The Castle at the Edge of the World
Pre-adventure Journal of Aether
Meridia was very attractive for a human, yet she lived the laborious life of a handmaiden for Lady Thune. When Lady Thune was charged with her crime and she and her retinue were to be sent to the Citadel of the Red King, Meridia knew she would never see Elise again. It’s amazing how a little knowledge can be used for so much. It truly broke my heart to see these two lovers forced apart. It was with compassion and kindness that I approached Meridia with an opportunity that would benefit us both.
On the eve of the caravan’s departure, Meridia, Elise and I met. Elise was a strong woman, confident and sure. She could protect them until they found a safer home. Meridia gave me explicit details on her role and personality as well as that of the Lady Thune. Elise was surprisingly able to fill in even more details. They both gave me a lock of their hair and some clothing and I helped them escape the city walls before dawn. I left each with enough gold to start a new life as well as documents to help ease their path through the country to one of the Silver Wing’s safehouses.
With the keys given me and the knowledge of Lady Thune and Meridia’s routine, I rejoined my new master in the guise of Meridia. My wand that disguised my alignment was running low on charges so I was happy that we’d be leaving soon. We got up early the next morn as the guards wanted to get a head start on the long journey. I found more clothes and jewelry and set off to make Lady Thune’s journey as comfortable as possible. Luckily, she and the others were distracted from our normal routine so any mistakes I made went unnoticed. I was able to stow most of my personal belongings on my person or in my bag. It was difficult not bringing weapons, so I hid a dagger among my clothes. In the process though, Lady Thune caught me. She was difficult to read, a practiced skill of the nobles I guess. I stumbled on my words purposely, “I’m frightened, ‘tis for our protection M’Lady…if that’s ok?” I kept my head down as a show of submissiveness and respect, hoping she would walk away. Lady Thune took my hand in a warm embrace (I believe that there may have been more between the Lady and Meridia than I, or Elise was told). “Fear not, my handmaiden, I feel you can take care of us, but don’t let the guards see it or surely you’ll be whipped.”
With caravans loaded and the Lady and I in our carriage, we set forth on our journey. I had assumed that only the local guard would accompany us, but when a contingent of the Blue Manticores showed up to escort the caravan my stomach dropped. These were not the most elite of mercenaries from that group, but they were better trained than most run-of-the-mill soldiers. Lady Thune hid any reaction well and was very quiet as we plodded along.
Staring out the window, I tried to assess the mercenaries. Many were young and less experienced; some were war scarred veterans who never made it up in ranks. One in particular, though, seemed to carry himself with confidence and strength. He rarely spoke, and responded to orders quickly and precisely; it was obvious he was higher up in command. When others fatigued from riding all day, he seemed to carry on as if he had endless endurance. Even as he walked, his heavy armor rarely clinked and clanked like the others, it was like a second skin to him. He wasn’t gruff or belligerent to our retinue; in fact he was kind and observant to our needs. He was not a weak link in the group but possibly and ally should a time call for one.
I was worried about Lady Thune. Her demeanor was sullen and dark. She hid her feelings well and I would have to tread carefully while with her. But for now, I need to get more familiar with my surroundings. “If M’Lady doesn’t need anything, I’d like to sit up front, outside if possible.”
“I’ve noticed him too, Meridia. Keep a watchful eye for us both; I have matters to attend to. Please do not disturb me for a while.” I involuntarily blushed not knowing what exactly she meant, but knowing that I do not hide my thoughts as well as I figured. “Thank you M’Lady, I won’t disturb you any longer.”