It’s bright outside when we finally exit the cave. The sun’s above us, not yet having passed over the Ghostlight. The weather is beautiful but promises a cold not. I’m bored of lugging this chest around, so I use my hatchet to break it open.
Loot: clothing of a strange foreign style, a leather sack yielding 349 clacks, 57 lunars and 2 wheels. You also find the left side of a statue’s head. It looks like the head of a bubble-eyed goldfish with gills and scales. The stone is blue marble with green streaks. The eye socket is empty.
The coloration and size matches the Marshfolk’s statue. I decide take it back to them even though I don’t want to deal with the sadness and guilt anymore. Naiv says I could just sneak it in and drop it off of the base of the statue (that’s in the middle of their fucking cavern) and sneak out again to avoid more awkwardness. I side eye her and just go in.
The Speaker appears, thanks me for it, and leads me to the statue where he has me place the fragment into the hole on the idol’s face. The break line no longer matches, but as I hold it in place, the stone mends itself together. I feel a strong pulse of power wash throughout the cavern from the statue. The light emanating from it brightens considerably until we’re squinting.
I head back out to Naiv, who suggests I open the iron box since I’m already dead.
Updated Loot: a sort of medicine bundle, likely the source of power for the attack on your blade. The bundle is feathers, bones, knots and so on, and worthless now. There are also a pair of scrolls written in that same tongue as the others.
Even though we’ve cleared the caves of everything except the blobthing and the spirit, which can’t be found, Naiv doesn’t want to sleep near here to regain her power. The Ghostwall only extends just past the mountains, and after what we faced, her nerves are a little shot.
A few hours later, we hear large footsteps and the world responding with broken twigs off ahead and to the right. I sneak off to investigate and find a large bear plodding aimlessly through the woods. Its whitish-grey pelt is interrupted on its right shoulder by a swirling design in black. It’s unaware of me. This is the first bear I’ve seen on the islands, though they’re not completely unheard of on the mainland.
I head back. Naiv won’t let me bother the bear or spend all our money on sea passage to take it to Salt. She says it would eat the Marshfolk.
”You’ll let us drag a Demi-bird around for weeks but won’t even befriend your average bear.”
Naivara shrugs. “Average? Didn’t you say it was shamanic? Whatever that means for a bear.”
”It’s got swirls on its shoulder.”
We talk about Conlan’s disinterest in nepotism and rumors Naiv’s heard of his people cracking down hard on some illicit activity on the waterfront. Someone’s been selling something that’s supposed to get you past the Wall and back safely. We both want to wait to see what our dreams are like after the blobthing before we decide if we want to go beyond the wall.
We decide to camp after dark, a decent bit from the road. We find a large outcropping of rock that juts from the ground at a shallow angle forming a lean-to that faces away from the raod. The rock table above will protect if the weather turns foul, and the hollow protects the fire from the wind. The opening faces northwest.
Naiv asks if I plan to retire as soon as possible, but I don’t. She says she would if the right conditions were met because she’d rather do other things that are less suicidal than mercenary work. I tell her that it sounds like she wants to play with the Ghostlight and what’s on the other side of it, which sounds a lot more suicidal than cleaning out bandit hideouts. Naiv likely has a Passion for the Ghostwall/Blight. We get into a pretty deep conversation about Nebayan conspiracies until we hear hooves coming fast.
We peek around to see what’s coming and I feel like I’ve been thrown into one of the books my sister’s engrossed in about knights and wizards and royal romances: a lone rider in all white, a small woman in a flowing, hooded cloak astride a galloping white horse. A long-tailed, crested white bird flies a short distance ahead of her. She slows as she nears us, bird circling toward us before coming to rest on her shoulder and they both look our way.
I wave since I couldn’t befriend the shamanic bear. She smiles and when she speaks, we hear her clearly despite the distance. She says she didn’t expect to see friendly faces in the wild at this hour so close to the border and that she’s heading north. We know there’s another, smaller settlement up there. She has a cute, playful smile and hardly seems older than us. I invite her to rest with us since she could easily circle back if she wanted to fuck with us.
She introduces herself as Chance. I know Chance is the witch in Bells helping to keep up the Ghostlight with Conlan, but I’ve never met her. Chance’s hair is pretty white, but there are still hints of golden blonde to it when the fire hits it right.
Before I can tell her who we are, Naiv introduces herself as Journey. Chance’s eyes linger on me just long enough to hint she knows my Deathless One situation. She asks if we have any injuries that need treatment, and there’s some totally-not-guilty glances exchanged, but we try to pass it off for a while because Naiv’s tense.
She lets us change the topic by asking what kind of news we’ve heard. We tell her about the shamanic bear, the blobthing. She gives us a vial of liquid with a small crystal in it that she thinks might help against the blobthing, though she has no idea if it will actually work. I ask if she has anything to help against recently unbound spirits of ancient devils.
She smacks her lips and sucks some air in, “Nope. Afraid I’m all out of my ancient devil killing crystals for the time being. A bunch of angry young men stole the shipment meant for Glass. They were screaming something or another about liches and inheritances.” She pauses and gives you an innocent shrug. “New world, new problems.”
Then she realizes that I’m serious and asks for the full details. She asks what will happen with the tribe and then asks where I’m from. There’s a hint of relief when I say Salt. She says it’s a safe place she can find easily enough—though she looks pretty grim after saying the last part.
I decide to ask if she knows Memory and find out Memory is Chance’s “bitchy sister” which is hilarious since Memory’s told me that she has a couple of “goofy” sisters. She also tells us news that people have shown up on the other side of the Ghostlight near a port on a newly settled island. They aren’t Blighted and are asking for help because they’ve been attacked. The nobles are squabbling and stagnating over it. We rag on Nebayans and the Syndic and I talk a bit about my Sadrasi mission. She also tells us one of the other frontier towns has fallen to a necromancer pulling up an ossuary.
Naiv’s tense and looks fuming under her academic’s mask despite Chance sympathizing that a city would be in trouble with a spook that powerful regardless of the school. Chance puts a hand on her knee and asks if we’re sure she can’t help us. She won’t tell her sister.
I ask how Memory would react if we went to her instead, since I’m more comfy with the witch I grew up with. Chance says Memory’s risk averse and winces but says she’d still help because she’s a big softie. Chance accidentally insults Naiv when I ask if Memory will feel territorial about Journey coming to visit if I’m fine and Chance says no.
I finally agree to help.
Chance nods, “Good answer. It’s not every day that you get another chance at life, Nilrae.”