Sunday, September 11, 2016
Glass and Roses, Chapter 11
Valdimer looked up from his desk when he heard a knock on the door. He put down his quill next to his magic rod and stood up to open the door. Hannah greeted him with a smile and a plate of warm bread, butter, and slices of ham. "Mum thought you'd be awake!" Hannah said. "She sees the light under your door before sunrise every morning. She thought you could use a proper breakfast for once!"
Valdimer chuckled. "Thank you! I sometimes forget to eat while I'm writing."
"There's more downstairs if you want it," Hannah said, and headed back down to the inn's kitchen. Valdimer started to close the door, but paused and changed his mind. He left his room and walked over to the next door. He knocked once, waited a few moments, then knocked again harder.
"Hey, it's time for breakfast! How late did you stay up?" he shouted through the door. He heard a low grumble from the other side, then heavy footsteps, before the door cracked open and Dror stuck a horn out. Valdimer gave him a goofy smile, and Dror rolled his eyes. "We haven't spent a proper day together in a while. Come on!"
"Let me get dressed at least," he said, closing the door again. Valdimer heard rustling and a swear, then the door opened fully. Dror blinked in the sunlight from the window at the end of the hall, but he had a small smile on his face. "Well, come on, get moving. Don't want it to get cold."
They arrived in the dining room. The inn was small compared to those they had stayed at in the past, but it was a small town that didn't see many passers-through, and so most of the rooms were usually empty. Hannah's parents had refused to allow the twins and Dror to pay for their rooms, saying that saving their daughters life gave them a lifetime stay if they wished. Valdimer still snuck coins into their chest whenever he could.
Dror sat down at one of the two tables and started gobbling down the ham, his face growing less drowsy-looking with every bite. "Say, where's Berit?" he asked through a mouthful of meat. "She's usually here in the morning."
"She's usually back by the time you normally wake up," Valdimer said. "Which would be in...almost two hours. But in the morning she likes to go to the archery range and practice. I don't think she's missed the bullseye even once, but she still seems to think there's room for improvement." He spread a large slab of butter on a slice of bread and took a bite.
"She probably just wants to stay in shape," Dror said. "I can understand that. You do the same thing, in your own way. But while she keeps her body in good condition, you focus on your brain." He tapped Valdimer on the head, and Valdimer laughed and pretended to shoo Dror away. "How's the memoir going, anyway?" Dror added.
"I'm trying to put as much detail in it as I can," Valdimer said. "Remembering the details of our battle with Mephutozim is challenging, however. Zhihao kept it from escaping while Hannah recited the binding ritual, and we protected them both from the lesser demons, but it's mostly just a blur. I was acting on reflex, since I thought we were as good as dead. But, if there's one thing I've learned on this journey, it's that a well documented history of your life can mean all the difference in the future."
Dror rolled his eyes and let out a bark. "That's your lesson? Not, I dunno, don't mess with demons?"
Valdimer smirked. "Our mother was able to use Folami's family history to find Hannah and manipulate her. If we had known more about our mother, we could have stopped her sooner. I suppose this information could be dangerous in the wrong hands, but it's better than letting anyone in the future be ignorant. There's just one thing I still can't figure out."
"Whuff dat?" Dror said, two pieces of bread in his mouth.
"She never explained what spell she needed from Mephutozim, or why she needed it. It must have been something powerful, if a demon was the only way to gain quick access to it. Summoning demons isn't easy, yet it was still easier than actually learning the spell she wanted. And she was afraid we would be mad if we found out. I'm just wondering if it had something to do with-"
The front door burst open, and Valdimer and Dror looked up to see Berit standing at the entrance, eyes wide as if she had just seen a ghost. "You need to come and see this, Val," she said.
He stood up. "What's going on? Is everything all right?"
"Yes, sorry, there's no danger," she said, looking over her shoulder. "It's just...someone just came down the road, and he's wearing the blue rose. Our family's crest."
Valdimer's brow clenched in confusion, and he quickly followed Berit out of the inn. Dror took a few more pieces of bread and ran to catch up. They walked to the stable, where a man in full plate armor was tying up his chestnut horse. He turned around when he heard them approaching. Emblazoned on the front of his armor was not just any blue rose, but the same symbol that hung from Berit's neck. His black hair was starting to grow gray around his ears. He gave the half-elves and devilborn nearing him a questioning look.
“Who do you work for?” Berit demanded. “Why do you bear that crest?”
“I'm sorry, I don't understand-” the man began, but Berit unclasped her brooch and thrust it towards his face. His eyes focused on the symbol it bore, the same one he had on his armor. He looked back up at them, more curious now than before. “My name is Laurence. I am a paladin of the Church of Generous Luck. We are a small, young order, but this is the symbol that represents us.”
“That is the symbol of our family, from our father's side,” Valdimer said. “But we haven't seen him since we were young. We are Valdimer and Berit Rhosynglas. Does that name sound familiar to you?”
“Yes,” Laurence said. “Madoc Rhosynglas, the founder of our order. So then, you are...”
“His children, yes,” Berit said. She looked at Valdimer. “I know you've been wondering the same thing I have. What was the spell Mom wanted from Mephutozim? Maybe Dad has the answer.”
“He abandoned us in the most vulnerable time in our lives,” Valdimer said. “Do you really think he'd care to help us now?”
Berit shrugged. “It's worth a try. Besides, knowing where he might have gone makes me want to find him even more. I have a few choice words to tell him.”
“Fair enough,” Valdimer said with a smirk. He turned back to the paladin. “Laurence, do you think you could take us to your headquarters? We would love to be...reintroduced to Madoc.”
“I would be honored to escort you,” Laurence said. “Madoc was an upstanding envoy of Luck, and if he wronged you in the past, I am sworn to make it up to you on his behalf. Unfortunately, you won't find him at our headquarters. I don't know where he has been for a couple years now. The high priestess might have answers for you, though.”
“Then lead the way.” Berit turned to Dror. “What about you, Dev? You're welcome to join us, but I won't blame you if you want to stay here where there's always fresh food and free rooms.”
“That there is,” Dror said. “But this place doesn't have anything to fight! I want to head out onto the road again.”
“The temple is in Abertswyth, a three weeks' journey from here,” Laurence said. “I just need to make another delivery in the next village over, and then we can head back.”
“Thank you,” Valdimer said. “Although I personally hope we don't come across any fights along the way."
Laurence chuckled for the first time since they met him. “Then you're hoping for a different road, my friend!”