III

Session 1: Romance Dusk
The Heroes Meet

10 March, 103 CY

The sun arose over the ranch house owned by Rene and Amerie Shepherd that morning to find its occupants already awake and digging in to breakfast. Their son Aramis had arrived the day before, marking the first return to his hometown since his wife had died almost two years before. In that time, he had entered the clergy of the goddess of death, the mysterious Raven Queen, a fact that his family seemed loathe to accept. A young woman called Azal, whom he’d met and befriended in Brindinford, the city where he’d made his new home, had accompanied him on this journey. Though the Shepherds had been hesitant to let a tiefling into their home, their sense of hospitality (and some prodding from Aramis’s more worldly sister-in-law Iva) had shamed them into accepting Azal as a guest.

They had come in response to a request Aramis had received in a letter from Kerowyn Hucrele, the owner of the largest trading company based in Oakhurst, and a personal friend. Her son Talgen and daughter Sharwyn had gone missing near an ancient ruin west of Oakhurst, and no one had heard from them in weeks. She’d asked Aramis to help her find her children. He’d asked Azal to come along since Talgen had been the one to introduce them.

While they were finishing breakfast, Aramis’s brother Orson entered the house and pulled the boys’ father aside. They spoke in low voices for a moment before the older man excused himself from breakfast and followed his son back outside. Mrs. Shepherd looked at the door with a bit of concern, but she turned a smile on those at the table when she saw the watching her. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Don’t you kids worry. Ranch stuff.”

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Prologue: Silence
Setting the Stage

by godfear

20 October, 101 CY

Iva wanted to scream.

Her enormous belly felt ready to burst, and the midwife kept telling her to breathe in that annoyingly patient tone one reserves for children and pregnant women giving birth. She knew, rationally, that it was intended to soothe her, and that being calm was good for the baby. But she was in a lot of pain, and the stupid breathing didn’t do anything at all for that. And that tone…

So. Gods. Damned. Annoying.

She slowly shoved her ire to the back of her mind, closed her eyes and tried the stupid breathing. The pain lessened precisely none at all, but she found she was able to focus her mind better with the cadence of her breath. It reminded her of the training sessions with her father in her youth, and the memory seemed strangely out of place. She hadn’t thought of the man in awhile, but now that she did she wondered what he would think of her right now. He’d probably laugh and tell her she was being ridiculous wondering what he thought about anything while she was giving birth to a shepherd’s son.

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