Ring Visions

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Just before the Sorrow War, a festival was held in Therengia. At the festival, the merchant Terald auctioned off a number of unusual artifacts he had found during his archaeological digs. One of them was Yeluenne's ring, bought by Romeode, which produced visions.

The visions are from Yeluenne's perspective depicting events taking place around year -400, when Farn's Company raised the Zaulfung Stones during the reign of Empress Merthamone.

Vision 1

The parades, the feasts, all of it seems hollow and empty. The Empress feels the same way but is putting on a convincing act. You wonder if anyone believes yours.

The most positive emotion you can summon up is relief. You hold on to the thought that it's all over, because it keeps you from thinking about the loss, or about how you cannot afford to slip into depression because you'd pull the Empress in behind you.

Vision 2

"Yeluenne, I just came to say goodbye. We're going now. I still think you should come with us."

"I can't, Mare. I have to stay with the Empress. It's my duty."

"I could ask her to release you. She would understand."

"I know she would understand. That would make it worse."

"You can't let her bind you with guilt. You've saved her life, you owe her nothing."

"Mare... it's not guilt. It's what I'm meant to do. It's my purpose in life. It's what Hodierna made me for."

"That's what her pet priest says!"

You just shake your head.

"If you want to be a martyr you should heal the poor, you could help so many more people that way. And you would have more of a life too. But the way you tie yourself down, hating it and pretending not to, it's like a bad marriage. You're not her Empath or her chronicler or her lady-in-waiting, you're her wife!"

You can't help but laugh at that. "Relationship advice from the one who follows Prince Cedric around like a... no, it's your choice. Just as it is my choice to stay with the Empress. Besides, I don't really believe we are in danger in Theren Keep. It's probably safer than that drafty old place you're going off to.""

"It's not about safety, it's about sanity. Everyone is so grim here. I'm tired of discussing the demon at breakfast, worrying about the demon at lunch, having meetings about the demon at dinner and nightmares about the demon after that. I've got to get away from all this."

Vision 3

[Palace, Eastern Wing Audience Chamber] Comfortable furniture, charming family portraits and a cozy fireplace mark this room as one of the few in the Palace not meant to glorify its masters and intimidate its guests. No one in need of such lessons would be permitted into this part of the Palace at any rate. Heavy oak paneling and thick tapestries ensure the privacy of any business discussed here. Also here: Empress Merthamone, Captain Farn, Lady Marshal Yalvache, Sanno, Lord Rothpen. Obvious "

Sanno stands humbly, the tip of his tail cradling his left ankle.

Merthamone nods.

Rothpen says sternly, "Continue."

Sanno nods.

Sanno hisses, "My masster iss willing to meet the Captain and hiss mage at the agreed-upon placsse tommorow at midnight. No inssult intended, but he asskss that the Marsshal sstay away. It isss nothing perssonal, he ssimply doess not ssee eye to eye with Paladinss."

Farn smirks.

Farn says mischeviously, "Yal here isn't exactly an everyday Paladin."

Yalvache scowls at Farn.

Vision 4

You rub your cramped fingers and glance over the long letter you have written.

"Dearest Captain," you read, your voice a little shaky, "given the current circumstances, my conscience cannot allow me to continue to see you. I admire you as a dashing, flattering and altogether too handsome gentleman, but at the same time I deplore your craven cowardice in abandoning us all in our time of greatest need. You are a villain who wears the mask of a hero only when there's money or a woman to be had"

The silver ring on your hand catches your eye. The ring he gave you. The tears begin to flow again, and you give up trying to read the letter.

Vision 5

[Southeast Tower, Royal Guest Suite] What once was a comfortable apartment has been transformed into a miniature barracks. Fine furniture has been shoved aside to make room for soldier's cots. Members of the Imperial Guard sleep in shifts, maintaining constant vigilance against further assassination attempts. Obvious exits: none.

You stare up at the crystal skylight, unable to sleep, while the storm rages outside."

Vision 6

You exclaim, "Just hold still!"

The Guardsman continues to curse but stops thrashing around.

You skillfully remove the arrow from his abdomen leaving the wound no worse than it was before.

The Guardsman growls, "Everild's teeth!""

Vision 7

[Theren Keep, Great Hall] Seven columns span the chamber in a vast semi-circle of burnished black marble, the middle three curving around a broad dais while the outer pairs brace high, spectacular balconies. The blue and gold banner of House Theren hangs side-by-side with the green and white arms of the House of Vanaya, though the eye is drawn upward to the magnificent tiled dome ceiling. Also here: Empress Merthamone, Lady Marshal Yalvache, Lady Sithsia, Zhakrhhn, and a large number of Theren knights

Merthamone says, "We owe Our lives and those of all Our entourage to this brave and resourceful warrior. It is with great gratitude that We bestow upon Poho Zhakrhhn of Sraan Smolg the Seven Spearheads."

Hearty cries of "Huzzah!" and less recognizable S'Kra exclamations resound as the Empress places the oddly shaped medal around the stunned warrior's neck.

"We also owe Our life to another who is present today. In recognition of a lifetime of service, We bestow the title of Court Baroness "

Vision 8

You dip your pen and consider your words for a moment. "Throughout the ambush I was not concerned for my own life. There was no time to fear for myself until afterward. I am writing this now because I dread falling asleep, though fatigue will soon set in and I will have no choice."

Dip. "No, all my fear was reserved for the Empress, who was hit by the first volley. The bolt struck her in the thigh and pinned her to her horse, which screamed and went quite mad, eventually throwing Her Maj"

Dip. "I leapt off my own horse and went to her aid, paying no heed to the battle whatsoever. My duty as an Empath far outweighs my duty as chronicler. I am told that there were a dozen Sluagh archers but I cannot recall what they looked like. Her Majesty had broken her left arm in the fall, which she complained of most vigorously when she got her breath back, but, fearing poison, I tended to the other wound first. By the time I began treating her arm the archers had been slain and Zhrakna."

Dip. "Her Majesty rode his horse for the rest of the journey. He intended to run alongside, and I have little doubt that even with his injuries he could have kept up. But I insisted that he ride double with me, which was not altogether unpleasant."

Dip. "The rest of the day's journey went without mishap. But we found Her Majesty's horse lying dead a little up the road. Poisoned."

Vision 9

You stare into the fireplace, able only to think of one thought: he doesn't know. He'll have a son, and he doesn't know."

Vision 10

"Mare, how can you stand to watch that oaf practice? He's the clumsiest man I have ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on."

Marelanis scowls at you. "Just because he's Human..."

"Race has nothing to do with it. He fences like a drunkard. I'm surprised he can even walk without tripping over his own bootlaces. And look how he flinches. He's a hopeless coward, but he's putting on a show of bravery to try and impress you."

"Cedric is not a coward!"

"He is so, and a weakling besides."

"You're just jealous."

You laugh. "Mare, you're prettier than me and always will be. I can live with that. What I can't stand is your low standards. You could have any man in the Empire and who do you choose? That great buffoon. Such a waste."

"I'm not listening to you any more."

"And I'm not watching Cedric anymore. I don't want to be watching when he slips and cuts his own leg off."

Vision 11

Empress Merthamone sits on her throne, face in her hands. She looks drained. But you know she will refuse any help you can give her as an Empath. She never wants anything for herself.

"All I want is peace and safety for my people," she mutters, as if reading your mind. Or perhaps you were reading hers. The bond between you is frightening at times."

Vision 12

The air is cold and crisp, the sky clear, the stars shining as if newly polished. It's beautiful. You draw your cloak around you and gaze upward.


You pull yourself together. "Yes, Majesty?"

"Am I doing the right thing?"

"I don't know, Your Majesty. I would trust Zharkan with..."


"Yes, him... I would trust him with my children, if I had any. Yalvache I would trust with my very soul. The Northerner is so silent and self-contained that I don't know what to think of him. But the Captain..."

The Empress chuckles at you. "Your romance with the Captain has been a little rocky."

You blush. "I didn't know you paid so much attention to the personal troubles of your ladies-in-waiting, when there are so many real problems threatening the Empire."

"If I have learned one thing in my three years on the throne, Yeluenne, it is that nothing can be overlooked. Everything is important. The Humans have a saying about horseshoe nails that I'm sure you've heard."

You nod.

"Consider those stars up there. They look so tiny and insignificant, like grains of sand. Yet the Fortune's Path philospher says they rule our destiny."

"Then perhaps, Majesty, you should ask the philosopher what course of action to take."

The Empress smiles sadly. "I have already. I wanted a second opinion."

Vision 13

"What do you mean, disappeared? How? When?"

The man clears his throat nervously. "I'm sorry, Your Highness. Prince Cedric and Lady Marelanis went for a ride six days ago and did not return. The stable boy said the Prince told him they were going deer hunting, as unlikely as it may sound. Your sister was a fine archer but did not hunt, and the Prince was neither bowman nor hunter."

He takes a deep breath. "Prince Cedric's body was found, in, erm, abused condition yesterday. Your sister has not been found."

The thought comes to you, unbidden and unwelcome and unstoppable: she finally got tired of him and killed him herself. It's not funny under the circumstances, but your face must be betraying you because the messenger is giving you a very odd look. Which of course makes it even more difficult to suppress a snicker.

Maybe you've been around Sithsia too long.

He forges on. "Um, most of the body was found at the standing stones where Farn's Company stopped the demon."


Vision 14

"And what happens afterward?"

"What do you mean?"

"After the demon is destroyed." Rothpen takes a sip from his goblet. "For the knowledge you're getting, Si..."

"Careful! Don't speak that name aloud."

"Right then... he, she or it could be chained to a rock and flayed alive. Do you really think you'll be allowed to live to talk about it?"

Osneg cackles. "Don't worry about me. I'm an old hand at disappearing and reappearing as someone else. If I do get caught, I've lived a good life and have no regrets. But I won't. I'm damn near as old as "it" is, you know, and twice as sly. I could even teach Huldah a trick or two."

Farn snorts and shakes his head. "He is such a liar.""

Vision 15

You gaze down at the plaza below. Its emptiness is disturbing. There are no street vendors, no musicians, no children playing. Nothing moves but the pigeons and the water in the fountain.

Though it is a bright, sunny day with few wispy clouds, there seems to be a great shadow looming over the town.

Someone touches your arm. Startled, you spin away from the window to face a young Elven girl with impossibly long hair and worried eyes."

Vision 16

Farn gazes at you over the top of his goblet. "So what does that mean, exactly? I'm not familiar with Imperial Court customs."

Or any customs at all, you lout. "It means I move up in the Order of Precedence, just after the landed nobles. I could petition the Court for a grant of land under certain circumstances, but I wouldn't know what to do with it if I had it. I am entitled to my own arms, though I have little choice in the design -- it must be some variation on the House Vanaya green"

He raises an eyebrow. "So does this mean you're too good for the likes of me?"

You smile mischeviously. "I always have been.""

Vision 17

The snowy owl says, "We've begun the process. That venomous worm just barely held to the letter of the bargain. The demon won't be destroyed after all, merely contained."

The Empress stares.

The owl continues, "The demon will be denied most of its power. The swamp itself will still be unsafe and a breeding ground for lesser evils, but it won't be able to expand beyond its present borders. That is, as long as you-know-who remains safe. If anything ever happens to him-or-her, the demon will slip its leash. No doubt then that the swamp would devour Riverhaven and a good portion of Zoluren within weeks."

The Empress sighs. "What about the Company, are you all safe?"

"The owl shakes its head. "We'll either be dead by dawn, or pretending to be. You'll never see any of us again. Your Majesty, it has been an honor."

The owl hops akwardly to the edge of the window ledge and launches itself into the air before anyone can think of a response.

Vision 18

Suddenly there is a great rumbling. As one, the entourage reins in its mounts and turns to look back the road. A plume of black smoke rises on the horizon where the Palace had stood.

The Archmage wears a look of shock. "I never expected the blasted thing to move so quickly..."

You glance at Merthamone. She is wearing her stoic mask. "Will it reach Riverhaven?" she asks, her voice a monotone.

"No, your Majesty, not before the assault. I suspect it surged forward to destroy the Palace because it was enraged at being held back for so long. A token gesture of defiance."

The Empress is silent for a moment. Then, quietly: "No lives were lost. That's all that matters. Let's move on."

Thoughts on the chronological order of the visions

One ordering proposed by Axenar around the time of the visions: 1, 16, 3, 9, 4, 10, 11, 2, 12, 8, 7, 5, 6, 15, 14, 17, 18, 13

Another ordering, arrived at by User:Basselope much later: 2, 11, 3, 14, 12, 4, 6, 8, 5, 7, 10, 16, 17, 18, 9, 1, 13, 15