Paladin Kelifa would not be dissuaded, so despite the day she had been having, Asta took the time to talk with her. All she had really wanted to do was retire to a room and meditate on the sending, though Asta realized that this woman may very well provide her the insight she sought. So, she excused herself from the Silent Sisters and said to the paladin, “We should talk. For now though I’d like to stay close to where I am supposed to be. Shall we take a walk in the orchard?”
“That would be fine, thank you.”
They moved off to a different section of the orchards and were soon walking along between rows of apple trees. Kelifa held her silence as Asta tried to sort though what she had seen in the sending and what she understood of the local situation. Eventually she broke the silence, “I really seem to have upset the High Seat.”
From the expression on Kelifa’s face it was clear the paladin did no think much of the High Seat, nor, obviously, the command that Asta remained isolated. It was also clear that the woman believed the Goddess had plans for the two of them. Given the dream, or sending, she had just received, wherein this woman was the prominent figure at the end of said dream, Asta was hard pressed to deny her. Eventually she asked, “Were you in the Swampdon area when the Goddess called you to be a paladin of the faith?”
“No. I’ve never been to Swampdon before. I was not even in the order when I first had the calling. Nor did I heed the calling initially, thinking it little more than an odd dream.”
“So how did you end up here?”
“I’m originally from Lake Falls on Bergue Lake. South of Olgen. My family is gentry in the area, there has been an on going conflict between Lake Falls and Olgen for nearly one hundred years. One town or the other is usually under siege. Most of my summers, since I came of age, have been spent either laying siege to Olgen or defending Lake Falls from their sieges. So, I learned tactics, strategy and leadership skills. I am an excellent equestrienne and very good with lance and sword. I’ve been in a number of large battles and countless smaller skirmishes.”
Asta held up a hand to interrupt, “You are obviously of Elquin ancestry, yet you seem to not be a traditional Elquin woman. I was under the impression that Elquin women did not do such things.”
“You are not wrong, in the traditional sense. No woman in the Kingdom of Elquin would be allowed to do what I have done. It has been a very long time since their borders reached so far west and over the generations we drifted away from traditional roles.”
“Have you ever been to Towwit Falls?”
She gave a curt nod, “Wretched place, to be sure. Too much inbreeding. It is not overly far from Lake Falls. I passed through the area on my way here, over a year ago. No word of a lie, they denied me access to their town and then sent a party of knights out after me. It was in a confrontation with them that I realized the Goddess did not intend for me to be a healing sister, though I do have some of that gift.”
“So you were an initiate?”
“Yes, after denying the calling for over a year, I did eventually get around to seeking out a Temple of Mercy, in the Linklow Hills. I spent over a year there and was constantly having dreams and visions from the Goddess. Most of those dreams involved violence and conflict and the local Cira-di was at a loss. Eventually she sent me with a couple of senior sister to the temple here.”
“Okay. So you have been here for about a year?”
“A bit less, but yes.”
“When were you recognized as a Paladin?”
“Pretty much right from the first day I arrived here.”
“I followed the dreams, heeding any sending that came to me. So I’ve mostly been training a group of Sisters to fight and ride. Also, I’ve been doing my best to stay out of the local politics, though that is no easy feat.”
“Yeah, I’ve been given friendly advice to stay out of the politics and to follow the guidance that I receive from the Goddess.”
“Do you know what you will do next?”
“Well, I literally just woke from a sending before I ran into you. You were in that dream, as was the sword. It seems right that you should keep it.”
She bowed her head briefly, “I’m honoured to be entrusted with such a blade. It might be best if I leave you to reflect on what you have seen in your visions. I have also made sure the rest of the artifacts you have brought are not… misplaced. I’m sure the Goddess had a purpose in providing such things.”
“Alright. It has been nice talking with you, but you are correct, I do need some solitude to reflect on the things I’ve been shown.”
“May the Goddess guide and protect you.”
“And you.” Asta watched her stride away. Once she was out of sight she returned to the Silent Sisters and was given a small room. She was happy to have a quiet place to think.
In the past, her dreams from the Goddess had been simpler than the one she had experienced today. Typically she was given a direction or a face, something to indicate where or to whom she was to provide assistance. The dreams had become more convoluted as Flint and Loden entered her life. Though it had all seemed simple enough, she had not expected that travelling on, alone with Loden, would take them to another world.
Briefly she wondered what had happened to Flint. She hoped he was doing alright.
In her last sending she and Loden were travelling north and northwest, in that direction lay Swampdon. As well as many other places between here and there, but it seemed the Goddess had a particular interest in that city in the trees. The comet, in her dream, had tracked northwest across the sky. Was it just an indication of direction or was there a comet in the sky these days?
The fiery destruction left by the comet, the swords sticking in the ground, scenes of battle, an army of undead. It all seemed indicative of the ongoing conflict with Tannica. Maybe the comet indicated a person, powerful magic, possibly the Eldra who had brought them back from that strange world?
She thought the rider might have been the Eldra, or maybe Flint. The boy and the wild elf were a mystery to her. The Tannican woman, Asta was sure that the woman had seen her, knew that she was being dreamed of and had been able to see Asta from within the dream. She was unsure if such a thing was possible, perhaps her perception of that interaction was misleading.
Then there were the captives she had been with, slaves taken by the Tannicans no doubt. Was she to be captured?
The circle of swords, blades pointing skyward, she did not think they were a literal sacred circle. Maybe they represented a group of people. Mages?
What of the ruined tower? Refuge from the winter?
She meditated on all these matters and asked the Goddess for clarity and patience. Exhausted from her ordeals she fell into a deep sleep.
It was still dark when she was woken again. One of the Silent Sisters stood in her room with a lit candle. She indicated that Asta should come with her. Sleepy headed and needing to relieve herself, Asta followed. She had obviously missed supper, was she being woken early to help prepare breakfast?
No, it seemed too early for that and she could not hear any activity going on in the kitchen when they reached the lower level of the old manor. Instead she was taken to the front door where an unfamiliar Cira-di waited for her.
Without preamble the older woman said, “You have been summoned to stand before a Tribunal who will decide if you are to be censored.” She spoke quietly, no doubt because of the hour and out of respect for the Silent Sisters.
Asta kept her voice low as well, “Censored? They can do that? What does that mean?”
“We are expected. If there is anything you need to do or gather, be about it. I’ve seen to acquiring a robe for you. Food will be available.”
“I’ll just need a moment or two… If I may ask, Cira-di. What does it mean to be censored by a Tribunal? I do know what a Tribunal is, of course.”
“Being censored. The amendment for being censored was added to the Guidance Codex on the one hundredth and seventy-ninth year, After Revelation. During the month of the Crow, first quarter, eighth day. A little over fifty-three years ago. The punishment of being censored is typically reserved for those too addle-witted to not have committed dubious acts.” She looked at Asta pointedly.
“I’ll be right back.”
“I will wait here.”
Asta attended to her needs and put the Eldra clothing back on, she was very fond of her new clothing. She wondered if this day was ever going to end.