Her Last Night in the Kingdoms

Her Last Night in the Kingdoms


The Central Kingdoms never sleep. Road travelers are common and shipments make their way from city to city at all hours of the day, and night. It wasn't always this way. During the peak of the Moonlight Wars, there were nights where no one dared to be caught out past nightfall lest they be mistaken as an enemy and killed. It was better to assume than to ask questions about a night dweller's motives. Since the Fold and the end of the wars, businesses of the Kingdoms hav been booming. Trade shipments from the north and south make their way into Central Cities again with commerce expanding at a greater rate than it has in over 100 years. 

The weather in the Central Kingdoms is often characterized as "wet," according to locals. Even when it was not raining, there was generally a dense fog that made everything seem dripping wet. The mist and clouds obscured the lush green hills and stark white mountains. When the sun finally came out, it provided a breathtaking sight to see. The sun's beams pierced through the clouds and mist restoring the vibrant hues wherever it touched.   
But the busy city life is not for everyone as some prefer the seclusion of a small village, such as Gaulmut. Located furthest north-east in the Central Kingdoms with a population just under 60, it was the kind of place one comes to raise a family in peace or to hide. Yet, everyone in Gaulmut knew each other by name. It was a village that seemed to have been untouched by the damages of a lasting war. In fact, the damages of war are not always visible at first glance. Gaulmut used to have a population nearing 200 before the Moonlight War began. The lasting conflict claimed the lives of nearly two-thirds of the population here. Gwenda is one of those who know the agony of loss. Her husband was a diviner for the Provisional Restructuring Armies who were the main opposition to the Dhuine forces. During the historic last battle, the Dhuine forces surrendered leading to the end of the war but not before thousands of lives were lost, including Parth, Gwenda's husband. She was left with a 3-year-old boy to raise alone. 

Gwenda understood the strengths of a small village as her community helped raise Dolland while she struggled with the death of her husband. The community, who all suffered their own losses, was sympathetic towards Gwenda and loved Dolland. He was an outstanding child who obeyed authority with his actions but questioned authority with his words. He once was a hero of the local children as they were all grounded from the lake and could not swim because they had just eaten lunch.

Dolland listened but carefully asked, "Why must we wait 60 minutes after eating until we can swim again?"

The parents replied with various answers none of which were similar. "Lake monster like the smell of food," one mother replied. Another said, "the extra weight will drown you." Some of the children were scared by the answers, but Dolland could not make sense of them.

Gwenda answered honestly, "I do not know why, but mother used to make me wait 60 minutes until after I ate to swim again."

Dolland inquired, "Why must we be prevented from having fun for reason unknown?"

The mothers all seemed reluctant but Gwenda allowed Dolland to swim and many of the other mothers followed suit. It was this inquisitive nature that lead Dolland to join the Priors when he was 16. 

Gwenda was alone. 

For the first few years, she seemed content. She took up new hobbies including gardening. She planted flowers alongside the paths and potted plants to give neighbors as surprise gifts for special occasions. Everyone admired the combination of shapes and colors that she artfully displayed within glass vases. It was hard to not hear from someone you love for 2 years, but after 4 years with no word from her son she began to inquire. Letters went unanswered and the local Priors guilds had no means of communication with students. The Priors gave vague responses as if this were just the way it was. Many boys become men within the walls of the Priors and set out to build their own lives. But Gwenda knew there was something amiss. Dolland, her son would not leave her without word for 5 years now. 

Her neighbors noticed the change, first with the flowers dying around the village then with her. She bordered on hysteria with her rantings about the Priors. Although many still held onto distrust since the war ended, it was too much a conspiracy to believe the checks and balances between the magicians guilds would allow for the kind of darkness that would plunge the world back into war. Her neighbors believed she was hurt and has lost her senses, then one day her rantings stopped. She stopped talking to people and making eye contact when she left her house, which became rare.

Another year passed.

She sat in the dark which made her dark hair and fair skin seem pale and her nature mysterious. If it weren't for the dark bags under her eyes and her apparent lack of upkeep, she would be a beautiful courtier. She fumbled with something in her hands and did not look up when she spoke. "I started out believing the Priors were our saviors. I can't believe my child had to die for me to understand their true nature," she said, as her eyes quickly glanced at the man before her. She then turned to stare off into the distance. 

So you believe the Priors are evil? In what ways? " He asked. 

Her eyes focused sharply on his eyes. "They do something to the children... children!" She was surprised by the venom in her own voice, but something within her had grown cold to the cares of formalities. She continued, "I don't know what they are doing up there with the kids they take in the name of Ekkos, but it is not what they want us to believe." 

"I know this is a harder question to answer, but do you have any proof beyond a feeling that your son is dead?" "Murdered," he clarified.

"When he was 12, I gave him his father's ring. It was a triskelion within a triangle. His father died shortly after the Moonlight Wars, and it meant the world to him. One night, about a year after Dolland left to study with the priors, I had a terrible dream that he was in trouble and needed to escape" Her voice trailed off as she looked down at her hands. 

"I woke up with this in my hand." 

Her hands open to reveal the object she had been fumbling with earlier. It was the triskelion ring. She did not look up to gauge his reaction or she might have seen the slightest grin on the man's face. 

"That's not exactly evidence of murder." He said.

Her face showed signs of exhaustion. "He would never leave without this, let alone stop by to drop this off without saying hello. In my dream he was running from men in black robes until they surrounded him and began to drown but he was not near water. He sank deeper and deeper as he reached for the surface... it was as if I were drowning and my hand was reaching up for help. I saw the ring on my hand and then suddenly it was gone and I woke up gasping for air with the ring in my hand. I knew he must have used his magic to send me this message and vision  of his last breaths. He was murdered by his own guild. He had to have asked the wrong questions... no the right ones... he was always inquisitive. He must have found something and they could not let live for the thing he learned... He was so inquisitive." She finally broke off and started to cry.

"I believe you," he stated after a while.

"What?" She said in disbelief. 

"I believe you are telling the truth." He replied. "Who else have you told about these dreams and the ring?"

"I wrote to Lord Dechland, the only person I felt I could trust. He was my husbands best friend..." her voice trailed off. 

His voice was a step deeper. "You are right to have little trust for others for what do you think they would do if they knew you had evidence of a murder they committed?" He glanced down at the ring in her hands. 

Responding to his glance she also looked down to the ring she was palming. Her realization that she can trust no one, not even Lord Dechland suddenly rushed to the forefront of her mind. She looked back up at the man before her and saw a stranger. 
Panic set in. Her eyes were locked onto his but something about him had changed. A few seconds earlier he was a friend of a friend sent to help, now he was a complete stranger to her and she was vulnerable to him. She glanced at the door and calculated the distance, she was closer than he. She had to do something, she decided. 

In a swift move she attempted to stand and move towards the door. Her actions were quick, but his hands were quicker. He lifted one hand forward and the other griped onto the wrist of the first hand. He made a sigil with two finger and a small blue sphere appeared in front of his extended arm. He made an outward motion with his hands and fingers and the sphere grew to the size of the house, encompassing them both within it. 

Time stopped. Her eyes were fixed upon the door handle but her motion was frozen and she could not look back to see if he was frozen as well. She couldnt move but her mind raced. She heard no sound. There was no wind, no crickets or frogs croaking. She was breathing but no sounds from her breath was distinguishable. She listened to hear if the stranger was moving behind but her concentration was only able to return more silence. The silence began to sound loud as if her mind was making up noises to fill in the available space. Then she heard a voice. 

"I'm sorry it had to come to this" the voice spoke to her but she was unable to tell where the voice was coming from. She felt as if the voice was within her own head but she could not trust her senses. Suddenly, she felt something. The air around her was shifting, or was she floating through space. The door was no longer in front of her. She felt pressure around her neck. It was painful, but somehow brought comfort to her. It was familiar. She was drowning again in a strange field.  Then in a rush, everything, time and space, came back to her at once. She couldn't breath. She kicked and struggled but air would not come to her lungs. She could hear her own struggling from her kicking. She looked around and saw no one. She was alone. The room grew darker as her vision began to fade to black. Her struggling stopped. The crickets outside were chirping, the frogs croaking and the wind made the trees rustle. The rope around her neck strained with her weight. It creaked as she swayed back and forth in the darkness.