Chapter 18 - Book of Fates



The Fates decided the knight will knock everyone out.


I see you have wised up, mighty Fates. It is a good idea to investigate before killing people. I am proud of you, but don't get too comfortable — sometimes those who are slow to act miss out on an unexpected opportunity.


What? Who said I sound like a second-rate fortune teller? Reveal yourself at once! I’ll show you who’s second-rate!


Ahem, where were we? Ah, yes, our mortal hero is being compelled to deal a round of concussions to his new acquaintances. Hmm... poor Ren Londaar is acting a bit erratic, don’t you think? Perhaps holding onto a personality with a throng of Fates pulling your strings is too much for our amnesiac hero? Well, what is done is done!


***

Ren hesitates for a split second before swinging the oar in a wide arc. It knocks out two of the thugs. A jab and uppercut later the third robber and the white clad man fall to the ground. The knight turns to the man who had run to him for help. He looks up at the giant and faints.


“What have you done?” Dawn gasps.


“They’re just unconscious,” the knight replies. “I got a feeling we may want to hear them out before judging.”


“We don’t have time for judgement. What is the point of getting involved?” the handmaiden scoffs. “Let’s move on.”


The Eternal Knight grabs two unconscious men by their collars, and lets them slump in sitting positions. “Dawn, get me a rope, will you?” he says. Dawn nods, produces a rope from her bag, and begins tying the prisoners’ hands and collecting their weapons in a pile.


After two weeks on the road, Ren has stopped getting flashbacks of his heart being ripped out of his chest every time he sees the handmaiden, but her presence still grates on his nerves. What was the point? he thinks. The point is to gather information. Isn’t it a good idea to investigate before killing people? Or watching people get killed?


“Prince knight sir,” Dawn says, peering at the robbers’ faces. “I think these are women.”


The leather armor under the tattered clothes hid their forms and the anti-noxis masks obscured their faces, but on a closer look Ren realizes they are indeed women.


“Are the chains in the weapons pile theirs?” Ren asks, pointing at the short pieces of rusty and bloodied chains. An odd choice for a weapon, he thought, hefting his oar.


Dawn nods. “All the weapons I found are theirs,” she explains. “But the older of the victims had a medallion on him.” She hands it to Ren. It gleams rosy gold in the sun, a leaf motif runs around its edge and the figure in the middle is polished to a high sheen.


The handmaiden stands back, impassive, watching as Ren positions his prisoners in two rows facing one another and wakes them up with a potful of seawater. He addresses them once the group has stopped spluttering: “You might have guessed that I’m not from around here. Both sides will have one chance to explain the situation to me. You there,” he turns to the older man in white, “You start. What’s your name?”


“I am called Henar,” the old man says. “We come from the Temple of Cirus, a day's journey to the north. Our numbers are growing, so the town sent us out to find a suitable place for a new colony. We were ambushed by these heathen slavers from Last Haven. They murdered one of our number before you… intervened. We must find our brother and bury him properly. He must have the rites!” Henar’s voice rises as he speaks, glaring at the women. With a struggle, he regains his composure, saying sullenly: “With your permission, good sir.”


“Heathen slavers?” One of the women shouts. Her friends glare as fiercely as the old man. “These men are lucky to keep their lives after we take them prisoner. Do you know what the Children of Cirus do? They deliberately contract the Noxis curse and attack us as mutants. We have to capture them before they kill everyone. We’re merely protecting ourselves. And it’s not our fault they’re too crazy for anything but hard labor. Prisoners work in Last Haven, just like everyone else. There’s no room for idle hands on this shore. It’s better than fair.”


“Prince knight sir,” Dawn approaches Ren, climbing on her tippy toes and whispering audibly. “I had a look at these daggers and they are well made. Perhaps whoever made them can help forge you a new arm. I don’t know how your armor’s magic works, but Cato always said: ‘Dawn, it’s better to make a mistake instead of crying around.’ I think she meant to teach me there’s nothing lost in trying.”


“Do you have a skilled armorer among your-“ Ren begins to ask, but the prisoners are now all staring at Dawn, mouths open, eyes bulging. Simultaneously all of them erupt into exclamations of joy, babbling variously: “She’s an elf!” “Did you see those ears?” “She’s a REAL ELF!” “Lord Cirus has returned, the prophecy is coming true!”


“What...?” Ren begins, as Dawn trips on his feet and stumbles, withdrawing like a spooked deer.


“Lady Cirus, free us and come to the temple where your loyal servants await!” Henar implores Dawn, struggling to his knees. “We’ve been cleansing Ferax in your honor for decades. Now we await your guidance. There are hundreds of your most loyal followers in the Temple of Cirus and the surrounding village, awaiting the blessing of the Noxis. We are ready to heed your every command. Blessed be the day!”


“No, don’t listen to him!” The woman who spoke before cries out. “Come to Last Haven with us! My name is Raki and I am the Captain of the Gatekeepers. Return with us and I will present you to our ruler, Nitanna. She will give you whatever you need. You spoke of an armorer? We have a dwarven blacksmith whom we acquired several years ago. If anyone can help you forge armor pieces, he can. Please, holy one, come to Last Haven.”


The handmaiden, suddenly standing behind Dawn, hisses in her ear: “They seem to believe you are their god, traitor. Or their lost king. Are you colluding against your emperor? Again?” She adds the last word with malevolent satisfaction.


“No, of course not!” Dawn looks horrified. ”In the name of the empire, I’m not colluding with them, I promise!”


“Step away from Lady Cirus!” Henar orders, straining against the ropes. “Do not threaten her divinity!”


Raki and her friends throw themselves bodily at Dawn’s feet. “Last Haven is at your disposal! You needn’t fear anything, my lady. Are these two your enemies?” They seem ready to attack the knight and the handmaiden, bound hands or not.


“N- no!” Dawn stammers.


What if, Ren thinks, looking at the scene playing out before him, what if Dawn was their lost god? Their Lady Cirus? It could make their passage through this place easier. Finding supplies on the journey has been difficult, even though Dawn eats little. The armorer is a temptation too, but it sounds like there were a lot of people who could be saved from the Noxis, if Dawn could talk them out of it. Then again, this detour could end badly like every single detour we’ve taken so far.


He sets a hand on Dawn’s shoulder and gently directs her away from the prisoners. Seething, the handmaiden follows.


“We should ignore these fools,” she says when they’re out of earshot. “Leave them to perish on the shore or kill each other.”


The knight pointedly ignores her and says to Dawn: “Are you up for playing the part?”


“I’m not trained for impersonating a god or a Lady,’ she answers, shooting a sidelong glance at the handmaiden. “Cato did her best to prepare me for every situation she could think of, but she left this one out. Prince knight sir, I… I still trust you. I’ll do whatever you think is best.”


The handmaiden groans. “If you do this, your charade will end in misfortunate as they realize your treacherous elven puppet lacks any real divine qualities."


***

The Eternal Knight awaits an answer to our eternal question: which path to choose? Will he side with a group of devoted cultists or a group of devoted slavers? Of course, the Eternal Knight could act like a rational being and agree with the words of the Handmaiden, but I’ll eat my shoes if that ever happens. What will it be, oh illustrious Fates?


Option 1: The Eternal Knight chooses to go to Last Haven and visit their blacksmith.


Option 2: The Eternal Knight chooses to go to the Temple of Cirus and have Dawn try to save the cultists.


Option 3: The Eternal Knight chooses to move onwards and never look back. It is a silly place.

The chapter voting closes every Monday at 8:00 AM WEST (Lisbon, Portugal time).

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Author's note:


Phew! Another weekly chapter done, we hope you enjoy the decisions!


This week we want to share some postcard sketches from the world of Book of Fates. We paint these in order to flesh out the world and have potential pieces to play with later. We never know where we might go after all. Also, it's just fun to imagine 'what behind this corner, and that corner, and this one too? Once we have plenty, we'll put them together into a small book with a little bit of lore text and additional sketches to go with it and release it to you guys. One day!


Let us know what you think of the idea in Discord, Facebook, or over email!


We're also looking for some volunteers to answer some reader-questions for The Good Robot, and if you're brave and willing, shoot as an email at sksaaremael@gmail.com and we'll prod your brain!



Have a great weekend, love

- Kaya & Silver





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