“This mead tastes like mule piss,” muttered Toby as he tossed the flagon over his shoulder.
Lucan looked into his own glass and watched the wine reflect his frustration back at him. The Scions of Legacy had lost two of their members. Abelarde had been killed when Illidus – or Salissta, as it turned out to be – emerged from his body and burned it to a crisp. As for Yelena, she had her throat cut by Saffrenia Stormrage and her body possessed by Salissta. On top of all that, Kalak, who they had hoped would help Yelena, ended up stealing the power of the demon Illidus for himself and disappeared.
All in all, it had been a damn disappointing day.
Although not everything had been bad. Salissta, weakened after having her power drained from her, had been taken into custody by Saffrenia’s men. She would be questioned before being put on trial for crimes against Mithrendain, the Feywild, and the World at large.
Saffrenia had also ordered that Abelarde be resurrected by one of the resident priests of Corellon. She was surprised that the news hadn’t been met with any level of enthusiasm or gratitude from the Scions. She wasn’t aware of their track record with resurrections.
Until the resurrection ritual was completed, Lucan and Toby had been given rooms at the Waystop, an inn that was a little more welcoming to outsiders than most inns in Mithrendain. It was located in the part of the city known as the Old Battery, an ancient part of town that was as close to a poverty district as one could get in such a noble city. The rooms were nothing special, or comfortable for that matter. Each had one bed, and one footlocker to store essentials. Beyond that, visitors were on their own.
For men like Lucan and Toby, being left on their own wasn’t necessarily safe for anyone around them.
The barbarian was experiencing emotions that he couldn’t put a name to, and wasn’t sure how to deal with them. His manner of coping was odd, but for the eladrin hiding in the kitchen and hunkering down behind the bar, this was better than him deciding just to kill everyone he saw.
Toby picked up his fork and moved a piece of raw meat around in the bloody gravy on his plate. “They call this rare?” he grumbled. “It’s practically coal.”
The plate whistled through the air and shattered against the wall. The slab of beef stuck to the wood and slowly began its trek to the floor, leaving a bloody smear behind it.
Lucan hadn’t removed his mask, keeping everything south of his eyes wrapped behind a heavy veil. He could taste his breath, and the longer he sat with his thoughts, the more that breath tasted like blood.
The Scions were the only two mulling around the Inn, so when the front door opened the Waystop’s staff peered out from their hiding places. They saw one of their own, a young man dressed in the noble yet stuffy garb of a politician. “Welcome to the Waystop,” a voice said from behind the bar. “Plenty of room to sit. Help yourself.”
The young man smiled. “Thank you, but I’m here to speak to the Scions.”
Lucan looked up. “What’s left of us.”
“My condolences on your loss,” the young man said as he approached the table. “My name is Hracken, and I’m the liason for Councillor Stormrage.” This announcement didn’t impress Lucan at all. Toby simply grabbed a long loaf of bread and pulled it in half. “Gentlemen,” Hracken said, “Councillor Stormrage wishes she could be here personally but there was urgent council matters that needed to be addressed.”
“I’m sure,” said Lucan. “Why are you here?”
Hracken smiled politely, his hands pressed together as if in prayer. “Councillor Stormrage simply wants to ensure that your accommodations are adequate, and to reassure you that your compatriot will be rejoining you soon. Alive and well.”
“What about Yelena?” Toby asked through a mouthful of spice-buttered bread.
The eladrin’s lips pressed together. “That is another matter entirely. Councillor Stormrage currently has her top people working on a solution to that problem. But from what she has been told so far, the outlook does not bode well for the young lady, sorry to say.”
The dagger in Lucan’s hand seemed to appear out of thin air. He buried the tip of it into the table. He spoke in a slow, measured tone. “We came here for help. All we got in return were corpses.”
Hracken nodded his head in understanding. “The demon lord works in mysterious ways.”
Toby stared at the dark-haired eladrin who came out from behind the bar with a bottle of wine in his hand. He nervously approached the table and set the bottle down, muttering something about the fine quality of the contents and his desire not to be killed for delivering it. He quickly fey stepped, his hair appearing long enough to duck down behind the bar once again. Toby backhanded the bottle hard enough to shatter it where it stood, spraying glass and its fine quality contents all over Hracken’s tunic. “So what now?” he growled. “What are we supposed to do?”
Hracken cautiously brushed the glass off of his tunic. “You are welcome to stay until your friend Abelarde is well enough to travel. At that point, your future is your own.”
“She’s kicking us out of the city,” Lucan translated.
“No,” Hracken said. “She hopes that you will try to put this whole horrible ordeal behind you.”
Lucan wasn’t buying it, another lie to be added to the pile. He’d grown sick of the taste of it. “The quicker we can put this city to our backs, the better.”
Several sets of eyes turned to the front door once again when they were pushed open. Those eyes were disappointed when it wasn’t a customer who entered the Inn, but an adept from the church of Corellon. He came over to the Scion’s table and stood beside Hracken. His face was without emotion of any kind. “Gentlemen, I bring news.”
Toby set the loaf down. “Is Abelarde alive? Is he okay?”
“These rituals never go well,” Lucan said, studying both Hracken’s and the adept’s faces.
“The ritual went fine,” the adept said with a nod. “His body was returned to its original form.”
Lucan sat up straight and pulled his dagger free. “I feel there’s a ‘but’ coming on.”
The adept hesitated. “We… can’t seem to bring his soul back to his body.”
Toby’s frown deepened. “Is it lost? Do you need to draw it some kind of map?”
“Nothing like that,” the adept said with a shake of his head. “Something is prohibiting his soul from returning.”
“Illidus?” Hracken asked.
The mask fell away, and the adept appeared nervous. “We are using every incantation at our disposal to find the answer,” he assured the Scions. “I hope to have news for you very soon.”
Hracken put a hand on the adept’s shoulder. “You will have any resource you need,” he said reassuringly. “The Councillor will see to it.”
The dagger disappeared from Lucan’s hand. He lifted the bottom of his mask and took a sip from his wine goblet. “Looks like we’re staying in town a little longer,” he said with a disappointing sigh. “Much to everyone’s delight.”
“Indeed,” Hracken spoke with slightly less enthusiasm than he had at the beginning of their conversation. “Enjoy your meals, gentlemen,” he said with a bow before departing.
Lucan closed his eyes and tried to wash the bitter taste from his mouth with the wine. Toby stared at the loaf in his hand and threw it at the bar.
“Bread’s hard,” he said.