Astelbania Chronicles: Sour Truths

The silence was deafening, as Bahl could see the denial creeping into Falina's face.  He shot a glance to the prince, whom he'd known most of his life, and then to his father.

"This may be too much for her," Bahl let out in a thin voice.

Falina's confusion switched to annoyed displacement, "Too much?  I'm told that my mother is not what I was told she was, she's part of a nobility and I am an heiress to her Devensheeran Estate, and that i'm a pivotal part of a conspiracy that i know nothing about, and on top of all of that," she raised a finger and waved it at the tiefling, "hmm? on top of all of that, that my protector is some demon-spawn creature thing from, Gods knows where..."

"Dirkshire..." Bahl interrupted with a smile and nod.

"... from Dirkshire of all hellish places," Falina continued, "and that this 'protector', as he's so keen to point out is also the one who is to assassinate me...  Am i getting all of this correctly, My Lords?"

Silence at first.  A Collective show of nods, and Bahl answered,
"That all sounds about right, yes,"
"I think I'm holding my wits well enough together, then, thank you all very much!" she finished.

The King sighed. "Well then," he smiled, and scratched his greying beard, "I can see this will not be as easy as we'd hoped."

"I was opposed to it from the beginning," Eylan said.
"I noted that, my son," the king said, "But i believed that Bahl was correct.  If Lady Genevive D'Veln is alive, this priest has seen to it that he will risk his anonymity to bring her out of hiding.  Why?"

Eylan Goldenbane shrugged, and shook his head, "The answer is beyond me, Father,"

"And I am with you, my son," King Goldenbane agreed, "But it is an intriguing question isn't it?"

Bahl sat at the table beside Falina, who recoiled closer to the prince, who still held her hand, warming them.  Bahl said,
"There is rumour throughout the Eastern lands that a new Cult rises from the ashes.  This priest, supposedly from Pondera's flock, has clearly turned his back on the Goddess of Neutral Justice and has finally picked a side.."

"What is the name of this cult?" Eylan Goldenbane asked.
"That, I cannot say," Bahl regretted, "Only that their mark is painted upon the doors of insignificant houses throughout the realm."

"Their Mark?" wondered the king.
"A tooth!  A white tear-shapped tooth," Bahl turned to him.
"A vague mark, if i may say," from the prince
"Vague but significant to those who know its meaning," from the king.
Bahl nodded, "Indeed,"

"What does all of this have to do with me?" Falina was near her wits end.
"That these men and women who fall under the banner of The White Tooth want something, something that your mother has or had .. and they are willing to come out of hiding, seek out her family and murder them," Bahl smiled. 

"You realize, father,' the prince started, "That in having Bahl protect her, his allegiances will, eventually, be shifted in the eyes of this cult, should it ever come out that Falina has survived.  We could no longer use him,"

The king clicked his teeth, "I'm aware of that."

"I have many .. 'friends' my prince.  Rest assured that my reputation will remain intact among most who serve us,"  Bahl pulled at his pointed ear, sitting back in his chair. 

"What of my father?" Falina asked the obvious question.
"He will go about his business, and when word of your untimely demise has reached the streets, we will pull him in," The King said.

"Pull him in?" Falina asked for clarification.

"He will be made noble," the prince said, "and his name and titles will change.. Remember, your mother has a significant estate within our walls in Devensheer.  He will be cared for; as will your brother and sisters, under the House of El'Cairn, and your father will be its master and lord.  But your name: Hardister will cease to exist... " Eylan squeezed her hand regrettably.

"El'Cairn?" Falina scratched her head, "That name is familiar,"
Eylan Goldenbane smiled, "My mother was an El'Cairn before she became a Goldenbane,"
"Your mother honored us in this way, Falina. You see, you are practically family to us," The King said.

Now Falina was overwhelmed.

"and now you see why will go to such lengths as to ensure your safety,"

"Even if it is to use a demon to protect me,"
"I am not a demon," Bahl's voice was a razor.

Eylan was gentle, "He is a loyal servant to Devensheer, Falina, and deserving of our respect and gratitude, despite the long leash that we may impose upon him from time to time," The prince said, tongue in cheek.

"You will protect my family then?" Falina was concerned.
"You have our word," The King answered with a solumn bow.

"But you will have to leave Devensheer," Bahl said.
"For how long?"
"We don't know," Eylan replied truthfully, "You and Bahl must disappear, and find out who this priest is .. and what he wants."

"Who knows - with any luck, we may find your mother," Bahl's smile was too much like a preditory cat's hungry grin.

The End

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