Sunday, December 17, 2023

A Dissonant Chord - Part 6

In part 5, Ikram realized his provisions were ruined so he pressed on without camping, hoping to find help in fighting the Cove. When he reached Greatrock, he discovered that the city was actually where the Cove had their headquarters. Not wanting to risk encountering their warriors, he left Greatrock and camped in the forest to devise a way to safely enter the city. He tried to find some information about him enemies but did not achieve much.

32nd day of Spring, year 132

The next morning, or more accurately in the afternoon, I woke with a horrible hangover. I did not sleep well as I was still feeling jittery about someone from the Cove finding me. I ordered some food and sat at the bar to eat. A young man approached and asked if I was new to town. "Yes, I'm just passing through on my way to explore the world," I replied. "The world? You must be planning to talk your way out of trouble, because you sure don't look like you could wrestle your way out!" he joked. "I may have a job for you though. A friend has been captured by some ruffians and my friends and I will go rescue him while these fuckers have their guard down." My head still ached, but the thought of danger did wake me up. I said to the man, "Sorry, but I don't want more danger now. These last days had too much and I seem to bring bad things to folks near me, so I'd be no help on your rescue." "Nah," he replied. "Nobody reaches Greatrock by luck. We're in the Deep Wilds!" "Well, you got my lack of luck right. I was attacked by a fucking sodden just a week ago. Look, as I said..."  He cut in, "A sodden, you say? Well now... I got one bad and two good pieces of news to give you." "Just go ahead and tell me..." I tried to say, but he spoke over me again. "The bad is you need to lose that sodden, or they'll drown you or wear you down. They'll make you scared and weak." "Right," I said, disappointed. He went on, "The good news is I know someone who can help with that."  "Oh, alright. And what's the other good news?" I asked. "That, I'll let my wife tell you when you meet her for help with the sodden," he said. "You sure are pushy, aren't you?" I said. "I hope you aren't making all this up." "I swear it's true," he said, raising his ringed hand. "But there's no one in this town I can trust — not the guards, not the court, not even the merchants or the artisans, so I need your help." I agreed to visit his house and, after he gave me instructions on how to find it, I left to retrieve Valeri and my equipment before heading straight to his home. "You know, I never told you my name," he said, standing next to a young woman inside his door. "I'm Arasen, and this is Indirra." I gave them my name and hesitantly entered their home. We ate and discussed my trip. They warned me about the untrustworthy people in the city and how most were cooperating with an elf-bound clan who had even elected their leader as mayor. "Yes, the Cove of Lament," I said, which made them both recoil and hastily look at each other. I realized these people feared they had let in someone who was allied with the Cove, so I quickly started explaining: "They killed most of my village and burned much of it to the ground. I do want to travel the world, but the reason I'm here is to destroy them, although this seems foolish now — with me basically coming to their headquarters to look for help to defeat them and even managing to attract a sodden." They looked at each other and seemed to relax. Indirra spoke first: "I know this seems hopeless, but you've actually come to the right place." "The friend I told you about has been captured by the cove," continued Arasen. "And he was caught conspiring against them when he was really trying to kill their leader."  "So he could tell them about you at any time and lead them here???" I said, a bit more loudly than I intended. "Yes and no," said Indirra. "I'll show you what I mean, but just to lessen your shock — you, Ikram, are an Invoker." She stopped, waiting for my reaction. "I know," I said. "Oh, splendid, much less to explain then. I am one too and my mother was one as well. She was also the one who passed this enchanted mirror to me." She pointed to a medium-sized mirror on the wall while standing up and walking to it. "Open the door," she said with a smirk. I obeyed. To my astonishment, I found absolute darkness outside! "This house is not in Greatrock right now, you see," she said before I could even exclaim anything. "The house in Greatrock is the one you see inside the mirror." I looked at her next to the mirror and she was not reflected in it. In fact, the house in the mirror was not even lit up like the one I was in. "The mirror lets me flip the two houses, so if the guards were to pay us a visit, they would find an empty house. Even the neighbors know we live in a farmhouse outside the city most days." "Amazing!" I said in a hushed voice. "But why don't you know how to get rid of that sodden?", she asked, "I assumed most people would teach their children first about this." "My mother mentioned soddens to me but she never mentioned anything about invocation. She wasn't an invoker as far as I know, and I wasn't one, or wasn't aware I was one before this spring," I told her. "What about your father? Although it's strange that you hadn't realized till now," I said. "I never met my father. And, yeah, I didn't know I was an invoker until I was able to absorb that 'mystical energy'," she replied. "What do you mean 'absorb'?" she asked. "Well, when you get 'hungry' and can't invoke properly? Then you need to find some sort of energy to absorb," I tried to explain. "I feel 'tired' and I can invoke again after a few hours of good sleep," she said, "I've never heard of being 'hungry for mystical energy'. Invocations come from within." "Then what's the point of lodestones? I found one and some notes about it mentioned it can find sources of mystical energy and phase rifts," I asked. We discussed it for a bit more, but it sounded like she knew invocation as something quite different from what I had experienced. She also described it as something much more exhausting and risky than what I had experienced. Eventually we went to sleep.

33rd day of Spring, year 132

I woke up feeling quite refreshed after resting well. Arasen had returned with some food and we sat down to eat together. Soon, the subject of our captured friend Kendi arose. "We need to get Kendi out of jail soon, perhaps even today. Our original plan was to try and get most of the guards out of the prison, then use the mirror inside to flip the building to an empty alternate version. But there are a few issues with this plan," Arasen explained. Indirra continued, "First, the mirror takes about a day to adapt to a new building. Second, if the mirror is left uncovered outside for more than a few minutes, it will break. And third, if the guards enter the alternate, empty building and we flip it back, they would be trapped in the alternate version. I don't know what would happen if we moved the mirror while humans were stuck in there." "What happens to items or even bugs that enter your alternate house if you try to move the mirror out?" I asked. "They disappear as far as I know, at least they are not there if I move the mirror back to the same building. But human souls are different than inanimate objects or insects," Indirra replied. "My mother always warned me never to use invocation to manipulate souls, as that would be inviting trouble. I won't risk trapping or destroying a soul." I thought for a moment before suggesting, "You could flush them out by setting the alternate version on fire, or at least smoke them out without burning it all down if that's a problem." "That could work. I'd avoid burning it completely just to be safe, as I've never tried to see what happens in cases where the whole alternate building is destroyed," she said. "As for the one day delay, we'll need to move the mirror earlier. But how? This sounds impossible. Unless we disguise it as a tray, table, or..." I said, but got lost in thought again. After five minutes, I said, "We could break down a wall to leave from the back. But to get the mirror in earlier, could we make them confiscate it?" "It's too risky. They may not unveil it, and we can't move it unveiled outside. They may also lock it up somewhere or, hell, break it," Indirra replied. "If we could make the mirror smaller..." I said through my teeth. "We can't, and it's one of a kind as far as I know. I've never heard of another one," she responded. "Does the jail have an attached outhouse?" I asked. "No, and even if it did, it wouldn't be seen as part of the same building by the mirror." "What if you pretend to have caught Indirra, whom you'll present as a thief, with the mirror and ask them to hold onto it until you notify the owner to come pick it up?", I suggested to Arasen. "Ha! I'm not letting her with the guards, are you crazy? But this could work in reverse - I can play the role of the thief and you two could pretend to be from out of town and say I tried to steal from you but you caught me." We spent the rest of the day fleshing out the details. I swore on my arrowheads to help them free their friend, Kendi. We slept in their house that night.

In the next part, Ikram, Arasen and Indirra enact their perilous plan. Through cunning deception and the use of arcane objects, they infiltrate the prison's halls. Danger arises as a foe from Ikram's past recognizes his face. If they can escape with their allies and avoid detection, their mission will succeed. But new threats may emerge as they make their way to safety with night falling.

To be continued...

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