Saturday, January 13, 2024

A Dissonant Chord - Part 8

In part 7, Ikram, Arasen, Indirra, and their rescued friend Kendi successfully break Kendi out of jail using Indirra's enchanted mirror. However, as they flee, a drunk warrior spots Ikram and alerts others. A fight ensues and Ikram is able to kill one, but they are injured in the process. They escape to Ikram's old campsite to recover from their injuries.

36th day of spring, year 132

We woke feeling somewhat more energized this morning. Arasen treated me like a brother and was very upbeat in his outlook about everything. Indirra and Kendi, however, were not so optimistic. They were worried about an infected wound on Kendi's foot, which seemed to be getting worse, and asked if I had any knowledge of how to treat it now that we could no longer return to Greatrock. I gave Kendi some alcohol to numb the pain and took a close examination of his wound. I discovered a piece of wood buried deep inside and removed it. I then applied some healing herbs before rebandaging his foot. Once Kendi had calmed down, I noticed that Indirra had begun drinking the remaining alcohol. So we lent a helping hand as she finished it off. The rest of the day was spent swapping stories about our pasts to take our minds off our troubles.

37th day of spring, year 132

We awoke feeling rested, miraculously without hangovers. Kendi's wound seemed somewhat better. I asked what our next steps would be, but Indirra reminded me of the sodden that was pursuing me. "Soddens are said to grow stronger over time, so you must act swiftly. Defeating them in combat usually prevents further attacks, though such fights are never fair. You can't evade them forever either - as spirits, they haunt you whether emerging from the water or not. The other option is to offer a gift, but for that you must discover what they cherished in life," she explained. "But how will I know?" I began to ask, when she interrupted, "You commune with them. Go to water with friends during daylight and eat some wetwart - two or three should suffice. Then you may see their past." I replied, "Very well, will you help me with this? Today even, the river is near." Indirra agreed and we set off. Along the way, she advised that avoiding soddens in future meant not approaching water alone or ensuring attacks would be ineffective. We left Kendi resting back at camp and Arasen to care for him and guard our supplies and Valeri. A half hour later, we reached the riverbank. Indirra tied a rope around us both, making it virtually impossible for either of us to be dragged into the water. After finding some wetwart sprouts, she asked, "Ready?" "Yes," I answered, and lay down by the flowing water. I munched three wetwart sprouts and swallowed them, though the taste was horrible. We chatted for less than an hour before the effects of the warts began to take hold. At first, I started seeing movement in the water and among the trees. Indirra told me it was merely a hallucination and advised me to close my eyes. I did so, and after a minute I opened them again to see the trees as before. I felt myself starting to move towards them, unsure if I was actually walking or merely observing myself from a distance. Then I saw Valeri with no saddle. She looked at me briefly before turning and moving into the trees. I followed her silently, feeling no need to call out for her to wait. We walked through the forest as the trees began to glow with a dim blue light and that familiar smell surrounded me once more. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and allowed it to envelop me. When I opened my eyes again, I felt sated but Valeri was no longer in front of me. The trees had stopped flowing and I found myself standing at the entrance of a cave, carrying the carcass of a deer which I knew I must bring it inside before something attacked. As I headed into the cave, a family was waiting - my brother, wife, uncle and infant daughter, whom I recognized at that moment. Everyone seemed glad to see the deer, except my brother - he was jealous as always. "That's why he drowned me," I thought. "That's why I need this power." But some small part of myself knew, "This isn't real." I tried to remind myself. "I need control. I saw this cave the same day you decided to attack me. You won't get my power. Let me go or I'll go straight to your family, and it won't be just your brother I kill." I thought to myself. Now I was breathing deeply and rapidly. "At least bring me iron boots so that I can walk the land myself," a voice rang in my head. I thought I would do so and tried to stand up and walk back to Indirra. It took some time "walking" and slowly coming back to myself. When I finally did, it was almost evening. On the way back to camp, I recounted the whole experience and the sodden's request to Indirra. She agreed we needed to fulfill it but warned me about returning to Greatrock. I spent the rest of the day hunting, though I still felt somewhat slowed by the lingering effects of the wetwart.

38th day of Spring, year 132

I awoke feeling a bit less tired. I headed out to collect resources and found we were missing only the iron boots. I had the idea to steal the boots from the Cove, as it would be very risky to show up in the market and buy them. While stealing them carried its own dangers, at least it would also cause a small amount of damage to the Cove, and perhaps I could find other useful items. I suggested going alone and asked where their headquarters were located. Arasen confirmed what I partly already knew - their main building with a tall watchtower atop was on the east side of town, where they kept all their supplies, though it was guarded. "Could I hire mercenaries to help us?" I asked the others, explaining I had at least 900 arrowheads to spend on destroying the Cove. They were surprised by this revelation, and we began discussing our options. All thought finding enough trustworthy mercenaries would be risky, as a single betrayal could lead us into a trap. Hiring a mercenary group would be ideal, but the Cove had ensured none were available locally. I then suggested we set a trap along the road, using sharpened stakes concealed in a thicket, to ambush the next large Cove party we saw entering or leaving the city. We worked on this through the night.

39th day of Spring, year 132

After a restful sleep, we spent another day further preparing our trap. Kendi, who was still somewhat tired, mostly kept watch over the road.

In the next and last part of the first act of A Dissonant Chord, a climactic confrontation awaits as plans come to fruition. Danger and revelation loom as our heroes spring their trap and even enter enemy territory. But will all go as expected, and what new factors may yet emerge from shadows unseen?

To be continued...

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