Shianne was exhausted, both from the journey, and the hours of talk that followed, most of which had been dominated by Beddigan’s sister Clottie. It had taken all of Shianne’s might to keep the conversation on track enough that they were actually able to discuss more than what the young Mouse had been learning in the arts of sorcery.
Shianne had told them both of what she had witnessed in Katheyra; with the Wolves moving in, taking over trade routes, working with a corrupt Council to install themselves as city guards in both San Vincent’s Port and other major cities throughout the country. It was not unexpected news, but the rate with which the Wolves were making headway in getting their claws into the land, seemingly undeterred by any of the peoples that lived there, was alarming. And Clottie had reported that they had heard nothing from Beddigan, William, or Ragnon. They had not been expecting a lot of communication though, as they had only had one emergency communication crystal to give to the group for their journey. But they had hoped, Lady Lisanne especially, that Beddigan could find some way to report their progress, or at least confirm whether or not they had survived their journey through the Snowcap mountains.
Leaning forward from her seat on the plush, red couch, Shianne accepted a warm, crockery bowl of vegetable and barley soup from Clottie. The Mouse flitted away and returned with a bowl for herself and one for Lady Lisanne. They sat in silence for a while, eating and enjoying the moment of peace and silence. When she was finished, Shianne set her bowl down on the table and looked to Lady Lisanne,
“Though it is true that I have come to you to report what is happening in Katheyra, as well as I had hoped to get an update on Beddigan and how his journey fares, the main reason I am here is this.” She said, holding her arm up to indicate the gold and jeweled cuff, that caught the light from the flickering fire and shone brilliantly. Lady Lisanne set her partially eaten soup down on the table and shifted forward to take Shianne’s hand in her own. She twisted and turned it, looking closely at the cuff.
“Tell me how you acquired this curse.” The sorceress said. Clottie made a strangled sound from the other side of the table, setting her bowl down as well.
“Curse?!” the Mouse yelped. “I’ve been learning about curses, Shianne, and they are not good, not good at all!” the Mouse babbled. Lady Lisanne shot Clottie a look that shut the poor girl right up and Shianne cleared her throat to explain.
“I had been tracking some of Mormant’s finest military assassins around Katheyra, when I discovered that they were killing or capturing council members who voiced out any concern about the alliance with Mormant, and the Wolves being allowed to take over the city guard. I captured one such assassin, after unfortunately losing another council member, and… compelled him to tell me where the councilman had been taken.” Shianne paused and took a sip from the nearly cold cup of tea that sat on the table next to her soup bowl. She continued, “So, I discovered where the abducted council members were being taken, and went to investigate. And I must have slipped up along the way because I was caught and brought in before none other than Comannder Rollstad himself, and tossed in a jail cell in the Inn’s basement when I refused to tell him where his son was.” Clottie was nodding along eagerly listening, but Shianne sensed that Lady Lisanne was waiting rather impatiently for her to get to the point of the cuff and the curse. “Long story short,” she said, skipping over her time in jail and her escape, “I managed to escape and found myself again in front of Commander Rollstad. This time I offered to retrieve his son for him, in an effort to gain my freedom. And he accepted.” She ignored Clottie’s gasp, and tapped a claw against the cuff, “With one condition.”
Lady Lisanne nodded and released her paw. Shianne rubbed the cuff absentmindedly. Clottie was glaring at her, and she felt the heat of that stare and sighed.
“I have no intention of actually delivering on my promise, Clottie. You needn’t worry.” Clottie’s face softened a bit then. “So, I am here to seek your guidance, Lady Lisanne, on how to get out of this predicament I have found myself in.” The sorceress met her eyes and was silent for a moment before she spoke. Before you had even uttered the words, Shianne saw it written in the other Fox’s eyes, and felt her heart sink.
“You will have to deliver on your promise to Commander Rollstad, or you will lose you paw. There is no way around a cursed cuff. It was made specifically for you, with this task imbedded into it, and the moment you accepted it, the magic was binding. Only Rollstad will have the key to release you from it safely. I’m sorry, Shianne.” Clottie exploded up from the couch.
“What? No! That can’t be true! There must be something we can do!” she shrieked. Lady Lisanne stood and moved across the room to pace in front of the fireplace. Shianne sighed and slumped back against the couch,
“I was afraid that may be your answer.” Clottie was fretting now, and she moved across the room to where the sorceress was pacing.
“Please, my lady. There must be something, anything we can do! We can’t let Commander Rollstad get his paws on Ragnon. After all he has done… he won’t survive it!” Shianne stood, straightening her shirt and vest.
“There is something we can do. I can not fulfill my end of the bargain and lose my paw.” Clottie froze and turned to face her, mouth agape.
“Shianne, no. I can’t ask you to do that. Ragnon wouldn’t ask you to do that either.” Shianne shrugged.
“I don’t see any other way. The binding magic seems pretty solid, and even if we could find a way to get Ragnon to the Commander long enough to satisfy the bargain and be rid of the cuff, and then rescue him, Ragnon is north of the Snowcap Mountains. He is far, far away in some unknown land, and we have no idea when he will return. And I have just a couple of weeks before this cuff takes my paw.” Clottie made a whimpering sound and Shianne knew she was in for a hug. Instead of resisting she let the young Mouse embrace her.
“There is one option that we have not explored.” Lady Lisanne said, interrupting their embrace. Shianne stepped back as she and Clottie turned to face the sorceress. “We could send you to Ragnon. How you would get him back and how we would get the cursed cuff off and still save the Wolf from his father would be up to you. But I think with the emergency gem that we gave to Beddigan, we could contact him and with some complex sorcery, perhaps send you through a portal to meet up with them, wherever they are. But that would be our last lifeline; our last way of connecting to them, for I have no other communication gems. They are most rare.” Shianne sighed.
“I don’t even know where to start with that plan, and all the subsequent plans that would need to be made to save both my paw and Ragnon from imprisonment under his father’s boot.” Clottie looked dejected, staring sadly into the flames. “But,” Shianne continued, “If I am to lose my paw, I am sure as Annalose and Ardra’s rising and setting going to try anything I can to save it.” She met the sorceress’ eyes. “I’m in. Where do we begin?” Lady Lisanne smiled and beckoned for them both to follow her to her workroom.
Shianne brought up the rear and swallowed the lump that formed in her throat at the thought of this plan and how they were going to work it out. She rubbed the cuff again and thought of Beddigan. See you soon, old friend, she thought as she settled into a chair and watched the two sorceresses begin to work.
To be continued…
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