72 – The Bargain

Flask in hand, you step out to the Mossy Court and see that it is still deserted.  How will you go about finding Rory?

You search the Float, observing Fair Folk participating in a variety of tasks.   You watch in horror as one Fair Folk violent beats another and then collects their victim’s tears.   She then drips the tears on an anvil and began to beat the tears with a blacksmith hammer.  Her victim cleans herself up and though broken teeth calmly inquires how long her knife will take.

After a few hours of searching, you find, not Rory, but the Loathing Commander.   He prowls the line of starfish troops as they lean forward, stand on one foot, arms spread wide while balancing a half full tea cup on their heads.   He stops before one solider and adjusts his stance slightly.  What in Creation are they doing?

When he bends over to relocate a foot, you whisper in his ear “You are Rory’s commanding officer.  You are responsible for him.   Check on him to see if he is okay.”  You back away and wait to see what happens.   The Loathing Commander barely pauses and continues what he is doing.

You pull your hair in frustration.   How are you going to find Rory now?  You are about to leave to keep searching when the Loathing Commander dismisses his men and then starts to walk in a direction you haven’t been yet.   You follow close behind.  The Loathing Commander walks towards a large foreboding tree.    He knocks five times and the tree shudders and its roots split, revealing a passage way.   You quickly duck inside after the Loathing Commander before the roots close.

Inside the tree you find a large chamber with hanging cages, swaying in a nonexistent breeze.   The Loathing Commander approaches one of the cages and it lowers to him.

“Sir?”  Rory asks.

“It has come to my attention that as your commanding officer, I am responsible for your wellbeing.”

“Sir!”  Rory’s ears perk up.  “Are you going to let me out, Sir?”

“What? No!”   The Loathing Commander raises his hand.  Rory’s Armor skitters off of him and drops to the ground as a single starfish.  “I am discharging you from service.  How am I to invite the troops to munity against me when Our Lady has made her displeasure at your existence well known?”  The starfish crawls up the Loathing Commander’s body and into his waiting hand.  “You were going to lead my troops against Our Lady instead of me.  “

The Loathing Commander crushes Rory’s Starfish into dust.  “Since I was responsible for your wellbeing, I would have had no choice but to follow you.  I have not drilled, thrashed, and abused the troops just so you can steal all the attention from me. “  The Loathing Commander flicks the dust of Rory’s Armor in his face and walks out.

Rory looks forlorn.   “Now all hope is lost.   I will never regain my cup and earn my place at my Oath Father’s side.   I shall sit in this cage and calcify into stone.”   A single tear rolls down Rory’s cheek.

This is perfect!  You hesitate.  Almost too perfect.   Is this a trap?   Some fiendish scheme of the Fair Folk to reveal yourself?

Rory wipes his cheek and resettles himself.   “All hope is lost.   I shall never regain my cup and earn my place at my Oath Father’s side.   I shall no choice to fade away.”   A second tear glistens on Rory’s cheek

What the fuck was he doing?  Completely confused by the Fair Folk’s actions, you watch as Rory repeats the same sentiment again and again.  Sometimes changing the wording or inflection.  Other times his pose.   Suddenly, his ears droop.  “My Oath Mother was right.  Reality is a cruel mistress, not allowing me the means to escape.  I suppose I must start chewing my way through the bars of my cage.  ”

“Hello?”  You cautiously approach Rory’s cage, flask hidden behind your back.

“Oh!  The Envoy of the Stars!”  Rory’s cage swings as he turns to where you are standing.  “What brings you to my humble adobe?”

“I need your help.”  You reveal the flask.   The hungry look you saw on the dock returns to Fair Folk’s face.  “Your mother wanted me to kill you, but instead I stole this.  This is your cup right?”

Rory’s eyes never leave the flask. “What quest would you have of my Envoy to see the safe return of my Cup?  Shall I slay a dangerous beast?  Journey across Reality for a bloom of the rarest scent?   Seduce…”

“Actually, I just need your help to save the Children in the Larder.”  You interrupt.

“That’s all?”  Rory’s ears droop.  “Perhaps we could finish our duel instead?”

“What?  No!  This is not negotiable!”  Apparently the flask doesn’t hold much power over Rory.  Maybe you have to be Fair Folk properly use it.   You put the flask back into your bag.   “I let you out of the cage.  You help me save the children and I will give you back your flask.   Is that a deal?”

“The Envoy is an uncreative hack, but he does have our cup.   Hmmm….  It is a deal.”

“Say it three times to bind the deal.”  You remember that much from your boring lectures on the Valiant Hummingbird.

“What?  There’s no need to do that.  Don’t you trust me?”

“Say it!   I will release you out of the cage and gift you the flask, if you help me recuse the harvest children from the larder and…  “ You realized a loophole in your deal   “help me get myself and the other children off of the barge.”

“You added to the deal!” Rory complains.

“Do you want your flask or not?”

Rory repeats the deal three times.   “Does that satisfy you, Envoy?”

“Yes.”  You pull out your boot knife and start cutting away at the bonds tying the cage together.   You slice though the vines and the cage opens far enough for Rory’s slim body to slip though.

The Fair Folk drops to the ground and kneels before you, wearing nothing more than a loincloth, a ring, and a sword sheaved on his back.    “Fear not, Envoy.  I, the Regretful Roar of Hapless Hearts who’s Sword Sings of the Everlasting Evening, shall….”

“Wait,”  you interrupt.  “If you had a sword, why didn’t you cut your way out of the cage?”

Rory stares at you in shock as if the very concept of escaping on his own offended him.  He sighs.  “This is going to be a long quest.”

What do you do now?

  • Hide the children until the Valiant Hummingbird arrives
  • Find a way to get the children off of the float
  • Trust that the Blue Lady will not harm the children due to her agreement and leave them where they are.
  • Other