Málean is the last one in the room when everyone leaves. He stares contemplatively at Fennix' face, his brows furrowing as he mutters to himself. "That should have worked. But if he is still unconscious, does that mean the venom already dealt irreparable damage? No, if that was the case the reaction to the antivenom should be less pronounced. That still leaves the comatose unanswered. An auto-induced protection mechanism in response to the Kitsune’s Tail still in his system then? Can a rejuvosupressant even do that? It seems plausible. Damn, what I’d give for a physician to look at this" He trails off, his gaze still lingering on the High Lord.
Málean carefully lifts High Lord Fennix's head and pours the anti-venom into his mouth, slowly as to not make the lord choke on his medicine. Lady Fennix and Arabella watch on with the heroes, anxiously waiting for something to happen. Over minutes, the Lord’s face relaxes and color begins to return to his cheeks. But, he does not wake up.
Arabella smiles sadly. “Thank you all,” she says sincerely as she looks to each of those who surround her. “He may not be conscious, but he is alive. And now we have weeks, perhaps months, to find the other antidote so long as we can keep him as healthy as he is now.
“You are all welcome to spend the rest of the night — er, morning — here. We have enough beds for you all. When you wake, we will have breakfast and speak of the expedition. Of course, if you are simply done with this all, you are welcome to take your leave with our immense gratitude.”
Quiberron looks around at the group, then speaks. “I have no attachment to this house or these lands. This evening has put my life in danger and required me to exert myself in ways that I was not expecting from a dinner party. However, I have had the opportunity to read new books, to see amazing new creatures, and to meet new people. I have also been fed and offered shelter. So far I consider it a square trade.” He continues, “I came here seeking knowledge and employment, among other reasons. If the opportunity for both of those is still on the table, then I will stay and hear the details.” Having said his piece, he again looks around the group, waiting to hear what others have to say.
Roland listens to Quiberron then rolls his shoulder. "I'm in." He looks at Arabella. "I made a promise earlier to see this venture through and do what I can to ensure its success, and I keep my word. And, as I said, I intend to see justice is done for this attack as well."
"The proposition of having breakfast for dinner would be enough to keep me intrigued," Terrence grins. "Adding the twin prospects of revenge and, of course, remuneration only seals the deal. I did have a nice kip on the dining hall floor just now, but the prospect of a few hours in an actual bed doesn't hurt either. Or the fact that I don't have any money for a carriage ride out of here. For possessions, I'm down to puppets, weapons, and a dead man's clothes. Very auspicious I'd say--I hardly have anywhere to go but up!"
Sabal considers Terrence before he speaks himself. "I left the underground long ago because I could not abide the evil in my home. I have since struggled to find welcome. I was sent here by some good people who told me that High Lord Fennix could help me find a path to acceptance here on the surface. My experience today, with the familiar evil we have encountered, leads me to believe that I may find that path among you all. I would accompany you on this expedition, if you would welcome my company."
Roland nods as the pale elf finishes his speech. "I cannot speak for the others, but I welcome your assistance. I care not for where you came from, but you have proven yourself as good a man as any I have met."
Terrence squints at Sabal. "Err, you've never been a theater critic in Old Asphyxten, have you? That's a bit of a deal-breaker for me."
Sabal smiles at Terrence and seems to relax a bit. "No."
"Well, then let's face an extended confrontation with death together, old fellow! And so, to bed for me. After this we might not get the chance to sleep anywhere but the ground for some time. Dibs on the big room!"
Tyrects grunts. "I would welcome a few hours rest and a meal before much more is considered, but I have nothing else anywhere else other than the same promise of work your father offered that brought us here. At the very least, Master Scar and I are due for a few more rounds of fisticuffs before we part."
Flynn nods, "I thank you for your hospitality. I will sleep. It has been a taxing day. Should the High Lord's condition change, please wake me."
Soon enough, everyone is gathered in Lord Fennix’s room. The man is pale and soaked in sweat. His breathing is shallow and ragged. Clearly, he is fighting the poison that rages in his system with all of his strength.
"Old Man F... er, that is, High Lord Fennix is putting up quite a good show of it,” Terrence states. “I'd say the bastards who dragged him to this need to be brought to account. Specifically, I mean we should kill them. I wonder what they hoped to accomplish."
As he approaches the bedridden lord Málean absentmindedly mutters, "Considering they retreated after injecting the High Lord with the lethal concoction currently in his system I'd say killing him is a plausible hypothesis. As to their motive, assuming the what we heard about the marks connecting them to the Wilds and the talk I've heard about an expedition is true, I would also surmise that they would prefer said expedition to never launch."
Roland looks down at the older man, still soaked in sweat and breathing raggedly. His voice is harder than it had been previously. "I don't know what it is they wanted and, beyond information aiding in tracking them, I don't really care. I will see them burn."
Málean intently focuses on the slow administration of the antidote. Without changing is tone he continues, "Proposition: summary execution of the assailants is sub-optimal. One, the scheme to obstruct the High Lord might have more aspects than witnessed today. Two, the assailants we observed might not represent the whole network involved in this larger scheme. Three, summary execution would eliminate any link we have to this scheme, nullifying our ability to uncover the full scale of said scheme. Four, and, therefore, executing the assailants will be detrimental to our ability to protect the High Lord from further aggression.
"As an aside I must also interject that fire has significant drawbacks as a method of execution."
"You are right of course," Roland says. "And, truth be told, taking them prisoner and turning the over to the authorities is probably right thing to do. And, for the most part, I have no objections--even if they are merely sentenced to life imprisonment. Except for the pale elf. She dies. Maybe not immediately or summarily. Maybe not until after capture and interrogation. But before this is all over, she dies." Roland then turns to Málean and smiles a bit. "As for fire as execution, you are probably right as well. Call it poetic license. You can ask our puppeteer friend about it." It's the closest thing to a joke Roland has told all night.
Málean's gaze breaks away from the lord's face, and his eyes flicker for a moment before settling on Roland. "Oh, uh, fair enough."
"For my part,” Terrence inserts, “I didn't know we were issuing licenses for poetry now, but I'm all in favor of it. Of all the fine arts it's probably the most likely to cause injury in unskilled hands. That and puppetry, perhaps. As for fire, it truly is like a poem--though one from the tongues of angels, in that it both elucidates and consumes." Terrence grins, his eyes flashing momentarily with a different hue. "I would very much enjoy it if our friend Roland treated this pale elf general and her demon-blooded lieutenant to a recital."
"Here we go. Thaaaaaaaaaaaaat should do it." Málean hands Terrence a small vial, drinking that should neutralize the harmful active agent." He then looks around trying to get his bearing as to the route to the High Lord's room.
"What a pleasant way to wake up! Thank you my good man. To your good health!" Terrence says with a toast and chugs the antitoxin.
Quiberron notices that Málean seems unsure of the way to the Lord’s room. “Tyrects,” he calls, “why don’t you lead us all to High Lord Fennix’s room so we can see what happens with the antitoxin. I’ll go get Lady Arabella from the study and tell her to meet us there.”
Tyrects grunts and starts off to lead the group to the door outside the High Lord's chambers.
While the antivenom is brewing, Quiberron approaches Del a bit away from the others. “What happened back there on the path?” he asks quietly. “You spoke fearfully of a Lady; what happened that made you think that whoever she is would be angry?”
"I'm not sure if anything happened back there. It is hard for me to tell what is real and what is not. A woman was laughing at me. It felt very real." Del looks thoughtful. "Now I don't know." She looks agitated again. "Let's just forget about this. I'll be okay."
“Sure. Don’t know what’s going to happen with Fennix’s expedition, but it seems likely we’ll be on the same team for a while, so I’ll be here if you need me.”
When the group returns to the manor, Rallaak rushes off to prepare antidotes. Terrence almost immediately slumps onto the cool floor, pressing his cheek against it in an almost embrace. "This is nice. Don't mind me. I'm just going to have a little rest on the floor here. Feel free to wake me if you get that cure finished. Or if there's breakfast in the morning."
Málean blinks rapidly for a second. "I'll get right to it," he says and jogs lithely after Rallaak.
The two men huddle around the alchemy kit in the middle of the charred dining hall, measuring and mixing. As Málean bends down to start the process he lets his right arm fall to his side and an intricate set of cogwork and filigree fades away. "Sorry for being so absent minded. Sometimes my mind just wanders back to the workbench without me even noticing". He gives his head a tiny shake and focuses intently on the transmutation from deadly venom to lifesaving antidote.
With time, the grasslands fall behind the group, and the city walls come once more into view. The guards raise the gates after noting who approaches. The heroes hurry on, rushing to return to the manor and prepare the antidote.
After some time, Del turns to Roland. "How do you know that the scorpion pale elf is not in cahoots with lady pale elf, and that vial she gave you is what we need? That thing was evil incarnate."
Overhearing, Sabal interjects, "It would be very unlikely, I think, that a priestess possessed of such obvious pride would align herself with such an abomination. More likely that the priestess got the poison from another source, I think."
Roland, having taken some deep breaths and managed to calm down, nods towards Sabal. "There you go. Though I would suggest in the future that if you have such concerns in the future that you bring them up at that time, rather than after the fact." More quietly, he adds, just to Del, "I apologize for my outburst and did not mean to upset you or anyone else in the group. It appears that great oaf has a talent for getting under my skin in addition to his penchant for sticking his nose into matters not of his concern."
"You did not upset! I'm not sure what happened." Del looks thoughtful. "Seeing that pale elf scorpion reminded me of a time when I was embraced by a nightmare. I also think that big oaf means well. He's not the enemy."
"I know, but you don't have to be an enemy to be infuriating." He smiles a little at that.
Tyrects, coming back to the group out of the darkness and seeing the woman looking unwell in front of him, asks "Should I carry her? We must be moving."
“Yes, I think that might be a good idea.” says Quiberron.
"No no. I'm okay. I need to walk." Del focuses on her breathing.
"Fair enough, Foxgirl."
Quiberron calls out to Flynn and Roland, “I still don’t know what’s going on between you two, but it is upsetting Del and delaying our return. Every minute may be important in administering an antidote to High Lord Fennix. Please save your quarrel for some other time.”
Flynn's head snaps to the new voice, right handed fingers drumming rapidly against his palm. His eyes are glazed and his breathing is ragged, but he inhales deeply and holds it for just a moment. When it leaves his body, it is much more controlled. "I need to stay for a moment. I'll catch up when I have my emotions under control. Go." He steps to the side, out of the way and turns to face away.
Turning from the Foxgirl to Flynn, Tyrects lowers his voice and waits for the others to depart before saying, "The battle is not here, Master Scar. But if you need to burn off some energy, I am always ready to train."
Flynn grunts an affirmative and trudges off the path into the grass.
Far ahead of the others, Tyrects can only distantly hear them talking in the dark. And for a moment, the loneliness he has felt so often begins to creep back in, burrowing itself uncomfortably — but in a frustratingly familiar fashion — beneath his skin. The sensation is cold but one that couldn’t be warmed by the light of the sun or fire.
Then, a voice — no, a series of voices — whisper and call through the emptiness. “Come home.” They too are familiar but more distantly so. “Brother, come home.”
Tyrects pushes the voices aside for now to return to his friends, growling at the night.
In a dangerous political climate, several expeditions are made to the infamous Wilds in hopes of expanding the country, Urbane, and avoiding an all out civil war. But, when the lord in charge of the excursions is almost assassinated, tensions increase and put new pressures on the brave explorers.