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    The Silver Wolf-Behind The Mask: Where Are We Going From Here?
    Posted on Fri, August 18, 2023 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "For Luna, the evening of the companions’ return and the two days after were a punishing cycle of waking up early, praying for as many curative spells as she could cast, casting them on the most seriously injured defenders, using her mundane medical skills to treat less critical injuries, trying to get some sleep and then waking up to start all over again, for nearly sixty hours.

    Chapter Twenty-Three

    Where Are We Going From Here?

    Luna was relieved that the last day of the month was Freeday, the day of rest. She was exhausted from everything she’d had to do for the past three days, and desperately needed a break. Laying down on a bed in her room at the Bruin Inn, she contemplated what’d happened after the companions killed the Council of Crippled Helplessness.

    The Council’s defeat caused the Spine Breakers’ resolve and discipline, already weakened by the companions’ efforts, to break down completely. Tribes from the Hacker and Heart Piercer clans deserted the Spine Breakers when they didn’t simply turn on them. The Spine Breakers themselves were forced to retreat back into the Yatils, leaving many dead in their wake. The clans they’d dominated pursued them, promising vengeance and death on their oppressors.  

    The Knights and their allies, including the forces of Highfolk, won out against the hobgoblin invasion. The hobgoblins exacted a high price for the Knights’ victory, though. Many of Highfolk’s defenders were slain, and many more were wounded, by hobgoblin blades. The companions returned to Highfolk after slaying the Council, and Luna helped treat the wounded soldiers.

    For Luna, the evening of the companions’ return and the two days after were a punishing cycle of waking up early, praying for as many curative spells as she could cast, casting them on the most seriously injured defenders, using her mundane medical skills to treat less critical injuries, trying to get some sleep and then waking up to start all over again, for nearly sixty hours.

    Luna’s exhaustion made her drift off to sleep. When she woke up a few hours later, she felt physically restored but she was still on edge. Walking downstairs into the Bruin Inn’s common room, she got a mug of water from the innkeeper.

    “Are any of my friends around?” Luna said, looking around in dismay at the largely empty common room.

    “’Fraid not, lass,” the innkeeper said, shaking his head. “I heard ‘em makin’ talk about helpin’ the patrols fight any ‘obgoblins what’re still around these parts. Dreadfully sorry.”

    “It’s alright, thank you,” Luna said, her shoulders slumping. She’d hoped to talk to some of her friends about everything on her mind, but she knew they wouldn’t be back for a while. It was still mid-afternoon, and she didn’t want to wait the hours until they returned for supper.

    Then Luna remembered the despair Jolene had felt when she’d seen the letters the companions brought back to the Knights and their allies. Luna had no idea why Jolene would’ve reacted that way, but she realized that Jolene could probably benefit from talking to someone too.

    Jolene’s guards readily admitted Luna to the lodge where she was staying. Luna found her lying in a large chair in her sitting-room, taking advantage of the Freeday relaxation. She looked like she needed it, as Luna noticed her bloodshot eyes were surrounded by dark circles. She stood up to greet Luna as the priestess walked into the room, but she’d clearly been through as much strain as Luna over the last couple of days.

    “Are you sure you should be up and about?” Jolene said once they’d embraced. “You look exhausted.”

    “All my friends are helping the patrols,” Luna said, “and I was getting cabin fever at our inn. I need to talk to someone, anyone.”

    “So I’m your next-best choice,” Jolene said, a half-smile. “I suppose that’s an honor,” she continued, before she and Luna both laughed. “But tell me, what did you want to talk about?”

    “I just wanted some companionship,” Luna said. “I was also worried about you.”

    “Why me?” Jolene said, suddenly more guarded. “You needn’t-“

    “What did you see in those letters we brought back from the Spine Breakers’ lair?” Luna said. “Something in those letters affected you. What was it? Did you want to discuss it?”

    Jolene’s previously warm expression became a cold mask of rage. She suddenly seemed to stare past Luna, a faraway look in your eyes.

    “…Do you know what it’s like to be betrayed by a loved one?” Jolene finally said, as her gaze shifted back to Luna. “To think that everything you knew about them was just a mask for how they really felt?”

    Luna hesitated.

    “…Not exactly,” she said, “but some of my friends have.”

    “Then they probably know how I felt when I read this,” Jolene said. Getting up from her chair, she walked over to a desk. Unlocking a drawer, she sorted through a pile of parchments until she found the one she sought. Jolene handed it over to Luna, who folded it out to read it.

    To her surprise, the first thing she noticed was a heraldic symbol that looked very much like the one she’d seen at Jolene’s manor in Devarnish. A chill ran down her spine as she read the parchment, which turned out to be a letter.


    My sister is expected to arrive in Vala Real by the 25th of Planting. I would advise waiting a day for her to settle in-she will spend much of the day she arrives meeting with Vala Real’s leaders and prominent citizens. The guards will be on higher alert on the day of her arrival too. Once she’s settled in, the guards will resume their normal vigilance.

    Use the oil and pitch accompanying this letter to set parts of the town on fire. You’ll be able to strike more quickly by forcing the guards to split their efforts between fighting the fires and fighting your men. Take as many prisoners as possible along with Jolene. You may collect a ransom for any other prisoners you take, and this will be part of your payment.

    One thing matters above all others, however. Feel free to return the rest of your prisoners in good health, but the only part of Jolene you must give back is her head. Otherwise, see to it she rests in pieces.


    Only you are to know of this correspondence. Ensure that it’s sent on with the rest of my instructions to the destination I previously mentioned. Succeed at this mission, and the riches I pay will only be the first of your rewards. Much more will come when I head the Celestial Order of the Moons.


    Eirene Sarnath.

    Luna wondered who this ‘Eirene’ person was, but then she recalled Jolene’s last name and what Seline told her about the strange encounter she’d seen when the companions were Jolene’s guests in Devarnish.

    “…Your sister hired those brigands to kidnap you?” Luna asked, her blood running cold.

    “Didn’t you read the letter?” Jolene said. “She hired those brigands to murder me!” she said, her expression cold and hard as stone.

    “I don’t know if any of my friends told you, but my sister and I are of Aerdi descent,” Luna said after a moment. “We’re more familiar with noble power games than I wish we were.”

    “Even in Veluna…Even in Veluna, they happen,” Jolene said, wiping at the tears forming in her eyes. “How could I be so blind?”

    “It’s not your…” Luna said, but she trailed off when she saw that Jolene wasn’t listening.

    “None of this would’ve happened if Thrommel was here,” Jolene said, putting her face in her hand. “He would’ve seen through all this immediately, but I almost led the Knights into the Abyss!”

    “None of this is your fault!” Luna said, taking Jolene’s hand in her own. “The fault lay with Eirene and everyone else she was dealing with!”

    Jolene took a deep breath as she tried to calm herself down.

    “…My head knows that,” Luna said. “It’s always known that…but my heart doesn’t. I keep thinking about what Thrommel would’ve done, and if he’d be happy with my decisions.”

    Luna embraced Jolene, who let her tears start to flow.

    “I just miss him so much…” Jolene whispered.

    “I’m sure he’d be proud of you,” Luna said, before she released Jolene. “I take it you’ll be heading back to Veluna?”

    “Kashafen is going to teleport me and some of the other Knights back to Mitrik. We’re going to speak to His Venerable Reverence Hazen,” Jolene said, referring to Veluna’s capital and ruler “and Eirene will face justice for everything she’s done.”

    To Luna, Jolene’s mood seemed to shift from despair to determined resignation. That wasn’t much of an improvement, but at least she seemed to be in a better place.

    “Would you like me to make some tea?” Luna offered.

    “I’d appreciate that,” Jolene said, “but what about you?”

    “We could both use something to drink,” Luna said.

    “Of course, but that’s not what I meant,” Jolene said. “You look as upset as I was, but why? One of the great heroes of Highfolk who slew the hobgoblin leaders, exposed the traitors here-“

    Luna looked away, unable to meet Jolene’s gaze.

    “…I’d rather not-“ she said, before Jolene interrupted her.

    “Consider it a noble order,” Jolene said, her expression becoming one of mock haughtiness. “Native to these lands I am not, but I am a lady of breeding and dignity. I will not suffer disobedience, least of all in my own house!” she continued, placing her hands on her hips.

    Jolene tried to keep her regal bearing, as Luna stared at her in shock. She couldn’t hold it for long, and she burst into helpless laughter. Luna quickly joined in, realizing what Jolene was getting at.

    “I just keep wondering why gods like Rao or even my own Pelor allow all this to happen,” Luna said, shrugging sadly. “Why don’t they stop it?”

    As Luna prepared their tea, she told Jolene about several of the companions’ past adventures. Once they’d poured themselves each some tea and sat down, Jolene finally spoke

    “Even if the gods could stop it all, what would happen?” Jolene said. “Are you expecting them to create a utopia? How would they keep evil from rising again?”

    Luna thought about that for several moments. She sipped her tea as she thought back over everything she’d seen over the past few years, ever since she’d taken her vows as a Pelorian priestess.

    “Now I’m remembering a discussion I saw between some clerics of Pelor and Rao back at the symposiums in Devarnish,” Luna said. “One Raoan priest said that everything would eventually burn and die if the sun shone eternally. If it set and never rose again, everything would freeze and die.”  

    She took another sip of tea, as her eyes lit up.

    “That’s why there can never be an ‘end’ to everything,” Luna said, “no grand final battle between good and evil. Night always follows day, and life always continues.”

    “You don’t seem entirely pleased about that,” Jolene said, noting how Luna was now the one shifting from despair to resignation.

    “I’m not,” Luna said, “but I know all I can do as a daughter of Pelor is help the light shine.”

    “I think you and your friends have done quite well at that,” Jolene said, a smile crossing her lips.

    Luna returned her smile.

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