready for battle, save Dama Kaela who, true to her calling, tried to engage the Argent Blade in a debate on the morality of her actions, to give her one more chance to surrender. But she was listening to another voice, one we could not here. I have little doubt the silver coins whispered their corruption to her.

In the end, we followed her voice to a vast cavern, deep shafts leading downward to eerily glowing seawater pools, and a dark altar behind which she stood.

I gave all the magic of speed, and we quickly crossed the too large space, keeping her from using her superior mobility to escape. But she had two new tricks. Two massive stone elementals rose to attack us, and worse still, Cabhan, when a drop of his blood fell from a slashing coin whip onto the altar, found his will overtaken and rushed toward me, mindless fury in his eyes, just as I finished a spell to hide Dama Kaela in shadows so she could heal us without fear of being attacked.

Alice's arrows find the Blade more easily than my spells did, but Sir Jared, Ailie, and I as well, find the elementals more of a challenge. They stuck all of us most soundly, and I think it was a very near thing that my called lightning felled the second before all of us were taken.

But Cabhan was still maddened, furious that Alice's arrows had slain the Blade. I used a magic of cold to disable him without doing any permanent harm, in the hopes his wit could be recovered, but already the silver coins sought a new servant. Sir Jared tried to fight them off, and it was only when I used a bit of dazzling magic to stun the inhuman intellect behind the coins that we were able to scoop them into a chest. I shall need to take them to the Temple for disposal.

We tied Cabhan up, in case his mind remained in the coins' service when he came to, and turned our attentions to the altar.

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