Week 3, Day 2
After trying to relax with her crows, Marjan looks around the rest of the estate for the rooms the White Ones used. She figures most of them bunked together in two rooms, but there’s one room that likely only had one or two White One occupants and one room that only had a single occupant: Kaj. She mostly only finds extra clothes in the first three rooms. There are very few personal effects in those rooms, and what she does find are small and well hidden. She finds a bit of blood in Kaj’s room, and one of the White One’s cloaks flung over his chair. In the third room, she discovers a thin log, well hidden, that was likely written by Yusra.
Marjan takes it to Glamour to do something about how angry and betrayed she feels. Glamour asks what Marjan thinks of the White Ones and agrees that she is disgusted by their condition as well. She’s upset that she cannot tell which were once witches in life and which were once sorceresses, but tells Marjan all had magic purged from them. Marjan asks if they’re a post-Break creation, but Glamour doesn’t believe so.
”Some cultures tell their children stories of witches who will come eat them if they are bad. As I learned, I was told stories of bright creatures who would come and steal my magic and face and body." She pauses, watching her spoon slowly push circles through her drink. "Some of the events before the World Break would make better sense with the nectar.”
”Could you tell me?”
She makes a meaningless gesture with her spoon. “People acting out of character and doing something to destabilize the region. Usually assassinations. Sometimes something more subtle. They would manage to flee from the authority no matter how incapable of that they should have been. We suspected magical duplication but could find absolutely no evidence of it.”
“Ah.” Frowning, “What led to the catacylsm? Were these cultists responsible?”
“If the cultists were responsible, they would have managed to defeat two sixteen year olds, a comatose mageling, and a frontier witch, don’t you think?”
Glamour changes the subject to what Marjan thinks of the log’s contents and their human emotions. She points out that the one who wrote the log might have kept it in hopes of using it against Kaj and their treatment when they returned home. Glamour heads over to her bookshelf and Marjan asks what Glamour will do with Kaj, and how the Syndic will react. Glamour admits that she is not sure if she will tell the Syndic yet and returns to the table with some blank books. She figures out which is the closest to the log and stacks them and adds an ink well on top. Marjan says she trusts Glamour but would like to know why she wouldn’t tell the Syndic.
She doesn’t answer for a moment as she settles back in her seat and drums her fingers on the books. “If there is a chance that even one of these bodies could have once been a sister to me, I want their remains dealt with respectfully, not being shipped to become a playing of the Syndic’s corpse molesters. More importantly, I worry that she will not believe that I am uncompromised, and I do not want to die.” Glamour sighs. “But I suppose I already made my decision to tell her when I told the town to be on the lookout for anyone behaving unlike themselves. Word will inevitably get back to the new governor, who will report it because they will be new and eager to please her.”
They speak a bit about who the new governor might be and Marjan asks if Glamour has ever heard anything about a Collector. She says she wants to do a favor for Nilrae since she helped and is having a rough time herself with the manor and her sorceress’s curse. Glamour’s interested when she hears something of theirs was taken and wants to know if it was one of Nilrae’s things or Journey’s. She says that a Nebayan could have lost any number of weird or even mundane things to a Collector, but a foreign sorceress seeking one out is likely looking for a lost grimoire, enchanted item, or something incredibly sentimental to her. Marjan asks if a spook would really lose her grimoire that easily.
Glamour shrugs. “The Collector doesn’t lumber out at midnight to steal things like in the stories. It is a crafty thing. And it could have been taken from her in some other way first, by force or a similar curse to what plagues her now. Some sorcerers are strange about fighting over grimoires and stealing them from ‘lesser’ mages.”
Marjan asks if the Collector would have more grimoires. Glamour grins and tells her to pick her items carefully. Visitors are allowed to take three items for free, and any extra items must be bartered for, but that the cost is usually higher than most expect. Glamour tells her to not bring anything into the Collector’s lair that she would not be willing to give up now, because sometimes greed will get people to give up things too dear to them. She also warns her to not try to pay for anything with coin. Money is meaningless to it, so unless a specific coin with sentimental value is being traded, the Collector will see it as trading time, or a full life. Glamour says it has always ended badly.
Marjan asks what would happen if the Collector died, since Glamour says it’s not allowed. “Everything it had Collected would be lost forever. And so would you.” She winks. “At least that’s what the stories they tell young witches say.” She says the Collector can be found following the way a specific weather vane is pointing until a near perfect circle of trees is found. The two of them are to weave in and out of the trees until they spot something worth following away from the circle. That will be their invitation into the Collector’s lair. Glamour does not think they will be ignored.
When asked if there’s anyone who could watch the sorceress while they’re gone, Glamour smiles sweetly and suggests the shaking coward the Osadan brought back but eventually relents as long as Marjan first tells Nilrae that she’ll have to use Spoof to get a rise out of her. She gives Marjan the quick rundown on Spoof and Tiska’s journey thus far and admits that something bad is in Spoof’s future and that it mostly depends on if the captain deals with him before one of the Syndic’s people.
With everything sorted, Marjan’s ready to leave. Glamour offers to let her stay here, but Marjan wants to return home with her crows, so Glamour gives her the old log. “If you’re feeling charitable toward or paranoid about your enemies, you can have your crows set this out on your wall where they made their escape. Make sure it hangs over the edge behind the property; I added my own ward so that only those you explicitly invite, your crows, my owls, and myself can pass through.”
As a last question, Marjan asks if shamans could be turned into White Ones. Glamour doesn’t believe so because the relationship to magic is so different. If shamans are hated, she thinks there would be either a different ritual or they would simply be killed.
Marjan finds Nilrae at the inn near the big fire. Next to her is a smaller girl with the animalistic features Marjan’s heard of. Nilrae is relaxed, a blanket around her shoulders, boots off, face flushed, hair damp, mug in her hands. Her state hasn’t prevented her from bringing her sword and shield downstairs with her. Tiska is in a similar state. They say they’ve just had an extended snowball fight that Tiska won—because, Nilrae says, Rukha told them to stop and Tiska didn’t listen. Marjan’s awkwardness sets in and she ignores the discussion of her potentially joining and immediately tells her Glamour will watch the sorceress. They speak a little about what to expect and Marjan hesitantly agrees to have dinner with them after Nilrae says they’ll be eating in their rooms. Tiska talks about the crows she grew up around and talks too much about the Sadrasi stuff for Nilrae’s comfort. Marjan offers her—and Cap’s—services spying for compensation, particularly help getting to Bells.
Tiska says that she understands animals worse than before, but she’s not sure if it’s because the Dryad is gone or because she’s left her forest. She said she was only able to understand simple concepts until she was able to talk to Stormfeet, whom she calls the Caged Spirit Horse. She says Stormfeet does not want more witches to take his children. Nilrae wants to help him but doubts her father is strong enough to tell the Syndic to shop elsewhere. ”Then the Nebayan must kill the witches to save the spirit horse.” Nilrae is not interested in that path.
Perhaps trying to distract her, Marjan asks about Tiska’s boat ride. The two discover that Tiska actually rode two, as the first one she was on was attacked, and she sneaked aboard the attacking ship to finish her journey to Bells. She’s unable to answer whether either of them were pirates or officials and her understanding of what was on the boats is…frustrating. After additional probing, she says that the first boat had sails, but the second was made of metal. That second would be a pre-World Break ship, and only the Syndic and high ranking Nebayans would have them. She doesn’t know if the second ship took prisoners or goods, just that it left the ship floating in the water. She hid in the empty halls and isn’t willing to continue answering questions while she’s hungry.
Marjan accepts Nilrae’s offer to drive the carriage back to the governor’s manor for her. They talk about Nilrae’s needed efforts to convince Tiska to be less honest about her Sadrasi hunt and they decide that it would likely be better for Tiska’s nerves and everyone’s safety if Tiska didn’t come help with the Collector if they cannot kill it and Tiska hates magic so much.
At home, Marjan has Cap place the White One’s log on the top of the wall as instructed and sends two crows to scout the area Glamour told her to follow to reach the Collector. During the night her crows awake and alert her to a single approaching White One. The figure moves with painful slowness, likely more motivated by injury than stealth. Darkness mars the White One’s midsection, and Marjan assumes this is the White Knight. The Knight eventually disappears behind the wall and there is a long moment where nothing happens but what is perhaps the quiet sound of boots on the wall. The book moves—in the wrong direction—and there’s a thud, and when Cap checks, the Knight has fallen on her back and seems too injured and terrified to move quickly. She eventually rightens herself and tries again, this time successfully getting the log by herself before Cap can help her, though startling him and Marjan in the process. The White Knight attempts to hurry off, obviously expecting an attack. Her back is dark in places too, likely from blood, though the fall should not have caused it and she did not have those wounds when she left.
The scouts report back in the morning. During the night, they saw a figure make circles in the trees, carrying a handful of objects. They said the figure was scary, with too-big eyes, a wiggly nose, and a wobbly walk. The figure sat, ate, and walked with the items before disappearing without any tracks. After the disappearance, they saw nothing of note. They are rewarded with treats for their hard work and strut pridefully among their fellow crows for a job well done.