Chapter 9: Back to Jaferiyah

The road to Jaferiyah was difficult. The lone trail had been nearly erased from existence after the destruction of the covenant. The only trace was the occasional patch of dirt in the grass. Nevertheless, three figures traveled the path. The first seemingly leading the way did well to march a good 5 paces ahead of the others. One of the two figures shadowing the first stopped to sit upon a rock.

"Why again must we trek to this god forsaken place?" questioned the female of the group. "We destroyed it many years ago." Her tone was annoyed and weary from walking most of the day and still through to the middle of the night. She received no response from the lead member of the group who seemingly ignored her.

"Octavian. We will stop to rest." said the third figure with an authoritative voice.

Octavian stopped and turned. His eyes remained wide open, unaffected by the dim light of the stars. "My apologies master Tacitus, but I recommend we press on. We are not far. We can make camp when we arrive."

Tacitus intoned once more with authority. "We've gone far enough for today. Tremsilla needs to rest. We can make up the difference in the morning."

Tremsilla scowled at the suggestion she was slowing the group. She quickly got back to her feet. "I am fine. Lead on Octavian."

Tacitus noted the expression on the woman's face and then turned to see Octavian had wasted no time to resume his march with a polite acknowledgment of thanks. He could not help but feel that it was all planned. He tightened his grip on his staff out the resentment for the Tremere's mind games.

The trio continued on. Nine, no ten diameters of time had passed before they reached the plateau where Jaferiyah and its village once resided. The magic he had cast allowed him to see the night as a cat in black and white. The remaining buildings were still smoking husks from the razing of the covenant. None were spared, not even the villagers. The Shadow Flambeau had seen to that. They took refuge in behind the more passable walls of the old bordello. The village had survived for so long only by catering to the vices of the covenant's occupants. There was also a gambling den where most would bet on cockfights. Some of the interrogated spirits of the deceased hinted at other less savory things as well. Octavian would take the first watch he decided. He would take the 2nd, and Tremsilla the third and prepare breakfast. She would not like it but it was only fair since she would get the easiest shift. Luckily, she was too tired to complain and quickly fell asleep after haphazardly setting her bed roll.

(I like it! Interested in reading more :smiley: )

Tacitus awoke from the gentle prodding of a stick against his shoulder. He rose to his feet groggy, having found it difficult to get a restful sleep. "My turn already?" He muttered while clearing the weariness from his eyes. Octavian's apologies for waking him were irritating but he had learned long ago it was a waste of breath to ask him to cease. "Anything I should be aware of?"

"A few spirits of the deceased have coalesced in this place over the course of the night." whispered the Tremere.

The news of spirits broke Tacitus out of his haze. "Why didn't you say anything before?" He cursed Tremsilla's stubbornness. He knew they should have rested before reaching the plateau. "No matter. What are they up to now?"

Gazing outward of the ruined building, Octavian replied quietly. "Wandering aimlessly. They appear mostly harmless."

Suddenly a ghostly silhouette appeared even to Tacitus' naked eye. "You can see us?" It was a woman's voice. From what little he could see, Tacitus could tell this was likely one of the whores that plied her craft here. When Octavian turned to look at her, the ghost's hopeful expression turned to one of terror. "Y-you!" Panicked the ghost attempted to back away but it could not leave the confines of the building. She was pressed up against where the outer wall formerly stood. Now it was barely three planks of wood barely held together.

"Pardon our intrusion." said Octavian. "We are simply resting here for the night. We..."

Before he could continue the spirit shrieked in fright. Her wail was horrifying. Tacitus covered his ears from the piercing shrill as he quickly searched his mind for the proper warding against the dead. Suddenly the ghost faded into nothingness. He turned around to see if it was Octavian's doing. The Tremere lay crumpled on the ground, having lost consciousness. It had been Tremsilla, awakened by the scream, that had cast the spell. "What happened?" she questioned.

Tacitus wasted no time for explanation so as to complete his ward around the edifice. "Some spirit appeared and began to wail at the sight of him." It was strange. Octavian did not strike him as someone that would frequent a place of ill repute like this. Further, how did such a weak spirit's power break through their parma magica? "Get him in his bedroll and get back to sleep."

The woman nodded reluctantly and reached for their fallen companion. "He's burning up with fever."

"Then tend to him." Tacitus growled as he returned to his watch. It only served him right. Whatever had caused the spirit to react so was surely with some cause. The wards held until the morning without further incident. Tremsilla had gone back to sleep after settling Octavian in his bed roll. When it came her turn to watch, she checked up on him briefly but found the fever did not dissipate despite her spells, albeit weak, of healing.

The two quaesitores ate silently over breakfast. Sleep had come difficult and they still felt weary after the events of the previous night. Tremsilla broke the awkward silence. "What now? We can't leave him alone."

Tacitus mulled it over a piece of stale bread. "It's settled then. Keep an eye on him. I'll look around for anything of worth. I've renewed the wards so you should be fine if you extend your parma magica over him."

The village's well had remained intact despite the devastation of the village. Although the water had become polluted by the soot and ash in the wake of the Wizards March. Tremsilla purified the water with a spell before applying it with rags to Octavian's forehead. She noticed her patient appeared serene and even strangely alluring with his eyes closed and his ponytail undone.Whatever that was afflicting him was not corporeal in nature she thought. If it did not clear up, she may have to probe his mind. She was reluctant to do so. Tactisu would surely disapprove in the event she would learn the Tremere's secrets.

Tacitus paced around the perimeter of the ruined fortress in disgust. Anything of worth was likely pillaged years ago in the aftermath of the March. What did Octavian think to find here he knew not. Unfortunately they had no leads so it was as good a place as any to investigate. After hours of searching turned up empty handed he spat on the ground; his loathing turning to bile in his mouth. Best to return to check up on the other two.

"So, did you find anything?" inquired Tremsilla as Tacitus entered their camp.

"Nothing. It would help if I knew what to find or where to look?"

Tremsilla frowned. "He didn't tell you, did he?"

Tacitus kicked a rock across the rotting floor and sighed. "I've mentored him for many years and yet, you would think I could read him at all." He took a seat on the ground. "We will remain another day." Tacitus did not need to ask on the affliction on the tremere. He had not moved since he left in the morning and his cheeks and forehead ranged from pinkish to red. "After that we'll hire some locals to help transport him back to Duresca."

Tremsilla bit her lip before blurting out "It is not a physical ailment otherwise my spells would have helped. It's probably a mental affliction. If I would..."

"... and then what? You have no cause to scry his mind." Tactitus snapped. "How would it look for a case of scrying between two quaesitores at tribunal? We'd be the laughing stock this side of Rome. I will hear none of it." The expression on his face made for no further discussion.

I like how you are using the perspective and voices of other characters to help define Octavian and give us some insight :smiley:
Good story so far!

The next day proved even less fruitful for Tacitus as he decided to search the wreckage of the village. Hermetic looters had gone through the place years ago, and no doubt any deserters from the reconquista or bandits that stumbled upon this place would have picked it clean in the intervening years. Nevertheless, there was a faint possibility they might find something that could clue them in. It was just a matter of knowing what to look for. Stalking through the charred buildings, he entered what remained of the local butcher. From the sound of his footsteps, he could make out a hollow noise, as if there had been a basement or compartment beneath the floorboards. He resolved to find out. Invoking the prying eyes spell, he got on his hands and knees and crawled over the floor, tracing his left hand around the surface to peer beneath. What he found left his stomach in knots: decomposed corpses of what looked like humans, before being unceremoniously chopped to pieces. Some were missing limbs, others whole sections of their sides. Yet, what was even more disturbing was the scurrying of hundreds, if not thousands of feet. Rats that had survived gorging themselves on the flesh of the dead to not only survive, but prosper. He pulled his left hand to cover his mouth, to try to keep himself from vomitting. He then heard a high pitched scream. It came from the brothel.

Tremsilla's uneasiness at the whole situation took the best of her. Certainly, no one particularly cared for Octavian, but they couldn't just leave him like that without taking steps to try to at least improve the situation. If she would supress her sigil, she could investigate and Tacitus would be none the wiser. The place sent chills down her spine and the sooner they would leave, the better. With a deep cleansing breath, she steeled her gaze and peered into the magus' mind. It took her a while to get her bearings at first but her concentration had been honed to an edge through years of study and duties as a quaesitore.

Yet, the result of the spell had gone beyond the boundaries of what it was supposed to do. She found herself inside a dream? Or maybe a memory. She had no control over her actions. She was merely a spectator through the eyes of another. It was a surreal experience but for now she pressed on. She found herself in a cramped but otherwise pleasant room. There was a bed off to the side and a boudoir in the corner near a curtained window. From the angle of the light, she noticed it was near dusk. She desperately tried to urge herself towards the mirror, but to no avail. Just as she considered releasing a spell, she heard the faint sound of a door opening. the person she was inhabiting, for lakc of a better word, walked towards the boudoir. "Finally!" thought Tremsilla. But she did not catch so much as a glimpse through the tarnished mirror before the form leaned over to look through what appeared to be a peep hole.

In the other room, stood a tall lanky girl with dark hair and beautiful doe eyes. It took her some time to place her, but she finally recognized the woman as Relegare. Tremsilla suppressed the urge to lash out. She had no evidence that she could even control her actions and if she were to lose concentration the spell would surely end. Relegare, was quickly undressing. It was strange to see her as her usual self after being accustomed to the image of her as some wretch stuck in the donjon beneath Duresca for so many years. She reached for a jewelry box, but snapped it closed as someone else entered the room. Tremsilla recognized him immediately as octavian. Although he appeared younger, and his robes were a more vibrant blue than the dappled blue-black they were now.

Tremsilla felt the sentation of goose bumps all over her skin as the two magi conversed. She could recognize it as Latin, but for the most part it came off as gibberish to her. Likely due her host not understanding it. What she saw startled her. relegare approached the younger Octavian and she could tell, she was trying to seduce him. She caressed his cheek and peered directly into those sinister green eyes. Relegare leaned over closer. Octavian had taken her by the wrist and leaned over closer as if to kiss her? No, he whispered something to her. Tremsilla couldn't believe what she was seeing and then chaos.

Suddenly, Relegare keeled forward, before Octavian smashed his elbow at the base of her neck. The Flambeau fell to her hands and knees. Before she could get back to her feet or cast a spell, the Tremere stomped the delicate fingers of her left hand with the heel of his boot. Relegare cried out in silent pain as she clutched her now broken hand to her chest to try to ease the pain. This exposed her side to a hard kick to the kidneys that sent her crashing into the side of her bed.

Tremsilla's felt her heart gripped with fear. She wanted to close her eyes to be spared the brutality of the assault, but her host was paralyzed. She watched as Relegare slowly crep away towards the wall where the Host was peeping from. She was begging, pleading. all the while, those eyes seemed to burn two holes through everything they saw. the racket had caused a ruckus elsewhere in the building and she could hear someone trying to rbeak down the door but the Tremere had braced a chair against the handle to keep them out.

When finally her vision was obscured by Relegare's back, Tremsilla's host was able to turn away. She felt the whole body shivering as it pressed its back against the wall to desperately avoid having to see. relegare finalyl spoke in words she could clearly udnerstand. Some spanish curses, intermingled with latin. Her voice was erratic and slack jawed from a vicious punch she had sustained to the face. Octavian had been systematic in reducing her ability to invoke spells. Finally, Relegare apepared to stop. Instead, there was a faint gasping noise for a good 10 to 15 seconds. Tremsilla heard relegare being pulled up to her feet along the wall, likely by the neck from the chocking sound. She finally udnerstood the words now coming from the Tremere's mouth: "I apologize, for what I am about to do is unforgiveable."

Then suddenly, Relegare screamed in sheer terror. It was unnatural and terrifying. Tremsilla's host covered her ears but it did little good. She could hear Relegare struggle against the thin walls but to no avail. Finally, after what seemed like eternity. She had stopped and her body fell limply to the ground. Everything turned to black. Tremsilla thought she had finally seen the end. But it continued, over, and over again. Replaying constantly. She tried to break free but she was trapped. She wanted to scream for help...

Tacitus rushed towards their camp. He knew not the danger involved, but Tremsilla would not scream unless she was in dire straits. Arriving upon the scene, he saw Tremsilla's palm gently laid upon Octavian's forehead with a blank stare. He cursed beneath his breath. "Fool." He pulled her away and shook her vigorously. "Tremsilla, are you alright?"

Tremsilla's eyes rolledback before regaining her senses. She suddenly felt the urge to throw up but instinctively swallowed it back down. She lurched forward in Tacitus' arms, looking up weakly before succombing to a flashback. She was back in the same Host. They crawled up to the peephole to see if things had died down. The sound was muted for a time as she seemed caught in some daze. She saw Octavian looking down upon the crumpled form of the heretical maga. His expression was a cold blank stare. The door behind him finally gave way and someone else had entered. She heard a man's voice whose words she made out clearly. "Step away from the woman. I will be taking her with me now."

The voice was familiar to her but she couldn't place it quite yet. Octavian's expression turned to a faint smile made all the more sinister with the shadows cast by his eyes. He turned with a bow. "Greetings master Quaesitore. I regret the state she has been found in. I leave her to you. Good evening." With that he walked past the man whose face she now recognized as Tacitus.

Tacitus watched the Tremere go with a look of suspicion and reservation. He picked up Relegare's still form unceremoniously over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and walked out from whence he came. Tremsilla noticed that not only the fingers of Relegare's right hand were damaged, but her left wrist was now at a crooked angle and blood ran down her jaw. It was no wonder the spirit that assaulted them 2 nights ago feared this man. He was ruthless and systematic in his assault.

When finally her Host calmed down, she felt some relief but then suddenly an explosion rocked the building and flames erupted through the very walls consuming everything in sight including the Host. Tremsilla awakened from her trance, clutching Tacitus for dear life.

Tacitus groaned as her fignernails found flesh and dug deeply. He pushed her away to get her to stop. "Not only must you disobey me, but must you also add injury to insult?"

"You and the other quaesitores destroyed this place didn't you." she retorted.

Tacitus was taken aback by the accusation. "What are you talking about?" He levelled his gaze on her. "And so what if we did?"

Tremsilla looked at the third member of their party. "... Nothing."

Tacitus scowled. "Then it's time for us to leave. There's nothing more left for us to find here."

Tremsilla paused. "What about him?" she indicated Octavian's still form. "We can't just leave him here."

"... Fine. I will go down to the next village and return with porters. But... there is something I must do first."

He walked out of the ruined building thinking to himself. She must have read his mind. I'll have to have a stern discussion with her when we get back to Duresca. He returned to the site of the old butcher's shop. There was no sense leaving the place without first securing the rats there. He traced a ward against mundane beasts around the perimeter of the building to keep the vermin contained. He planned to return later, preferably with some animàl expert, and gleam what could be found before eradicating the nest. His work done, he made his way back to the closest village which was a full day away. Invoking the endurance of the berserkers, he would stave off fatigue until he got there.

Tremsilla waited until Tacitus had left the area before scrounging around the charred remnants of the brothel. After several hours, she managed to pull out a metallic box from the ashes. While it has been tarnished and battered it was likely whatever was contained within had survived. She pried open the box by bashing it against a rock; spilling open the contents. Gold and silver jewelry far more expensive than whatever poor wretch of a whore in such a small village could ever afford lay now strewn on the floor in front of her. She picked up each piece and examined them carefully. She was no expert in jewelry but she acknowledged they were pretty and would fetch a good sum but silver was not what interested her. One particular item fascinated her: an onyx earing in a gold setting. The color matched Relegare's eyes. This must have been what she was trying to get... She tucked the earrings in her robes and the rest of the jewelry into the box before dumping it in her travelling pack.

This stry is full of mystery and suspense! I eagerlly look forward to each instalment :smiley:

It would be nearly two full days before Tacitus would return, Tremsilla realized. While Octavian's fever ran unabated, the magus was stable. She decided to do her own investigation. Nothing too far from the camp of course. Like Tacitus, she found nothing of worth or note. On her return she noticed a rat. With an invocation the animal exploded into a splat of gore. The creature was likely searching for food or something. It wasn't a stretch that it would try to scrounge through their own supplies. She spent the remainder of the first day tending to her patient and went to sleep. She awoke the next morning from the sound of scurrying on wooden boards.

[To be continued tomorrow.]

What happens next?????????

Tremsilla awoke to find the largest rat she had ever seen. It was nearly 3 feet long from tail to snout. The animal was making its way to their packs. She quickly began to cast a Perdo Animal spell to slay it. At the sound of her voice, the rat emitted a squeaking noise and tried to flee but was too late and died instantly. Something was odd however. She had felt a resistance to her magic. Not enough to affect the outcome of the spell, but nevertheless could it have been a magical creature? She approached the corpse with little regards to her safety before it erupted with a dozen tiny baby rats emerging from the corpse. The sight made her wretch. She stomped the pink finger sized rats mercilessly with the heel of her boot.

She felt ill from the act. The gore now covered her boots and part of the camp and would surely attract other vermin. She looked to the fallen magus and pressed her hand faintly against his forehead and breathed a sigh of relief. The fever seemed to have gone down in severity. Perhaps he had broken it? Whatever the case, she needed to prepare to break camp at a moment's notice. Tacitus... what is taking you so long? she thought.

Tacitus was at the closest hamlet he could find. They had passed through on their way up to refresh their supply of water. They had been met with mistrust which was not out of the norm for magi. Nevertheless, it would prove difficult to convince them to follow him back up to Jaferiya. The commoners were a suspicious lot and surely superstitious. They'd likely fear going to the old stomping grounds of the Shadow Flambeau. While he could have just as easily compelled two men to join him, through magic, the journey took a full day. His spell would wear off before then and there was the possibility they could turn on him. It was why they opted against it in the first place. Gold had to do the talking for him...

Tremsilla began packing their things in preparation for Tacitus' arrival. She had spotted other rats scurrying in the shadows but decided it was prudent to leave them in peace for now. Her body ached from the restless night of sleep she had experienced. Nightmares had plagued her throughout the night and the disturbance had only mput her on edge. She leaned on her staff, her eyelids fighting a desperate battle against fatigue.

Tacitus spent the night in the hamlet, paying one of the villagers for the right of a roof above his head. The next day proved mostly fruitless until late in the afternoon. The large purses that now hung from his current travelling companions' belts spoke of his persuasiveness. Nevertheless, the two farmhands were not particularly smart but he needed their brawn and not their brains so they would do. The trek back was much more noisy than the trip up with the magi. The pair spoke of all the things they could buy with their newly acquired wealth. Trivial matters to Tacitus, but the voices made him temporarily forget the pressing matters at hand. They had to press on quickly before nightfall otherwise the goings would be dangerous and he did not know how the two would react to magic.

The second night finally came. It was hard to remain awake. Tremsilla nodded off for what she though was only a second, but in truth it had been several minutes. She felt a faint pinch on her ankle. She awoke and found a rat biting her. She shouted loudly and proceeded to try to smack it with her staff. The vermin squeaked loudly and scurried off. Her left hand darted to her ankle. Thankfully the rat's teeth had not pierced her skin through the leather of her boot. She sighed and inhaled deeply. A putrid smell began to fill her nostrils. The smell of rotting flesh and disease. She looked up and nearly fell on her backside in shock: hundreds of rats began pouring out from the various buildings. In the darkness she could see red thousands of red points of light moving along the ground. Fear gripped her heart. She would not die here, not like this. No longer caring about remaining inconspicuous her voice began to rise as she incanted her most powerful spells...