4. Rituals of Passing
When Anna returned in the village she ran into her good friends Sir Quantum, Sir Ravian and Lady Thaliama, all paladins of Imperil, god of Justice. Apparantly they had run into a few other paladins, who joined them in their holy quest. Anna could really not care less, sort of. Ofcourse she cares for her friends, but the only thing she has to do with Imperil is a promise she made: to uphold the laws. So that she does.
Suddenly, the grandfather of Gruella appeared in the village. He passed away fifty years earlier, but refuses to stay in his grave. Now for the paladins of Imperil this is a big no-no. Anna herself had had some run-ins with him, so aids them in fighting him. Besides this, Hrothgir, the yarl (chieftan), was missing. His daughter Gruella, thinks he's just off drinking and tried to take over matters. Except for grandpa. Grandpa claims he still reigns, and does everything he can to counter her.
I heard some gossip about a werewolf, and joined a scouting party. Quantum followed me, and kept his distance, while I talked to some other rangers and a half-wolf present. The wolf was ravenous, and spoke to the druid we had with us. The wolf said that the creatures of the forest were angry with the people, because they murdered and killed when there was no need for it, leaving the corpses to rot. Nature was unbalanced.
Back in the village, after a raid of fire demons (saying Ameya would test us AGAIN...sjeez!) and a drow attack, I spoke to the druid and his companions. They too, were close to nature, and invited me along to plant a new seedling, to grow the forest strong again, in these icy plains. So I once more accompanied them to the woods, this time leaving Quantum and Ravian behind. Ravian urged me to be careful. In a ritual Elissa (I hope I got her name right) planted a seedling, and the druid (played Renzo) poured his heart and soul into the seed. I called upon the powers of Earth, still inside me, and transferred them to the seedling. Everyone present poured their love and hope into the seedling, to make it grow and drive the ice back. Then we swore to be silent about what we had done, and then returned to the village.
Suddenly, just as I was catching my breath from scouting, mutant attack!. Apparantly, from the dungeons, mutants were coming to attack us. So we fought...again. Mutants, this time. Yay. Valiant fighting. And then it was bedtime.
The first thing Anna did was spend time in the forest. So she scouted in the woods, searching for herbs and gifts of nature. I found an egg that had fallen from a nest and was broken, two pieces of seashell, and a feather. No herbs (somebody else was there before me). When I returned in the village, I got a vision. I heard voices, of a woman conspiring with orcs. Krashnagada. From the conversation I could hear the woman was an alchemist. I asked the alchemist some questions but I couldn't find any clue she was evil or conspiring. Without proof...I could hardly support arresting her.
After a drink in the inn, I went back outside. There was a tiny blue creature picking a fight with everyone, somebody walking through people, and there was a service for Imperil. First things first. Together with another paladin of Imperil, I talked to the person who was walking through people. I asked him to stop, and in reply he walked straight through me. Great. He finally found the people he was looking for in the tavern, and I went back outside. The blue creature was next. He appeared to be a forest creature of some sort, and was making a big fuzz. Somebody denied him his house. So as good party we investigated. I lead them, thanks to the creature, to a circle of mushrooms, where a woman stood. She was keeper of the mushrooms. While the creature called himself "de grote boze bostrol" (big bad foresttroll), the witch called him "klein zielig mannetje" (small pathetic man). Quantum handled the negotiations, and the witch agreed to have him back in the mushroom if he behaved and in exchange for a potion of youth. So back to the village we went. The Kendrick alchemist said she needed a mushroom, white, with orange dots, for the potion.
Suddenly, I heard noises from near the graveyard, or the dungeon. So I scouted there, with Ravian and Quantum following me. Near the dungeon were two satyrs, and they immediately approached us. They wanted us to pet their tails. So as Thaliama and others were petting tails, one of them started squashing some mushrooms there. I distracted him, and Quantum quickly picked up the shrooms, and he brought them to me. I got the only one that was not broken, and stuffed it quickly into my pouch. "You got a mushroom!" the satyr exclaimed as we walked away. "No we don't." I replied. But in the end Quantum agreed to find their flute back. Which the forest troll had, it later turned out.
In the village, I ran into Argh, and I gave him a flower I picked just outside the village. In return, he tried to give me a magical necklace. Quantum suddenly slapped my hands away, because he recognized the necklace. He gave me the soulstone he wore which cancels magic, and I accepted the necklace from Argh. I then returned both items into the good care of Quantum, as Argh was already playing with the goblin that terrorized the village (I mean Judit, not the bar-gobbo).
A while later, Ravian grabbed my arm. "Quantum is dead". "What!" I exclaimed, "Dead!?" Yes, he died. Stabbed in the back. His body was put in the temple of Imperil, and we spent some time sitting by his corpse. When I left the temple, a priest of Imperil came to collect any fighter willing to fight orcs. Instead, we went into the dungeons and fought mutants! Fighting our way outside again, Anna got hit pretty bad, and lay outside the dungeon bleeding heavily. Bart Smit, the bard (played by Scourger) grabbed my sword and valiantly fought and got hit so heavy that by the time the priest of Imperil had healed me, he was the one bleeding to death. I kicked him when he was down, and grabbed my sword back, dragged bleeding Ravian away from there, and returned to the village. Just in time for orc attacks. After killing off the orcs, I chopped off their heads, mutilated their bodies, disarmed them, and sought for valuables or signs of their conspiracy. But nothing.
Suddenly, Gruella was outside, foraging fighters to check out a rumour that her father was in the nearby woods. So we went out. Again. Scouting. Again. All we found was fire demons, and we scouted around them, fighting off more mutants on the way. Then we found Hrothgir. Three Hrothgir, in fact, and a fire demon doing the gameshow "which of the three" thing. Gruella tried, but heard that maybe after Hrothgir was done being Ameya's Loveslave he might return in a day or three. So, Gruella had a fit "Fine! Stay with that fucking fire slut goddess! We don't need you! I'm going to be yarl no matter what the laws say!" And then we went back to the village. Gruelly spoke to me and said she was going to marry the priest of Duan (the one who had asked Duan to help Anna's soul have a nice transition to be with Duan when she was just lying with two broken legs and contained by a circle of holding, that one!).
The grandfather appeared from his grave again to witness the marriage and after two stripteases they got married. After the marriage, the priest of Duan declared that Gruella had complete authority next to him, and that they would bless the graveyard in the name of Duan again, to stop the undead raids. Together with grandpa, they went to the graveyard. Anna observed from a small distance. The ritual asked for everyone to partake, but the paladins of Imperil spit on the graves and the ritual. Nevertheless, the ritual continued.
After the ritual, a priest of Imperil and one of the village's alchemists approached me, and talked to me. Anna was cautious, of course, but had reason enough to listen. Most of her suspicion for the alchemist faded away during the conversation. What it came down to was "something's coming. A few of us know it, the two alchemist and the priest. Those who had a vision might be in danger too" and that's that. So we returned to the village, had dinner, and then talked to the other two who had had visions.
Long story short: after getting the vision again, and getting very very cold because of the cold ground, we decided that something was coming and that we would meet some more, vowing secrecy not to tell a soul.
I talked to Ravian after dinner, which was really hard. Anna is so much in love with him, but she is a total social retard. Basically what it came down to was "I am busy with something. It is dangerous. I can't tell you what it is. I can't tell you who I am conferring with. It may cost me my life, but I have no choice. Being involved in this may mean that I sometimes disappear for long periods of time. I ask for you to trust me."Needless to say, he didn't like it much.
As we were chilling near the fireplace, suddenly a fire demon appeared in the inn, and summoned a wall of fire, driving us outside. The village was attacked by a LOT of fire demons, a test from Ameya. I stood to the side of the inn, with little room for maneuverability, but away from Ravian. I saw him go down, but couldn't reach him because the fire demons drove us back. A little while later I could reach him, and grabbed his hand. When I lifted his shield, there was a lot of blodo. So I did wat Anna does best: let her anger run free. I resumed my position in line, fighting them off. But sadly, Anna died....
....and then it all appeared to be an illusion, the final test of Ameya!