[Raelia] Silver Stalker, Chapter Three (Graded)

8th of Zi'da 719

The cities and villages of Melrath are as varied and diverse as they come. The capital of Raelia is the the jewel of this western kingdom, playing host to a merchants, artisans, Aesir priests, as well as a cut throat political landscape dominated by the nobles of Raelia. To the south in the depths of the Myrkvior Forest lies Melrath's second largest, and oldest city, Fensalir. Here people have learned to live alongside spirits and the natural world by maintaining their loyalty to traditions laid down the first Melrathi. To the east lies the small fishing village of Noatun, and to the western mountains rests the Mer city of Verimeer, the brewing town of Alivilda and the alpine village Vormund.
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[Raelia] Silver Stalker, Chapter Three (Graded)

Silver Stalker
8th Zi'da 719

Continues from here

After several failed attempts to find the way to The Ox’s Bellow Ashlin was still in the winter streets of Raelia. This time she had a new idea. A stray dog with a bad leg had stalked her. For a moment she had felt scared and even armed herself with a toy sword she had found in the snow. Finding that the stalker wasn’t the robber or flayer mage she had feared had been a relief. She had befriended the animal told it to show her the way.

The dog limped forth. It walked in front of her like it was doing what she had told it to do. Ashling followed it. It couldn’t hurt to try and navigate by following a dog a bit. In the best case, the animal knew what The Ox’s bellow was and would lead her there. But, after a while she found herself walking on narrow streets with many obscure side alleys. It didn’t look so promising. Ashling felt that she needed to think again so she stopped at one of the sparse street lanterns and bent down to pat the dog.

Two footsteps made the snow creak. A chill ran up Ashling’s spine. Somebody was following them after all. More, the dog didn’t seem to care about it. Ashling had to conclude that the dog knew who was there. She turned around with the wooden sword in her hand. The stray dog still stood at her side. But, the animal seemed like a very questionable friend now.

Ashling peered into the shadows. It looked like they became darker and denser even as she watched them. It was like the shadows themselves were being swallowed by a darkness that was bigger than them. In the direction she had come from only a bit ago the narrow street was now pitch black. It was like looking into a black hole of nothingness.

At this moment, Ashling’s otherwise so silent spiritual familiar Kyrie arose in her. It delivered an insight that was unusually wordy, for being from the often taciturn familiar.

A mage of shadows.
A shadow flayer of air and darkness.

There were moments when Ashling wondered if she would have been better off without her spiritual familiar. This was such a moment. It would have been useful if the message had told her what to do. But no, it had only told her what she was facing ... of would have been facing if it had been possible to see it. “A mage of shadows” ... “a shadow flayer of air and darkness” ... it was as poetic as you could wish, but it didn’t tell Ashling much. All it did was scare her.

“Silver.” It was a woman’s voice, low, almost a whisper.

The dog left Ashling’s side at once. It rushed straight into the nothingness and disappeared out of sight. Instead, a barely visible woman emerged from the darkness. She took only one single step into the shadows at the edge of the lantern’s light and then she stopped and spoke. ”I heard that you are searching for the people they took ... I know things. If you will help me I will help you.”

Ashling didn’t answer at once. The woman in the shadows spoke again. “I heard when you were trying to get answers ... they don’t want to say anything ... and I can’t search, not openly, because ... I can only hide in the shadows and listen ... ”

The dog returned from the dark part of the alley. It stopped beside the woman and wagged its tail at her. “Sit Silver,” the shadow-shape of a woman said. Then she turned to Ashling again. “You were in The Ox’s Bellow back in the spring, one of those evenings. Flirting with my husband, like they always do as soon as I’m not there, as nobody can resist him ...”

“You must mistake me for someone else,” Ashling managed. “I’ve not been flirting with anybody in that tavern ... I never flirt with people.” She moved a little bit so more lantern light fell on her face with its odd ashen-blue-brown colour. “Who are you? What is it you know?”

A moment of silence followed. Then the woman spoke again. “Adèle Air’ryn.” She took one more step toward Ashling. The dog followed her like a shadow. A sudden gust of wind blew a cloud of snow trough the alley. “Say, don’t you recall me?”

“I can hardly see you,” said Ashling. “How could it be possible for me to recognized you when I can’t even see your face?”

After a new silence, the woman took yet another step closer and entered the circle of light. The shadows that shrouded her disappeared. Ashling saw a face that would have been beautiful had it not looked so thin and so haggard. The unkempt dark hair that framed it did nothing to improve the woman’s appearance. A hag ... was Ashling’s first thought. But, then she realized that the stranger didn’t look old and there was something about her that made a bell ring.

“Are you ... the wife of that biqaj bastard ...”

At this, the woman laughed a short sad laugh. “I’m the first to agree that Helwig is a good-for-nothing, a gambler, a trickster, a jerk ... but so am I, they say, those who resent us for not being like them ... but, we were speaking about how we two can help each other, weren’t we? I have the information you may want to get and I have ... things I need help with. Give and take, yes?”

Ashling had a bad feeling about all this. Her memories of the biqaj jerk and his terrible wife made her want to walk away at once. Kyrie had told her that the woman was a mage though. Ashling didn’t want to take the risk to anger Adèle by turning her offer down at once. She settled for playing along in the hope of being able to shake off the mage later, somehow.

“I recall you now. You came storming in like a hurricane of jealousy ...” She saw the expression on Adèle’s face shift a little bit but it wasn’t possible to know if it meant anything. “Very well then. Let’s see if there’s something I can do for you. What do you want from me?”

“I need somewhere to stay ... I’ve been living on the streets ever since the ochlocracy at the beginning of Vhalar. Helwig and I decided to stay out sight for a while ... so to speak. We coped. But, it became too cold later in the fall. Everything seemed calm again and so, we returned home. Until they came for us ... at the end of Vhalar.” Adèles voice dwindled to a whisper while she spoke. “He did what he could to gently pull their strings and make them change their minds ... but they got him all the same.”

Ashling waited for the unpleasant story to continue but Adèle Air’ryn didn’t say more. The truth hung unspoken in the air between them. Helwig had tried to use some kind of mind-bending magic to escape and failed. But, they hadn’t caught Adèle. If Kyrie was right and the woman was a mage, she too must have used some kind of magic and been more successful. Ashling wondered what the woman had done and how she had managed to escape. But, she feared the answer and found it best to not ask.

“Somewhere to stay?” she said instead.

“I want to leave Raelia. Hide in a place where my face isn’t known. Settle down in a quiet corner of the world where no one would look for me.”

And bide your time ... until you find him ... or until you can take revenge ... mage.

Ashling didn’t want to bring a mage to Fensalir. The ramifications of such a decision were hard to guess at. The mere thought of it made her uneasy. The woman was tainted by magic and Ashling’s familiar had called her a flayer. It would be best to not get involved with her. But, she didn’t want to miss out of the information Adèle wanted to sell. It was a tricky situation and no decisions felt simple.

“ ... resent us for not being like them ...” ... no, you mages aren’t like good decent people, not at all ... are you even people ...

The dog whimpered and the mage bent down to pat it. Adèles voice was low and soft as she spoke to the animal. It felt shocking to watch the animal’s trusting behaviour. The dod didn’t seem to see any difference between mages and people. It sniffed at the woman’s hands and wagged the tail and then it barked. The loud sound crushed the silence and tore Ashling out of her thoughts.

“I’m on my way to The Ox’s Bellow,” she told Adèle.

“It’s nearby. Next quarter. I haven’t ... been there for a while.”

“It’s ... your dog?” Ashling suspected that it was so. The dog had brought her to the mage and showed all signs of being their best friend.

“It’s a stray. Helwig used to give it a tidbit once in a while. It found us and has been hanging around.”

“It’s named Silver ...” said Ashling who felt that a dog with a name was after all a bit more than a nameless stray.

“I guess so. Helwig used to call it so ... it used to sneak around near The Ox’s Bellow and sometimes it managed to get inside ... my husband sort of liked that and called it a “bold mongrel”. He even bought sausages for it. That’s such a dumb and meaningless thing to do, feeding a stray dog in a tavern where he sat drinking and gambling his life away ...”

Adèle’s voice went thicker and hoarser while she spoke and at the end, it died out and left the sentence unfinished. The dog didn't care. It barked again. Ashling guessed that if dogs really could understand words it had heard the mage speak about sausages and believed that there was food to have. But, to judge from the dog’s starved appearance and the woman’s thin face the animal’s hope of getting something to eat was going to be crushed. The mage seemed to be as much of a stray as the dog was. It was only a question of time ...

It was winter in Melrath, the woman and the dog were starving and they had nowhere to go. An educated guess was that they would be found dead in the snow one morning after a particularly cold night. Ashling felt more and more bad about the whole situation. She found it way harder to hate one specific mage face to face than it waw to hate mages in general and at a distance. Well, Helwig could have been possible to hate on a personal basis after how he had behaved to her in Ymiden. But, his wife hadn’t done anything to Ashling ...to be honest, Ashling had agreed with Adèle when she had bawled that scoundrel of a husband out.

“You must have found somewhere to stay for the moment though?” she said. “I mean, it’s already far too cold to stay outdoors.

“I have my ... methods.”


“Look, a piece of good advice... I’m a woman of knowledge ... I know how to do things ... don’t ask too many questions about what you don’t understand.” A coughing attack interrupted Adèle. As a healer, Ashling could hear that it was the kind of cough that means bronchitis and which can develop into pneumonia under bad conditions. Wherever she was staying and whatever her so-called methods were, Adèle’s health was at risk.

“Are you interested in a deal or not?” The mage coughed again and the dog whimpered.

“You need to understand one thing, “ said Ashling. “It’s not like I’m a rich person with access to a lot of places for wanted people to stay in. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to arrange anything ... and I want to know what I’m dealing with before I do anything.”

“What you are dealing with?”

“How did you avoid to get caught and abducted?” There, Ashling had asked the question she had feared asking. She had to know what this woman was able to do. What she had done to the people who had tried to detain her.

“I turned out the shadows and hid in the darkness. They couldn’t see me, so they gave up.” She paused. “Like you didn’t see me until I showed myself” New pause. “And then I followed them and I saw things ... things you will only get to know if you help me.”

Turned out the shadows. Such a weird thing to say. But, Kyrie had said “shadow flayer”. In that context, Adèle’s words made sense to Ashling, although she wasn’t going to say it aloud. Shadowflayer. The mere word was so scary and bizarre that she felt that it could be dangerous to even use it. Ashling’s inner spiritual familiar had peered into things Adèle concealed. What if she wouldn’t appreciate being outed? It was better to let the mage keep their secrets, or believe that they did so.

“I’m only a healer from Fensalir. I can’t make any promises, but ... I’ll see what’s possible. I need time though. How can I find you when I have an answer?”

“Take the dog with you. When you have something for me, let the dog show you the way. It knows my name and it’s a good sniffer.”

Adèle paused like she was debating with herself about something she hesitated to do. Then she reached into a pocket on the inside of her cloak and pulled out a small item. “This silver medallion ... belongs to my husband ... he always wore it, always ... but in the commotion when they caught him it rolled away on the floor when the thin chain broke. Here ...”

The woman tried to put the medallion in Ashling’s hand but Ashling shook her head. “No, you don’t need to give me ...”

“I just want you to give it to someone else. You are going to The Ox ‘s Bellow. Give the medallion to Soren Kvistsson. I think it belonged to him once upon a time before he did the mistake to play at cards with Helwig ... who always wins ... well, take it and give it to Soren, will you?”

“As you wish. I’ll give it to him.”

Their conversation ended there. Adèle described the way to the tavern. Ashling began to walk and after hesitating a bit the dog came with her. It limped proudly in front of her and seemed to think it was showing her the way. Soon, they arrived at The Ox’s Bellow and stepped in.

Ashling felt tired after the many attempts to find her way and the encounter with the mage. She hoped that the tavern owner would be in and willing to speak with her beyond selling food and drink. Looking around she didn’t see him at once, so she bought a big mug of hot mulled wine for herself and a plate of food she was going to bribe the dog with.

Ashling herself wasn’t in the mood for eating. She would sit there and rest in the warmth of the tavern but think of the shadows lingering on the streets outside, cold and hungry and looking for a place to go.

The dog laid down beside her chair. They waited.

Continues here
word count: 2691
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Re: [Raelia] Silver Stalker, Chapter Three


Detection: Detecting an unnatural deeper darkness in the shadows
Detection: Detecting a flayer mage by intuition from your inner spiritual familiar
Intelligence: Guessing that a dog knows people they don’t warn you for
Navigation: Navigating by following a stray dog may lead you astray
Tactics: Trying to stay safe by playing along in the company of dangerous people
Psychology: Hating a group is easier than hating a specific member in distress

NPC: Silver, Said to be a stray dog but seems to belong to a couple of biqaj mages
NPC: Adèle Air’ryn, A shadow-flayer of air and darkness
NPC: Adèle Air’ryn, A woman of magic knowledge

Loot: -
Wealth: -
Injuries: -
Renown: -
Magic XP: -
Skill Review: Appropriate to level.
Points: 10
- - -
Comments: I read the first two parts of this series and enjoyed them, so I decided to review this one as well.

I see that she’s still trying to find the Ox’s Bellow which amuses me. I really liked the effect you added to the text when Ashling’s spiritual familiar was speaking. I thought that was a nice touch!

That woman doesn’t seem particularly nice. You did a good job with her though. She’s an interesting NPC!

I look forward to the next thread.

Great job, and enjoy your rewards!
word count: 225





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