Hugh Entry 10

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It had started raining while we dealt with Bargle. That made the trudge back to Kendal Keep extra crappy, what with having to carry the body of the chaplain back all that way. I insisted that our prisoner/rescuee Sir Tolison help with the heavy lifting, seeing how it was his blade that had made an end of her. We traveled in silence, which only left me time to stew.

I wanted to hate Tolison for what he had done, but I couldn’t deny what I’d seen in that cave. Bargle had put some kind of mental whammy on the knight – he had not been acting on his own initiative when he’d slain Aleena. His sin was being weak-willed, and I was in no position to cast stones. At least he had the excuse of being under the influence of enchantment magic. I had no such thing. Had I?

Was it possible that The Stranger had influenced my actions, magically compelled me to kill Elric? My “patron” had to be some kind of demon or dark god to be able to grant me the powers that I can now (sort of) control. He’d caught me in a moment of weakness – angry, humiliated…suggestible. I had just wanted to put that arrogant ass in his place, after all. I never wanted to go as far as I had… Did I?

No. The Stranger had ensorceled me, I’m sure of it. And if that was true, then I couldn’t be damned! I hadn’t had a choice! I was like Tolison, guilty only of being too weak-willed to resist the mind magic of a powerful being. And when I looked at the man, miserably toting Aleena’s corpse along through the rain, instead of a villain, I saw a kindred spirit. I didn’t mind the rest of the trip so much.

We arrived sometime after midnight, and once Sabine saw Aleena’s body, she escorted us straight to Castellan Devereau, who was in his chambers with Lady Opaline. They listened to the story of our fight against Bargle and Aleena’s death at Sir Tolison’s hand. The Castellan seemed ready to pass sentence and Adara (of all people) seemed ready to help, but I couldn’t let the knight take the fall. I told them how Tolison had acted strangely, like a man in a trance, when he followed Bargle’s orders and how, once the mad wizard fell, the knight seemed to snap back to himself, aiding us in destroying the remaining goblins.

After an intense appraising gaze, Opaline asked me if I was certain of what I’d seen, and I assured her that I was. That seemed enough for Devereau. He remanded Tolison to the custody of his absent “cousin” Petrus. That made me wonder just exactly where in the hells that sneaky bastard had skulked off to. I excused myself and went looking for him. He was nowhere to be found, so I retired to my room to sleep.

. . .

I slept really well, having realized that I wasn’t really to blame for Elric’s death and then protected Tolison from the gallows.

I was the last one down to breakfast, where Adara and Imed seemed to be in some heated debate about Aleena. I didn’t really understand what they were talking about, but Adara was babbling about Aleena’s choice in some matter or other. I gently reminded her that the chaplain was beyond making decisions, but that only seemed to upset the deva, so I let it go, excusing myself to go pawn all the loot we’d acquired in the last couple of days.

I was directed to the locksmith, a halfling called Mouse. I gotta say, he’s a pretty good guy. We chatted a bit about things in the keep, and he struck me as a fellow with his finger on the pulse of the keep. I asked if he’d seen Petrus around, and described the skulky jerk. He hadn’t, which, considering the bastard’s recent revelation, was not surprising. We finished our trade, then I headed back toward the One-Eyed Cat.

A vagrant stopped me on the way, and spoke with “Petrus’s” voice. I glared at him and asked him where the hell he’d been. Then I brought him up to speed about the rescue and the loss of Aleena. We ran into Imed on the road, and Petrus seemed to decide on the spot that he needed to convene with the group. We gathered the others just outside of the inn, then made our way upstairs to his room.

Then the vagrant put on Petrus’s face, and revealed the secret that I’d known for less than a day – the man we’d known as Petrus was, in fact, the changeling Nox.

Hugh Entry 10

Primordium zero