The ride out from Dunlan Keep started out quietly. Jurian nursed his wounds. Tavion grieved his father. Ulreik and Nashia frantically poured over Sheevra’s grimoire, copying down spells before the book vanished. Gaemund rifled through his Mother’s notes, trying to learn everything he could about witches and their powers. Rhawunel and Aine guarded the prisoner with wary eyes, trying to determine why Sheevra’s face seemed so familiar. And Tyrandriel prayed to the Laughing God for the magic that would force the witch to reveal the truth.
Morel and Nashia approached Jurian. After their adventure in the Starless Market, they had more questions than answers regarding Tavion’s lost memories. Who better to ask about the truth than a man who’d known him since he was young? In quiet conversation, they learned the following:
- When Jurian was still six or seven years old, an awful storm descended upon the hamlet of Quanmar. Frantic messengers came to Dunlan Keep with tales of luminescent knights rampaging through the town, killing and looting as they went. Cedric road out with his men-at-arms to protect the people. Quanmar was utterly destroyed when he reached it—entire buildings knocked over by terrible winds, cattle hurled to their deaths in high trees, the shrine to Our Triumphant Family blasted apart by lightning. In all the wreckage they found many bodies, but only one survivor—a young boy shivering in the rain. Around his neck was a curious silver phial on a chain. It flickered occasionally with scintillating blue light.
- Cedric took the boy back to Dunlan Keep and questioned him to see if he knew anything. All he determined was that the boy’s name was Tavion, his family had been slain, and he was now alone. Having failed in his duty to protect the people of his fief, Cedric adopted the boy and raised him alongside Jurian.
- Tavion never went missing or had lost memory episodes when he was growing up in the castle. He learned how to hunt, how to fight, how to clean and maintain armor and weapons, how to lead men in battle, how to act alone, and some of the trappings of courtly life. Above all else Cedric tried to instill in his adopted son a sense of justice and duty to the common people.
- It was not until Tavion was of age that he departed Dunlan Keep to pursue a life of his own. During this time, he often went missing for long periods of time, speaking little of where he’d been upon his return. Jurian knew in his heart that Tavion had fallen in with mercenaries and perhaps worse, but turned a blind eye—nothing Tavion was doing seemed to be causing the common folk any harm.
- Jurian actually introduced Tavion to Manard the Weaver—his own record wasn’t entirely spotless. None of the Dunlan family was over fond of King Ralzemon’s greed or paranoia, and they relied on less publicly approved company to keep an eye out for interference from Borgondhi.
- When asked about the Witch of the Willows, expeditions into fairy, or lost memories, Jurian had little to say. His younger brother has a mysterious past, but nothing that ever made its way into Jurian’s knowledge.
With more questions than answers, at last our fleeing heroes reunited with Ser Eklos and Gaemund’s cart. They went off the roads until they could take the guise of traveling merchants, blending in among other travelers on their way to Bravewood Abbey. Hoping that the cloistered faithful of Our Triumphant Family could contain Sheevra’s witchcraft long enough for them to make their case before King Isbrand III, they made the most of their time by confronting the witch herself at last.
Wounded and dazed, Sheevra muttered a single word under her breath twice before awakening: “Tariamil…tariamil.” It was an elven honorific, meaning “Queen-Mother,” an affectionate way to address one’s ruler. When at last she stirred into full consciousness, she found herself at bladepoint, surrounded by enemies hungry for vengeance, and bound by Tyrandriel’s Circle of Truth.
Even under this solemn oath Sheevra demonstrated calm cunning. She chose her words carefully to walk around the truth without lying, answering questions with questions, only giving up information in trade, never for free. The fey heritage made itself very evident. In a duel of words, the Companions learned the following:
- Her grimoire contains spells of the Second Circle. Sheevra’s magical power exceeds that of any of the Companions. Ulreik raced against time to copy as many spells as possible, before the binding of Sheevra’s will destroyed the grimoire.
- Bromin put to her, plainly and simply, the question of how she ended up with his ale and why she sold it. She explained that she knew the Huldra were going to attack the caravan, she was waiting nearby, and scavenged everything of value that she could before proceeding on her way. She only sold it to Yvain Ponty out of opportunity.
- Sheevra knew that the attack was meant to target Rhawunel, Daughter of Angren, and Corik. The fact that Tarah Arcistoth was there was only a bonus.
- During the investigation, Sheevra asked Rhawunel if she knew where to find her brothers. Rhawunel said only that she did not know.
All while they tried to pry the truth from Sheevra, Aine pondered the Changeling’s true face. Why did it look so familiar? It brought to mind a portrait she saw many years ago, a noble visage, a member of another court—
At last Aine placed the face. Sheevra looked exactly like Princess Ottilia of Marchen. But no word of the Princess going missing had reached Borgondhi—by all accounts, Ottillia was safe in the Marchen Courts. How then could her face appear here, whispering to the servants of King Raalzemon?
Bromin recalled the tale of Princess Ottilia’s capture, on her sixteenth birthday. Goblins broke into the castle and spirited her away to a tower in the woods. King Isbrand’s eccentric brother, Prince Barasko, rode with his knights to slay the goblins and bring her home. The Princess had never been the same after that…could it be possible that Sheevra had been raised in Marchen court, with Ottilia spirited away all those sixteen years? Could the so-called kidnapping have been an opportunity for the two to change places?
If true, this meant that Mairg’s plots wove through two different kingdoms and spanned decades. Whatever she is planning, it was set in motion over twenty years ago, when Ursi Arcistoth slew Iommor. The Companions saw for the first time the terrible web spun for the mortal realms…
The question arose—what to do with this dangerous shapeshifter? Gaemund and Tavion wanted to spill her blood, one because she was too dangerous, the other in vengeance for his father’s death. But the Companions agreed, she had to be kept alive. If the real Princess Ottilia was raised by fairies, she could be an enemy of mortal kind. To have any hope of revealing the truth, they needed Sheevra alive.
At last, they asked her by who’s will the caravan was attacked, Warrick was turned against Cedric. She spoke a word for the third time: Tariamil. On the third repetition, the companions realized what she’d done—she was never muttering in her sleep. By speaking Mairg’s title thrice, Sheevra could draw the Huldra Queen’s attention. The companions were being watched, and soon it would lead to dire consequences…