Entering the ruin, it was evident that this building consisted of a single room- though the original function of this place long-forgotten, it didn't matter. They sought the doorway in the far side- shimmering with violet light, marked with crackles of blue lightning. Misty shadows rolled along the ground, lending itself to the eerie atmosphere within.
"Oh good, this one's permanent. If it wasn't, we'd have difficulties... Pretty sure none of us know how to open portals." Jairus tripped on some rocks- and felt himself set upright by Shaiyla.
"That would be correct, Lord Jairus. I'm sure between the two of us, we could manage. However, this is much more convenient."
Lord Taco, Jairus, Shaiyla, and Vendetta stepped through- one at a time. The trip appeared hazy, a violet-washed blur... Just as they adjusted, their vision cleared; a rather pleasant room greeted them now. Polished wood shone bright against various torches and candles set about for light. In the center of the room, a round table with five seats awaited. Each chair had a place set out- and a wide array of food decorated the middle. Clearly, they had been expected.
"Seems we're expected. Wonder where our hostess is? And what we should do in the meantime?"
"I'm afraid I know not, Lady Shaiyla. We'd have to consult the resident expert here."
"Not much can be done until they arrive. Keep an eye out."
"Fortunately, you need not wait long." A new voice filtered into the room, causing everyone's heads to turn. Standing in the doorway were two people, a man and a woman. The man was quite tall, wiry in body with extremely vivid red hair. He stood rigid, looking down at the group. Beside him, a woman a good half-foot shorter stood there. The man strode in, paying the newcomers little mind.
Quietly she walked in, a picture of elegance and beauty. Crimson satin draped her body in the form of a long skirt and corset; black spiderweb silk lent accent, draped over the skirt and as a veil. Obsidian hair tumbled, wavy waterfalls framing her lovely face. Glittering sapphire eyes regarded everyone- and she gave off a soft smile. "Please, have a seat- help yourselves. I know travels can be long, and perilous." The man, still rigid and silent, drew a chair for her.
Everyone took a seat, going from her left to right- Jairus, Shaiyla, Vendetta and Lord Taco. Once she began helping herself, everyone else followed suit.
"You are most kind to us, Lady Silversorrow. We appreciate the hospitality shown here."
"Please, Lady Selina is sufficient." At his nod, she smiled a bit deeper. "I'm afraid I did not catch anyone's names."
"Forgive my lack of manners, Lady Selina. My name is Jayce, though this group has taken to calling me Lord Taco. It's a story for another time."
"Hello. They call me Jairus." Lady Selina shook her head gently, in amusement. She always held a secret affection for people who were blunt.
"Evening, Lady Selina. I'm Shaiyla- hopefully the board isn't going to prove to be much of an issue..." It took her a minute to write; Lasy Selina looked gently perplexed.
"She doesn't have a tongue. Kind of hard to talk without one, I find."
"Very well... and what about yourself?"
"...I am known as Vendetta." Her voice barely could be heard.
"You already know me; I am Lady Selina Silversorrow. The gentleman here is Zakir, my Vrylokan butler. Please forgive him- he's a man laconic... and of short temperament." Lady Selina smiled in amusement as Zakir exhaled sharply. It seemed easy to needle him- though Vendetta and Shaiyla felt doing as such would be unwise. All five dined, four of them silently inquisitive of the Lady's motive. Conversation light in temperament dominated the dining table, mostly idle chit-chat. Servants came in and out, seeing to everyone's needs. After some time, table contents cleared, Zakir led the five to an adjoining room.
This room was much nicer- the polished wood aesthetic carried over, but velvet and spiderweb silk lent an elegant softness. Soft chaises and chairs decorated the room, alongside a fireplace dominating the far wall. A familiar-yet-strange floral scent wove its way through the air, mingling with a very familiar sweet scent. Blood-red wine, apple cider and a cold, watery-ink colored drink were offered. To compliment this, small tarts were set out on a table within reach. Lady Selina took very good care of her guests.
"For those curious, it's blackberry juice." Nods all around, as people were satisfied with the explanation. Lady Selina sighed; business was never something she enjoyed discussing.
"Right, to business. As it may be known, Prince Rolan and the Deathless Watch preside over the city. Greed and corruption plague their ranks... In truth, the'll be trouble for us- especially early on. Damnable Deathless, extracting bribes... Beating, and killing innocents. Running the Tempered District and Fettered Ward... even have control over the Shattered Isles." Here, Lady Selina relaxed herself once more, and re-gained composure.
"So, you're what? Trying to restore some order to the chaos?"
"Something to that effect, yes."
Everyone took that in, with varying reactions. Jairus simply accepted it; Shaiyla wound up perplexed. Lord Taco wasn't sure to react- but visible discomfort could be seen on his face. Vendetta's expression turned ice-cold.
Lady Selina took the chance to explain further. "The Shadowfell descends into chaos and anarchy. Crime runs overly rampant. People corrupted, devious, sadistic. Evil is taking over; hope, civility and good are dying fast. I reached out to many, seeking anyone who would help restore these things to a scattered people...
You are the ones who heeded my call. For this, I thank you- very few would traverse to such a place. What I ask is a great deal- spread a message of hope, civility and good in these lands. In this, we also..." Here she trailed off, and Vendetta spoke up.
"Seek to overthrow the Deathless Watch And all who side with them."
Lady Selina looked up, staring at her. The expression on her face, as the shadows dancing, told Vendetta all she needed to know. She pressed this advantage.
"Asking us to both be a force of light and shadow is a lot, my Lady." Here, she addressed the other three. "The best tactic- divide and conquer. Lord Taco can spread his message of civilization, peace and community. Jairus and Shaiyla, you'd liaise as needed. Lady Selina and I will destroy the Deathless Watch."
Jairus nodded. Healing and alchemy were talents always in demand; no matter who you were. No matter the side you were on. "Sounds good to me."
Shaiyla scribbled furiously. "What talents do I have to help in all this? I'm not good with people, and only somewhat capable in combat."
"Survival is always important- you can refine skills for living off the land. It'll take time to adjust to the Fell, but it can be done."
Shaiyla nodded, though she reserved her doubts. But she was willing to try, at least until she gained better understanding of proceedings.
"I see a concern, Lady Vendetta- and Lady Selina. This is not something I can condone. Many things I'm willing to see beyond- but murder, and high treason? These are things I cannot accept."
"Is it truly murder, if their blood is shed in war- after being given a chance to join us in peace? Can it be called high treason, when their Prince wields no control? We of the Dust Quarter hold the real influence. Most all within feel it is time for a better way- and we're willing to do what it takes."
"It's the deception and darkness that disturb me. That is no way to handle anything, and it never was! I cannot stand for this, and-"
"Darkness IS our light; this is what we do." His eyes flicked to hers, as she cut him off. She got to her feet, staring with her intense amethyst gaze. "And yes, it seems wrong- it's equally wrong to let corruption reach a point where outside intervention is required. At this point, reason is gone; a few decent souls may remain, but the rest need to be destroyed- like burning a decayed forest, for new growth."
"...I know not how to answer that, Lady Vendetta. I-"
"-Have only been taught a certain way. Light is good, dark is evil. Straightforward conflict, this is your way. Honorable, sure. Not all are honorable; the Deathless Watch are definitely not. We fight darkness with darkness- the difference being, theirs is murky with malevolence. Ours is pure, full of fire and hope.
If you still stand against us, after all this... make sure I'm in the Raven's embrace. Same with Lady Selina. This woman, of her own accord, reached out to us. When a people's rulers fail them, you get rulers who will do the best they can instead. I believe she- with our help- can redeem the Shadowfell. And I'll stand by her until my death."
By the end of her words, all eyes were on her. Shock registered upon every single face in that room; it seemed the ice-cold, sullen woman they'd traveled with had quite a bit of fire buried deep within. Intense her stare was, flickering over every face in that room- especially locked onto Lord Taco's astonished glance. Nobody knew what to say; the silence stretched, eternities filling that void. All the while, the revelations laid out still resonated deep within. Eventually, with a soft voice, Lord Taco spoke once more.
"...I'd never suspected that much fire laid deep within."
"Don't think anyone ever did, really." Even in moments of high drama, Jairus had to interject.
"Ladies, please- forgive me. I was... misguided in my earlier judgement. Lady Vendetta is rather accurate in her claims; my worldviews could be perceived as... limited. Justice, honor, clarity- these are carried in light. I have forgotten... one person's darkness is another's light. And not all deal in honour."
All eyes shifted to Lady Selina. Shaiyla was the one who broke the next silence. "How do we go about doing these things?"
"Phase One is easy. In groups, you will travel into Temple District, the Drowned Quarter, the Shattered Isles, and the lands beyond. We're looking for supplies. Rebuilding the worst parts. Guide those who lost in faith once more- though I'm sure embracing the ways of the Raven may be difficult for you three. If we are careful..."
"The Raven Queen, Moradin and Pelor would coexist, Lady Selina."
"Exactly. We could use some good influence here." Everyone began to relax once more. "As required, healing would be administered. Rare is the instance we revive the dead, however. Raven's influence is extremely strong.
Phase Two... requires intel. Who's leading the Deathless Watch? Their true leader, not the one they say is in charge. What happened to the Prince? Feria- her role in all this is unknown. Then comes the... well, I'm sure Vendetta knows."
Vendetta nodded, having calmed down. "The will of Lady Selina be done, then."
"The will of the Midnight Council be done. That is who we are now." Lady Selina looked to them. "I suppose we should discuss what's in this for you."
"That would be an idea; it took a lot for us to come. We're leaving a lot behind. There's no telling just what will happen- how long we'll be here... Not to mention, if we're here long enough- who knows what a place this bleak would do to the three of us not from here?"
"I can help with that last one. Zakir, if you please." Zakir had slipped out at her words. "As to everything else... I've written letters, which allows you near everywhere within Gloomwrought, and everywhere in the Silversorrow lands. Keep them on you. In addition, you'll be given a fair amount weekly. And of course, anything taken from the enemies is yours to keep. Is this fair?"
Everyone looked to one another, and nodded. Sounded good to them. Zakir slipped back in, and bowed gently to Lady Selina once more. One of his hands was clenched tightly shut, as he approached her once more. He gave her the items from his hand- four clusters of glowing crystals, on silver-and-black leather cords.
"What are those? They look strange. I wanna study it."
"Fell Crystals- they drive back the Shadow Sickness, by absorbing the aethereal influence in the environment. In my case, they'll absorb some energy; delaying the Inverse Sickness, when I am away from my home."
"I want to get one to take apart for study." Zakir procured a fourth- and Jairus' eyes lit up. "Sweet, thanks!"
"You're welcome. Should you desire it, all of you may reside here. I always like company. If not, rooms will be arranged for you at the Sapphire Moonlight Inn.
Either way, you'll be able to find allies everywhere; look for the silver-and-black. Either as a necklace cord, or a bracelet. If further verification is required... simply say 'Valar dohaeris'. If they do not answer with 'Valar morghulis', or in kind- then you know them false."
"The fuck do those mean?"
"All men must serve, and..."
"...All men must die." The two shared a glance- the phrases were Shadar-Kai in origin. How did he know what Valar dohaeris meant?
Moving to gather their things, everyone decided to remain in Lady Silversorrow's home. A great deal had been done this day- mental exhaustion took its toll. Zakir led the way, slowing them to rooms in the West wing- near Lady Selina's chambers. Lord Taco and Jairus had the rooms facing north. Vendetta and Shaiyla, facing south. Everyone settled in, grateful for the chance to settle down for a night. The morrow saw the first attempts at the real work.