Chain of Fate: The Tragic Tale of Arora Whurlode

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Postby Cailin » February 12th, 2010, 11:35 am

1 Month after Leaving Hommlet (Late Summer) - Arora travels back to Estagund, to the High Temple of Erathis to ask the High Priest to petition Erathis on her behalf and ask what more she can do to earn the boon she has sought for so long. She has finally had enough waiting, and does not get the answer she suspects.

"Tell me Paladin Arora, what made think you could ask anything of Erathis?" The High Priest Entardis looks at Arora dispassionately and suddenly she feels as if she is a child again, under the reproachful gaze of her father. She feels a flush of embarrassment paint her cheeks and she struggles to remain calm, though the anger is growing within her. Who is this Human man to tell her what her god has promised her is false? He watches her with heavily lidded, cool eyes and she feels very small, even for a dwarf.

"Erathis promised me...she-she promised she would give this one thing to me. It is the only boon I ever asked of her!"

Entardis appears unmoved as he blinks slowly, "Did she, now? Did the Blessed Erathis promise you this information you seek or did you simply assume she would allow you to demand some sort of repayment for your services?"

Arora's heart skips a beat and the world seems to loom above her. Her fingers twitch and strain and she can find no words. She is lost, she cannot remember ever being explicitly promised anything at all. Not directly anyway. There had been feelings of approval and support yes... but always in the context of what she had done being in accordance with Erathis' teachings. She looked up at the man in his pristine robes, the symbol of Erathis gleaming on his chest coldly. Arora stared at him, at the fine carvings on the walls, the symbols and stained glass and felt... nothing. Nothing at all. The quiet warmth and company she had felt in her heart up until this moment had vanished, and for the first time since her father died, Arora felt truly and utterly alone.

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, the dwarves never truly abandoned the barbarism of their masters, living in the dark as you do, in the caves of the Rift-"

She was on him in a flash of fury and pain, knocking the shocked priest over and striking at him as tears streamed down her cheeks blurring her vision. A roar erupted through clenched teeth as the temple paladins tore her off the screaming man as he struggled to his feet, his face bruised and bloodied, nose obviously broken. "Heathen! Barbarian!" He screamed and pointed at her as the paladins dragged her from the room, struggling in a blind rage, her mind broken with anger and sorrow. Erathis' symbol was stripped from her armor with little ceremony, snatched up by the temple priestess and dissolved into dust before Arora's eyes. It was over. Her world came crashing down around her as the dust shimmered mockingly on the floor.

Heathen.

She was nothing now.

3 Months later (Month 4) (Winter) - Arora spirals into depression, spending some time as a for-hire mercenary meeting Keeper the Warforged but has no heart in the tasks she is paid to do, instead seeking solace at the bottom of the ale mug but finds nothing, until fate intervenes.

"Arora are you coming?" a Warforged calls, hoisting his Greatspear over his shoulder as he eyes the lone dwarf sitting in the corner of the tavern. She is on her eleventh ale since they arrived, a pace he has never seen her take in the weeks he has known her. She seems set on killing herself at this rate. He frowns (in as much as a construct can frown), settling down next to her once more as she peers bleary-eyed up at him as he turns to face her. "I'll receive your share of the gold, you know. You won't be happy when you sober up." Not that she is ever happy. Not anymore. No godless paladin can find happiness without a spirit within them to give their heart a reason to beat. Arora looks deeply into the mug, feeling just as empty as it is.

"Go on Keeper. I'll be here when you get back. Maybe I'll go next time." If there even is a next time, she mutters into the mug.

Keeper pauses, unsure how to proceed in the face of such obvious unhappiness. Arora was a painfully open book, and Keeper could only sigh in response. "If that is what you wish. We'll be back within a few weeks, weather permitting." Arora made a half interested grunt and Keeper stood, the bench creaking heavily as he did so, leaving the dwarf to her misery and self pity.

As the massive Warforged construct lumbered out of the tavern door Arora sighed, reaching into her pack for another bit of coin, hopefully there would be enough to put her out before too long. Instead she felt the distinct jagged edge of a metal object, and withdrew it curiously. It was dark, lustrous, and heavy. Arora's heart swam with memory. It was the shard of the obex the dragonborn Aurum had given her so long ago, before everything fell apart at the seams. Before everything changed. She stared at it, running her finger along the dull surface - ale and coin forgotten.

"Arora?"

Arora frowned, fingers closing quickly around the precious memento as she turned to face the voice. "Keeper I said go-"

But it wasn't Keeper. In fact the figure standing next to her wasn't even Warforged but a woman. A Human woman. Arora must have been pretty drunk to mistake the two, she laughed bitterly to herself. Just what she needed, a curious gawker. "What dooyou want?" She said venomously, stuffing the obex back into her pack and readying for a swift exit.

"Are you Arora... only daughter of Belhem Whurlode?"

Arora snorted derisively. "As far as I know, as if its any business of yours, unless you're my mother. Ha." She laughed, slamming another silver onto the bar. "Ale! What must I do keep from seeing the bottom of my damn mug!"

The older woman looked nervously at Arora, who was obviously surly and addled with spirits. "No..." she replied quietly, "But I knew her."

Arora's eyes narrowed, staring at the silver haired woman in the green wool cloak as if for the first time. "Horseshit. I've been looking for my mother for 11 years and found nothing. How could you possibly know her?" She was losing patience rapidly, and even an elderly woman would not be able to avoid the hell Arora was prepared to reign down upon anyone who disturbed her drinking to open old, painful wounds. She stood slowly, stepping off the bench and she swayed, the ground seeming to spin beneath her. "You'd better see yourself out before I see you out, woman. My mother abandoned me and that's all there is to... to..." but the thought remained unfinished as she crashed to the floor with a resounding thud.

The Next Day (Early Spring): Arora discovers her true origin story, after meeting the handmaiden who had saved her life so many years before. She is taken to the home of Brother Velgresh, dragonborn cleric of the temple of Bahamut, where the handmaiden has lived since disappearing with Arora to East Rift.

When Arora regains consciousness she finds herself in a large, comfortable-looking home. Her eyes take a moment to adjust to the brightness and her throat burns for water. She jerks upright, suddenly noticing the familiar woman who had spoken to her before in the bar sitting in a chair near her. "Good morning, Arora. Or I suppose good Afternoon would be more appropriate."

"You!" Arora says, frowning as she feels for her hammer, "I was drugged!"

The woman sighs heavily. "You were drunk. Extremely so might I add. The barkeep demanded we take you with us or else risk your property being stolen. I think considering the alternative you would be grateful?" In the sobering color of daylight Arora sees the woman much more clearly. She is old, but not frail. Well fed but still fair of face with braided, silvery/grey hair. Her face is lined with wisdom but her eyes are clear and bright, and the way she looks at Arora... as if she knows her. As if she's familiar. It makes her pause, makes her hesitate instead of leaping to her feet and barging out the door as she had planned. The woman takes her silence as a good sign, and hands Arora a small bronze necklace with a token hanging from it. She takes it gingerly, staring at the engravings on its surface.

"This..." she begins, then stops, then begins again. "This is... It's of Dwarven make." She peers closer at the symbol emblazoned on the front of the pendant and suddenly cries aloud, nearly dropping it to the floor. "W-Whurlode! This is the Whurlode family crest!" She turns to the woman with shock and confusion in her eyes. "Where did you get this? Who gave it to you?"

The woman smiles softly, her eyes linger on Arora's face and then on the pendant. "It was your mother's, my dear. Your father gave it to her long ago, before you were born."

Arora feels her heart will leap out of her chest at any moment and fling itself into the fire. The woman shows no hint of deception or trickery. The symbol in her hand is no illusion. It is as if all the air has been sucked from the room. "Who are you?" Arora manages to whisper, fingering the emblem distractedly "Why are you telling me this?"

"I am Iselda Nahettia, and long ago I was the handmaiden of the young Lady Ar dora Keshali, daughter of the 2nd Baron of Ulgarth, and your mother."

"But that doesn't make any sense... there aren't any Dwarven barons in Ulgarth!"

Iselda looks plaintively at the Dwarf, pity plain in her features. "No... no there aren't."

Arora still does not understand. She pauses, holding the emblem tightly in her hand. There are no dwarf barons in Ulgarth. It is a human-ruled land. For what this woman was saying to be true Arora's mother would have to have been... Her eyes widen with sudden realization. This is a realization that has her mind reeling and she feels suddenly light-headed. "But that's... that's not possible. My mother couldn't have been human. I'm a dwarf!" She says plainly, holding up her hands as if the evidence is obvious. But her hands are more slender and fine-boned than most Dwarves she has known. Her fingers are longer and her bright blue eyes are so unlike any other of her kind that she realizes she has never seen another blue-eyed dwarf in her life. He had always said she had her mother's eyes. It was about the only thing he ever did say about what she looked like, in fact. But Arora is a dwarf all the same. She is no half-breed Mul. Any Dwarf worth a pint could spot those human-sized half-dwarves a mile away.

"Yes... you are Dwarven this it true. However... that does not make your mother any less human. These things have been known to happen now and again. Which means there is a part of you that is human too."

Arora is in shock. Never in her years of imagining and fantasizing had her mother ever been human. Never had she imagined a mother from a completely different race, a different culture, and the daughter of a baron no less. Her hands shake as she stares down at the Whurlode symbol. Her mother was human... no wonder he had never spoke of her. Arora was some sort of shameful accident, a forbidden and unworthy daughter for some high-bred noble woman. Iselda has noticed the pained grimace on Arora's face and touches her hand comfortingly.

"I'm sorry you had to find out this way. Ardora loved you very much and I know this isn't what she wanted for any of you."

Arora glares at the elderly woman, jerking her hand out of her grasp. "Forgive me if I am unconvinced, Iselda, but I was under the impression that humans were not in the habit of abandoning their children when they love them so very much."

Now it is Iselda whose eyes are glimmering with tears. She lets out a long, shuddering sigh. "Perhaps I should tell you the whole story, child. No doubt you deserve to hear the truth that has been so long denied to you." And what follows is a tale that Arora feels resonate into her very soul, wrenching her a hundred different directions as the woman tells her the story.

Ardora Keshali was born the daughter of a nobleman from Ulgarth. Specifically, her father was one of only six baronies that reported directly to the king himself, a position of great honor and distinction. But Ardora had been desperately unhappy, and had run away to the neighboring country of Durapar, hidden away as a Sister in the Erathiseen temple there, where she met and fell in love with Arora's father Belhem, eventually conceiving a child by him. They had planned to run away together, but it was not to be. Ardora was discovered, and taken away in secret to avoid a scandal. It was several weeks later that the Baron discovered his only daughter's pregnancy. She was kept hidden away until she gave birth, but, when the child was discovered to have taken on her father's traits (being a dwarf, specifically) the baron flew into a rage, and ordered the child destroyed as the only evidence of his daughter's shameful indiscretion. Terrified and heartbroken, Ardora spirited the infant away in the night and sent her away with Iselda Nahettia, her most trusted friend and handmaiden who was to take the child far away where the baron could not touch her, to her father in East Rift. When the baron discovered what his daughter had done, he was so incensed by her disobedience and dishonor that he exiled her to the Raurin desert. A death sentence in all but name. Iselda warned Belhem never to reveal who Arora's mother was, lest she be targeted by the baron for revenge or Arora's mother be further punished, unaware that the baron's daughter had already been exiled. And so he never told Arora the identity of her mother, though it broke his heart to deny her each time his daughter asked. He had done it to protect her and the woman who he had loved, never realizing she had been sent into the desert to her death.


1 Month Later (Month 6) (Late Spring): Arora wants desperately to confront the Baron for what he has done, but Velgresh convinces her that now is not the time, that Ulgarth is entering period of political instability and she is cannot face him alone and unprepared as she is. Instead he offers her a chance to save someone from a similar fate, a woman who is with child has asked the temple of Bahamut for sanctuary from her brother who seeks to rip the child from her womb because she has lain with a half-orc. Arora is filled with purpose for the first time in months and agrees. She goes with Velgresh, Keeper and Palgrim to the man, only to find he has been trapped by a band of orcs to whom the half orc claimed kinship. They are threatening to kill him if he does not free the woman, who is to be forcefully adopted into their tribe. Neither the half orc nor the woman want this, and with the group's help Arora is able to allow the two to escape with their lives, and the brother and orcs tensely agree not to follow them. Velgresh offers her the opportunity to accept Bahamut as her patron god and she agrees. She is presented with a craghammer blessed as an implement of Bahamut himself, glistening with shining, inset scales. Arora discards her old hammer.

Her heart is beating in her ears. The hammer is light in her hands, lighter than it has ever been, and when she wields it an arc of light seems to follow it as an echo. Her face is flushed and she takes slow, deep breaths, advancing on the last of the orc's defense forces. "Stand down or I will put you down!" She shouts, her voice ringing across the field now littered with crumpled, unconscious and dead orcs. Two of the three remaining warriors make to advance, sprinting towards her with murderous speed and their weapons held high. Arora is walking towards them, calmer than she has ever felt before. The wind is soft and the sun is bright. Everything is slowing down and all around her is warm light. Her hammer glows as if filled to the brim with radiance as she grips the smooth handle softly in one hand, pointing it towards the advancing orcs.

There is a sound, something like the thundering of the earth and the shrill shriek of steel unsheathed.

Shimmering bands of light burst from her in a ring, causing the tall grass to bend and ripple like water as the green field within it turns opalescent and white. The orcs do not hesitate to enter and Arora strikes out with the sharp pick-like end of the craghammer, digging deep into the shoulder of the first orc, light bursts from the wound, searing it with radiant energy. Arora does not understand why her power has returned to her, but she has no time to question it as the second orc brings his axe down towards her head, connecting with the heavy red-gold steel of her shield. She rips the hammer down the chest of the first orc only to send it careening into the jaw of the second. Crunch. Sound of shattering bone. Howls of pain. The orc falls back into the white grass, now wet and dark with blood. Her eyes fix on the orc standing within her circle still, staggering back and clutching his shoulder. He growls, baring sharp pointed fangs and smearing the blood across his scant armor with a murderous look as the wound glows brightly, binding him to her. The orc throws himself at her with bare fists and she digs in her heels as he attempts to shove her out of the circle, bringing her hammer up and around his left side with the flat end, breaking several ribs and causing him to double over in pain, collapsing to the ground in a heap.

The orc who remained on the far side of the field drops his weapon. The light fades slowly from her, ebbing away like the tide. Iselda's good friend Brother Velgresh had asked her to come here to talk to these orcs, not to fight them. She lowered her hammer slowly, looking back to the orc warchief who had set the warriors upon her. "Are you satisfied, Hasil? How many more of your fighters must die before you listen to reason?"

The warchief grunted derisively, but made no move to attack or send further troops. Parg, the half-orc who had accompanied them helped with the translation, for the warchief had no interest in speaking the common tongue. They intended to forcibly adopt the human woman who was heavy with the child of one of their clan, Parg himself. They argued that this was the way of their people, that the family would be protected from the woman's brother who had loudly voiced his intent to tear the child from her womb if he were to get ahold of her. Parg however, had no intention of staying with his clan, and wished nothing more than to live in peace far away with Phaina, his beloved. This is what Velgresh had told Arora, and the story rang so familiar in her heart that she had agreed to help without question. The woman's brother had not needed as much convincing as the orcs (something Arora found disappointing) but eventually he had relented and looked at her only with deep shame as she left him in his cottage. Phaina and Parg were freed from the oppression of those who had held such power over their lives, and were now free to find their own happiness.

Goodness can come over time, quietly and secretly unfurling in Spring's first blush, or in a rush of shuddering scattered shards of light that pierce the heart in a glorious moment of epiphany. For Arora, it was the latter, rather than the former. It was the look in the eyes of the half-orc as he embraced the woman who ran to him with arms outstretched. Everything seemed to shimmer in Arora's vision as she watched them fuss over each other and the orc band began to move away, back into the forest. This was... right. Phaina's brother had been shown the path his bigotry and hateful beliefs would lead. The orcs had been suitably punished, and no more bloodshed would be necessary. Honor and good were supreme in this moment, and Arora felt dizzy from the weight and power of it. Velgresh placed a steady hand on her shoulder, peering down at her.

"Are you alright Sister?"

Sister? Why was he calling her that? She swayed a little but regained her balance swiftly, still unsure as to what had just happened. "I...I don't know. I don't understand what happened. I haven't been able to summon a circle for months, ever since..." She trailed off quickly, the pain of the loss still sharp and prickling. "And then that feeling. I never felt such... comprehension and understanding. As if a great book were open to me and I could see those things in my own heart that I couldn't see before."

Velgresh paused, a small smile creeping into his features. "And what did you see?"

Arora shook her head, smiling softly. "You'll laugh."

Velgresh gave her a look that could only be interpreted as a solemn promise that he would not.

She sighed, looking down at the hammer still faintly glowing in her hand, the symbol of Erathis long since stripped from it and yet... something seemed to ignite it still when she made to wield it. "Benevolence. Kindness. Goodness... I suppose. Justice and honor. A mandate to protect all those things, because they are the greatest achievements of the world, not cities of stone or inventions or government. I am... at a loss. It is not Erathis who is guiding me anymore."

Velgresh nodded slowly, the smile on his face calm and serene as he placed his scaled hand on her shoulder kindly. "Come Arora, let us return to the temple. We have much to discuss."


1 Month Later (Month 7) (Early Summer): Arora is fully initiated into the stewardship of Bahamut and begins working in his service as a paladin again, exploring her human roots living in Ulgarth. She cuts her hair and adopts a more human hairstyle like her mother, and finds she likes it better than the huge dwarf braid she had before.

Humanity is a puzzle, Arora thinks as she stares out the window across Estagund's bustling capital. On the one hand, they are short lived, immature and impulsive. They burn hotly and brightly like spell flame, and often act rashly to achieve their goals. On the other hand they are creative and adaptable, strong-willed and sure-spirited, they are quick learners and admirable in their achievements. She wonders what human traits, if any, she inherited from her mother.

"Arora? It's nearly time to- oh! You cut your hair." Iselda stands at the doorway with a look of dumb surprise on her face as Arora turns towards her, her hair loose and falling barely past her shoulders. "You look like your mother!"

Arora stands up, snapping the last bit of plate mail into place and smiles. "Human hairstyles are more practical, it turns out. Less tangles too." Iselda laughs and they make their way into the grand hall of the Temple of Bahamut where Velgresh stands in his grand robes, waiting patiently.

She walks with nobility, a sort of sure-footedness that brings her a sense of balance and poise. Then she is there, kneeling before the small stone basin that seems to be brimming over with silver light, spilling onto the floor and vanishing as if evaporating into the air.

Velgresh raises his hand slowly, holding something in his other hand that she cannot see from her angle kneeling on the floor. "The Paladin of Bahamut is the bastion in the storm, the refuge of the weak, and the honorable hand of justice against evil and wicked deeds. Many choose to follow Bahamut out of a desire to serve his ideals which live in their own heart, and others, a rare few, follow because Bahamut chooses them, and their heart is renewed by divinity."

Arora stands slowly, heart brimming with warmth as she feels the energy flowing from the basin into her. It is flowing around her softly, silver liquid light that warms her skin and makes her dizzy with wonder.

"Arora Whurlode, daughter of Ardora Keshali and Belham Whurlode, you stand before us here today in recognition of your heart and your will to serve as Bahamut's vessel of Justice on the Mortal plane. Yours is a life bound in honor and duty, justice and protection. You will cloak yourself in compassion and mercy, but bring swift and unyielding justice and smite those who would prey upon the weak. This is your future as it is written unto your very soul should you become a paladin of Bahamut. Is this what you desire?"

"It is." Arora has never felt so sure of anything in her life.

"And do you swear your oath of allegiance to this life and Bahamut until such time as you are released from it or upon the moment your soul is called away from your body?"

"I do."

Velgresh puts forward his other hand, and in it is a large slender silver hammer fashioned with a flat, sharp pick on one end that appears to have a hilt covered in shining silver dragon scales. It glows with inner light that makes Arora's eyes sparkle with curiosity and admiration. When her fingers close around the hilt she feels a sudden jolt of energy as an ethereal translucent chain spins into existence, linking the hilt of the hammer to her gauntlet. A spiritual bond surges between them and she realizes that this is no mere magical hammer. It is attached to the very fiber of her soul, it links her with Bahamut and the power of their connection flows through it. It is a marvel. She bows low as Velgresh releases the weapon to her, handing her a small silver pendant with the symbol of Bahamut on it.

"Let us go into this world and do Good Arora." Velgresh says quietly to her, "I see great things in you. I don't understand them all, but I know enough to tell Bahamut does not choose his disciples lightly."

Arora smiles softly, the hammer glowing faintly in her hand. "We shall see Velgresh, but I think I'd like to visit my "other" homeland, first."


2 Months Later (Month 9) (Early Summer): Returns to East Rift to reconnect with her Dwarven side as word of her god-mother's illness finally reaches her. She buries her god-mother and embraces her new life as Arora Whurlode-Keshali.

"There's still time to turn back you know, I don't think the Baron realizes we're here yet." Iselda is nervous and pulls the hood further over her head.

"Nonsense," Arora pats her shoulder as they make their way towards the inn, "we just arrived in Ulgarth, I haven't even seen the capital yet!"

Iselda frowns. The Baron will not be pleased to have the past retuning to him, the ugliness of shame and fear can drive men to do terrible things out of desperation. She has warned Arora, but she is like her mother. Stubborn, unyielding, and strangely innocent in the face of such danger.

Arora spends only a few days in the capital city before a letter arrives by elven courier. At first she wonders if Arath has finally sent another letter, though it bares no mark of magic and the courier seems very sure that the letter comes from the Dwarven city of Eartheart. She presses the money into his hand hurriedly as she tears the wax seal off, scanning it is eager interest.

Her aunt is dying. Arora sighs slowly, letting the letter flutter onto the table. She sits quietly for a moment. Her only remaining living relative and the only female family member in her life had been her aunt, her god-mother. She had outlived Arora's father by many years but age, it seemed, had finally caught up to her. She would have to go and attend the mourning rituals. It will be the first time she has been in Dwarven lands since she left at the age of 14. How strange, that she managed to avoid it for so long.

Iselda and Velgresh stay behind, working together with the existing clergy of Bahamut while Arora travels back to East Rift to say goodbye.

What she finds, is a body. Arora has missed her by only a few hours.

The funeral is grand and full of ale (as is the way of dwarves) and the large stone fortresses of the Rift bring a sense of childhood nostalgia, but little comfort. Her father is dead, and now her aunt. It is a cold moment, even surrounded by a throng of boisterous, singing Dwarves. They sing to the dead on the pyre and Arora's eyes are reflected with flame and smoke and she thinks about the volcano in the crater ridge mines and a different sort of goodbye. Embers. Ashes. Dust. Arora is now the only surviving member of the Whurlode clan.

She is glad that Keeper had agreed to come with her, though he is stoic and usually very reserved, she can depend on him. He is a good friend, and she doesn't feel so alone when he stands next to her at the funeral pyre, her face is hot and tears dry on her cheeks. She looks up at him as the service comes to an end. He nods knowingly.

"Shall we go back to Ulgarth now?"

Arora nods slowly, her smile distant and bittersweet. "Yes... I think It's time to move on."


2 Months Later (Month 11-12) (Late Summer): Arora travels to Ulgarth to find the the handmaiden and cleric missing, but discovers the Baron had discovered her whereabouts and sought to finally destroy her fearing she wished to lay some claim to the baronship (as would be her right). Her friends narrowly escaped him but she now knows that the baron is seeking to undermine the king who is ailing, and seeks to usurp him. Though she tries to stop the baron, she can find no in-road amongst the political turmoil (no one will listen to her without proof) and by the end of Summer the king is dead and the baron becomes Steward of Ulgarth and puts a warrant out for Arora's arrest for treason. She flees the country vowing to return when she is powerful enough to bring him down and bring him to Justice. Arora leaves with the blessing of Bahamut, and the knowledge that she will do what is right and bring him to Justice in the end, even though it may take her years to do it. Also she gets a letter from Arath.

"We have to split up Keeper! There's no use trying to hide if we stick together!" They are in a darkened alleyway, but the sound of the guardsmen indicate they are not far behind. This was not the homecoming Arora had been hoping for.

Iselda and Velgresh barely avoiding a kidnapping attempt, Arora and Keeper being ambushed at the door to visiting them at the inn, then chased through the spice markets and now covered with the yellow dust of one of the merchant's barrels she had knocked over in her haste to escape. Keeper looked down at her calmly, then back at the distant sounds of men shouting.

"You are right. The only thing more obvious than a Dwarf is a Dwarf with a Warforged construct following her about." There was a hint of a smile in his voice that Arora had become somewhat attuned to, but her heart was pounding too hard to make sense of the joke. She pulled the hood of her cloak over her head, watching the street warily for an opening in the crowd to slip into. Arora looks up at Keeper one more time, with a sad smile and squeezes his hand. It is a gesture he has come to understand as an expression of friendship and affection. He nods slowly. "Take care Keeper, we'll meet up again later." And she is gone, vanished among the bustling crowd.

Arora is not surprised to discover that this is the Baron's work. Iselda had warned her early-on that he would feel threatened if and when he discovered his "long lost" grandchild had returned to Ulgarth in search of her heritage. But still, kidnapping? Assault? These were the acts of a desperate man, and the more Arora learned the deeper the pit in her stomach seemed to tunnel, colder and more unnerved than ever.

"Let go of me you stumpy stone humper! I'm not telling you anything!" The gnome snarled and kicked at her but Arora held the struggling servant tightly, her voice barely growling above a whisper.

"You'd do best to reconsider that position, friend. I know you work at the Keshali estate, and I very much doubt your Baron is paying you enough deal with the likes of me." She lessens the pressure on his arm just slightly and he seems to relax. "Just tell me what I want to know and I'll pretend we never spoke. No one will know."

There's a moment of hesitation but the gnome is already rattled beyond the meager salary he is afforded. The dwarf looks well armed and has quite a grip anyway. "Baron Keshali has become the most powerful of all the Baronies, I do not know how, but I know why." Arora's eyes narrow, urging him to continue, "Th-the king is ailing, quite suddenly, and the Prince is not prepared for the task of ruling. He maintains the illness will pass but the Baron knows it will not. He intends to usurp the Prince's birthright and become Steward of the throne until such time as the remaining Baronies rule to pass the kingship to his stead and with it-"

"The power to declare war..." Her features are grim and set in anger. She releases the gnome who rubs his elbow with indignation. "How does the Baron know with such certainty that the king's ailment will not pass?"

"I don't know!" The gnome scowls, "do you think the Baron tells his servants anything? I only know what I pick up from conversations I overhear. I'm practically invisible but that doesn't mean I know everything. Now," He holds out his hand, "are we quite finished?"

Arora sighs, dropping a gold coin into his open palm. "Stay out of trouble gnome, I may need to talk to you again."

The gnome scoffs, making his way towards the exit hurriedly. "Don't count on it!"

Weeks go by as Arora tries desperately to find a nobleman or baron with an ear who will hear her warning. Most will not even see her, as she is largely unknown in these lands and has no status to speak of. She is only barely able to avoid Baron Keshali's men and has not seen Keeper since they parted in the marketplace. Those who she does manage to gain an audience with (usually through bribes or diplomatic channels) dismiss her as paranoid and a conspiracy theorist for she has no evidence to support her claims other than her own conviction and the "anonymous" source in his estate. Arora is frustrated, and at the end of the month the King's health finally fails.

The country is in an uproar as Baron Saluz Keshali submits evidence that it was the Prince himself (along with several accomplices) who poisoned the King's health in order to take the throne away. Baron Keshali is the natural choice for Steward, as the King had no other heirs and Keshali was the one who had so cleverly discovered the Prince's evil plot. The Prince is banished (obviously the Baron does not consider him enough of a threat to kill him outright, and the Prince had been well loved and admired, killing him would have been an unpopular decision for a new Steward seeking Kingship). They call him Merciful. Arora shudders and cringes with rage as she holds the proclamation scroll in her trembling hands. She is implicated in the murder. Her name is scrawled neatly beneath that of the Prince, Iselda, and Velgresh.

Arora Whurlode, dwarf, wanted for conspiracy to commit Regicide, Treason and Subversion.

She is livid, the parchment is crushed in her hands and she stomps it into the dirt. Now he is Steward, positioning himself to be King, and there is nothing she can do about it.

Arora leaves Ulgarth that night, under the cover of a clouded, moonless sky and a dark wool cloak.

She almost doesn't notice the crow as she rides out past the gates and down the sleek, dark road. Its wings are silent and she is startled when it lands in front of her, a delicate glowing white sheet of parchment in its beak. She can't help but crack a faint smile. This is Arath's doing, of that there is no doubt. She had wondered what became of him, as his letters seemed to have stopped suddenly a few months back. She unrolls the scroll carefully and the crow vanishes back into the sky without so much as a squawk. As she reads her eyes become serious again. She looks back at the dimly lit city of Orvyltar, Ulgarth's capital, comfortable in its ignorance, the home she is still denied a bit longer. It will wait for her though, she knows this. She owes Arath, and she cannot deny there is some small wish to return to a more innocent time of ignorance herself. Before she knew her mother's story, before her grandfather implicated her in the murder of a king and set an entire country upon her head, when Erathis made sense and life was simple. But she knows this is a fantasy. She had been empty and unhappy then, immature and unfulfilled. She shakes her head slowly, spurring her horse onward. She is so much more than what she had been, so long ago. The Baron had been a good teacher, since before she was born. He had taught her that evil would always need someone to stand against it, that honor and justice were the only weapons against the tyranny of fear, and that it was up to the strong of heart to wield power for the good of all, to protect the innocent and weak, to serve as guardian of the fragile hope of those oppressed by men with wicked designs such as he. She is their Justice, she will not allow any more people to suffer as she had. She is their retribution she and their deliverance.

She is Arora Whurlode-Keshali, and this is not the last Ulgarth or the Baron will see of her. This, she swears.
Cailin
TK Player
 
Posts: 794
Joined: February 2nd, 2010, 7:34 pm
Character Name: Arora

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