Aramis Entry 1
[The handwriting is sloppier in this entry]
March 10th, 103 CY
Must write quickly, I’m coming down with the fever.
Woke up tired, but somewhat relieved. Talking to Celeine helped, but dwelling upon it pained my heart anew. I decided it was best to get on with what had to be done.
Iva was already working on breakfast, so I helped her. We talked about why I’d come back, and she asked me about the missing Hucreles and the rift. Grateful to talk about something other than Celeine and my reasons for leaving Oakhurst, we talked until Orson came in.
By the gods, what a jealous man! Does he really think I’m going to steal her away? His childish behavior is a greater danger to their marriage than I am. Maybe he feels threatened because we both married redheads. Do I understand him too well? Or not at all?
Iva also wanted to know how I met Azal; maybe life on the ranch is getting to her. She seemed to put Azal at ease in any case, which was quite a relief, as my own efforts to make her feel at home felt like wasted effort.
Who is Iva, anyway? I’ve known her longer than I’ve known Azal, but the tiefling is closer to me than someone’s who should be thought of as my own family. Until Orson persuades Father to disown me, I suppose.
Something got past the dogs and killed a ram last night. He looked like he’d been pierced by dozens of needles. Orson mentioned that he’d heard tales of similar attacks, of thorns and missing blood, before he sent me away. He’ll never forgive me for leaving; why should I expect anything else? I wouldn’t expect him to realize, but my journey out of his world began the moment I met Celeine. She laughed at the way I talked, and tried to teach me to speak like a “civilized” person. I was never the same man after that.
What’s wrong with Henri? I saw nothing amiss, and they asked me to leave it alone. Still, it gnaws at me… I must help if I can. I’m still Orson’s family, whether he agrees or otherwise, and Iva doesn’t deserve the worry I saw on her face.
Still and all, we came back to help Madame Hucrele, so we set out early. I felt eyes on me as we left the ranch – Orson’s? Celeine’s? Or those of the Queen herself? In any case, the weather was much kinder today, and the trip into the village was comforting in spite of the circumstances.
Lucille and Ben stopped us to ask about our business. Lu asked what Brindinford had to offer that Oakhurst didn’t, and I did not answer. But as we walked away, Azal heard Ben muttering “tiefling, devil, witch,” and maybe worse, and that answered Lu’s question – I was looking for acceptance of those who don’t belong in places like Oakhurst. I should have shouted as much, but I chose to assuage Azal instead. Poor girl, these simple people will never see her as I do. Unlike her, I’m welcomed in Oakhurst. But, like her, I don’t belong there. Not any more.
We met a singing halfling near the well, a fellow named Owen Highhill. He’s looking for the Hucreles as well, so we’ve joined forces. He seemed like he’d be helpful in a fight (which turned out to be true), and his enthusiasm seemed like an asset. Azal responded to it, certainly.
House Hucrele was just as I remembered, though the handmaiden, Adell, is new to me. Madame herself was sadder than I have ever seen her, though she brightened to see me. I should have expected her to hug me, but still I felt like jumping out of my skin when she did so…
Lu called me “Madame Hucrele’s practically adopted son,” and I suppose that’s true. Celeine was like a daughter to her, especially after Sharwyn left for her schooling. Our efforts to save my wife, futile as they may have been in the eyes of fate, made us more than family. And Talgen is more a brother to me now than Orson is.
Then there’s Sharwyn. I feel like she’s said no more than ten words to me in all the time we’ve spent in each other’s company. Only after my wife’s death did I realize this; I may never know what she holds against me. It will not deter me from finding her, in any case.
Madame Hucrele told us what she knew, and we set out for the rift at once. I think Adell told Azal about Madame’s offered reward, but I didn’t listen. That’s not why I’m doing this. I thought that Azal felt the same way – given the way she frets about Talgen – but I may be wrong. Be that as it may, it’s not my place to judge.
(Which reminds me, I believed Azal and Talgen to be romantically entangled when I first saw them together. I soon learned that they weren’t, but I have never mentioned this to either of them.)
I passed the time on the road talking to Owen – or, more properly, listening to Owen talk. He’s eager to help others, like myself, but he holds that following your heart is the only way to lead your life. Like so many others, he doesn’t see that fate decides his path. I may not change his mind, but I still might explain the idea to him after we’ve found the Hucreles.
We found evidence of a campsite, and a knotted rope leading down into the rift. They promised the Madame that they wouldn’t go down there, so why have they? I tried not to dwell on stories of the rift goblins and their territoriality, of would-be thieves who came here to steal the apples and found only death. Again, we do what must be done.
We climbed down and descended some crude stone steps, arriving at the top of a sunken citadel. This place was once home to a dragon cult, or so the stories say. Dire rats attacked us as we made our way to the fortress’s entrance. I struggled to push the memories of what such creatures did to my Celeine, and to myself, from my mind as we fought. We killed two, and drove the third away – my first real battle! – but Azal and I are already showing the signs of filth fever.
I remember those signs all too well.
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