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    The Silver Wolf-Behind The Mask: Epilogue
    Posted on Wed, November 01, 2023 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "“And what if you did?” Jolene said, her eyes narrowing as she crossed her arms. “What if you’d hardened Veluna the way you seem to want to? Could we even call ourselves Velunese anymore? Surely you remember the saying-what good is there to gain the Oerth, if you lose your soul in the bargain?”





    The walls of the passage Jolene walked down were bleak stone, as blank and hard as her expression. She didn’t stop to consider why most of the rooms she passed were comfortable and well-decorated, or why most of them were empty. The prison’s cages were gilded, but they were cages nonetheless.


    On any other day, Jolene might’ve been pleased to see how few residents this place had, a positive sign of most of the Celestial Order of the Moons’ members’ moral views.


    She was past all that now, just as she was past the anger and the heartbreak.


    There was only one thing on her mind, and it focused on one of the doors ahead of her as she turned in the passage. It was one of the few doors that was closed and locked, with a guard on either side, showing that its room was occupied. The guards snapped to attention as Jolene approached, saluting her with their spears, before one of them pulled a key out of his pocket. He unlocked the door and pushed it open, following Jolene into the room when she entered it.


    Eirene didn’t react at first when Jolene walked into the room. She remained seated in her chair, her back turned to Jolene as the latter walked in. Several long, tense seconds passed before Eirene stood up and turned to face her older sister. Another long moment passed as the sisters stared intensely at one another.


    Finally, Jolene broke the tension.




    Eirene scoffed and rolled her eyes, crossing her arms.


    “Why does it matter?”


    “Because I need to know, Eirene!” Jolene said, her eyes flashing with anger. “All the people who died, all the blood that was spilled, all the trust you betrayed! What was it all for? You had to have a reason!”


    Eirene scowled in response.


    “I could ask you the same thing,” she said, looking Jolene up and down. “What was it all for? You had to have a reason!”


    Jolene’s anger turned to confusion at that.


    “What would I need a reason for? What did you think I did-“


    “It’s what you didn’t do,” Eirene said. “You’re the woman who had everything-the beauty to rival a goddess, the wealth of a queen, the knight in shining armor as a betrothed, the love of all our people…and what did you do with it all?”


    “…What did you expect me to do with it?”


    “Anything! How much grander would Veluna be if the Raoans didn’t weigh us down? How much more ready would the Furyonds be to unite with us if you’d done better at winning them over? What kind of prestige would we gain with Highfolk as a province? Did you work towards any of that? Of course not!”


    Jolene stared at Eirene in horrified disbelief.


    “And how was I expected to do that? By colluding with hobgoblins? By having the Knights of the Hart, our bravest defenders, killed by Abarran assassins? By murdering my own kin? Or would that last action have gone too far?”


    “Don’t you realize what a threat Iuz and the Horned Ones pose to Veluna?” Eirene said, rising to her feet. “And what aid are we to Furyondy when we’re guided by the Raoans’ softness, and we depend on the Knights for our safety? You’ve heard the jibes about how most Velunese have trouble slaying rabbits, much less brigands or orcs! You’re just as guilty as anyone of letting Veluna grow soft, Jolene, and you’d have never helped Thrommel change that. When you were the one he chose…”


    She trailed off, unable to say anymore, as Jolene’s eyes widened.


    “…Is that what this was all about?” Jolene said. “Was everything else you said just a cover for that?”


    “I meant every word I said,” Eirene said, despite her inability to look Jolene in the eyes.


    “And what if you did?” Jolene said, her eyes narrowing as she crossed her arms. “What if you’d hardened Veluna the way you seem to want to? Could we even call ourselves Velunese anymore? Surely you remember the saying-what good is there to gain the Oerth, if you lose your soul in the bargain?”


    “We would still have Veluna,” Eirene said.


    She looked Jolene in the eyes again, but this time her eyes were those of a dead thing.


    “We still have Veluna…” Jolene said, as she stared back at Eirene, unblinking.


    “…and we still have its soul,” she finished, as she turned her back on Eirene.


    Too disgusted to speak any further, Jolene exited the cell followed by the guard, who locked it behind her.


    As she left the prison, Jolene knew she’d seen Eirene for the last time.


    Sometimes she saw Eirene in her mind, sometimes she saw Thrommel.


    The grief was the same either way. 


    Philandis Highcastle was his normal stoic self as he sparred with his usual training partner. He kept up his calm facade until his training partner left him alone in his gym, and he approached a practice dummy in the corner.


    At first, the gym was quiet as Philandis approached the dummy. The silence was broken by an ear-splitting cracking sound as Philandis drove his practice sword head-on into the dummy’s chest. Another crack tore through the air as Philandis struck it again. A third crack filled the air as Philandis struck it a third time. Soon the gym sounded like the center of a thunderstorm as Philandis poured out his rage on the training dummy.


    When Philandis had finished, the dummy lay strewn in pieces across the gym floor. He was drenched in sweat, his chest heaving like a bellows from his exertion, but he remained as calm as ever. Inwardly, though, he seethed with anger. Highfolk’s victory over the Spine Breakers, aided by those Silver Wolf adventurers, ruined everything he and his fellows had planned. Had everything gone to plan, the Spine Breakers would’ve conquered Highfolk, possibly even pushing into the Vesve Forest.


    That would’ve only been a temporary thing, of course. Having a large force of hobgoblins on Furyondy’s doorstep, rumored to be encouraged by the Horned Society, would be the perfect excuse for the war hawks among Furyondy’s nobility to raise an army and liberate Highfolk. With so much of Highfolk’s old government destroyed, it would need new leadership. Furyondy would provide that by adding Highfolk to the Duchy of the Reach or the Barony of Littleberg, the kingdom’s two westernmost provinces. When Eirene headed Veluna’s Celestial Order of the Moons, she’d diminish the Raoan church’s influence and make the secular nobles the country’s true power. Veluna and Highfolk would be stronger allies for Furyondy against Iuz, the Horned Ones and the Bandits.


    Philandis thought about all that as he walked towards his bathing chamber, eager to clean off the sweat of his martial exercises. 


    He also thought about how much more was at stake, namely the heights Furyondy could achieve. Furyondy was the first state to break away from the buffoonery of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy’s Overkings over three centuries ago. The new kingdom took the empire’s best and the brightest with them. Why shouldn’t Furyondy take up Aerdy’s faltering torch, and the prestige that came with it?


    Philandis fumed with anger every time he thought of how Perrenland broke away from the newly independent Furyondy, and how the Shield Lands won against Furyondy’s invasion. Annexing Highfolk would’ve allowed Furyondy to make overtures to Perrenland, particularly if the rumblings from Iuz or the Horned Society became louder. Some Furyondian nobles were already making such overtures to the Shield Lands.


    Philandis and other like-minded nobles hated using such roundabout tactics, but even in his exhaustion King Belvor would’ve halted any more direct approach. As it was, a more forceful Belvor would never stand for even the overtures they were making.


    The gods only knew how many years those efforts were set back, thanks to the Company of the Silver Wolf.


    Philandis had many calls, and many responsibilities. There was little he could do about those adventurers, or the grief they’d caused him and his fellow nobles.


    But he didn’t have to forget, much less forgive, them.


    And when the time came, he would return the pain they’d caused him.


    In spades.

    Dedicated to Joseph “Greyhawk Grognard” Bloch, for not only being a Real Greyhawkian Hero, but a good personal friend.

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