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Rune returned later that afternoon. The sun was no longer coming in the windows of their east-facing room, but the bright day was still giving off plenty of light. Ratana was still sitting up in bed with Lamai at her side, who was removing some dishes from Ratana’s lunch of soup and bread. He came into the room not nearly as upset as before, but not fully himself either.

“Where did you go?” Ratana asked.

“I walked down to the north gate and back up the hill, then went into the cathedral to sit for a while,” he said.

“Camon and Achara left right after you did,” Lamai noted.

“Camon suggested that we stay in the city because there might be other demons out for me,” Ratana noted.

“Camon isn’t here, nor will I let him determine what we ought to be doing,” Rune said. “I am sorry that I got mad earlier. But I feel like he’s manipulating us.”

“Maybe he is,” Lamai said. “But he did save Ratana, and I don’t think we have much of a choice. This city is well protected, and we already have a place to winter here. In any case, Somchai will be here in a few days, and we can all decide what we should do.”

“Well, until then, we still have something we need to do,” Rune said. “I talked to the Abbot downstairs, and he arranged for a meeting with the Inquisitors over dinner to give our deputation to them about what happened.”

“Do you think we can trust the Inquisitors?” Lamai asked. “They are the ones looking for Camon.”

“Even if they are, Camon himself said that I should do it. They are expecting it. And he told me I should tell them whatever I saw fit. I’ll get some acolytes to help us to dinner.”

Rune left the room to fetch the acolytes. “I don’t like it,” Lamai said. “Not one bit.”

“Me neither,” Ratana said. “But I think we should tell them anyway.”

A few minutes later, Rune returned with a pair of acolytes carrying an uncovered sedan chair. They, along with Rune, helped Ratana onto the litter, then hoisted her up. They walked into the hallway and then down the stairs into the building’s lobby, where the Healers at the door opened it. They came into the courtyard facing the cathedral, then turned towards an avenue leading down away from the cathedral’s plaza. A few hundred yards down the avenue, they turned to face a large building with a large arched doorway with two heavy iron-bound wooden doors. Rune looked up at the decorative marks on the archway above the doors. He observed a carved emblem of the hand bearing the torch on the keystone, and beneath it was an opened book with “TRUTH” inscribed on the pages of the book. His eyes followed the archway reading to the right of the keystone “knowledge,” “wisdom,” and “grace,” and to the left were “trust,” “doctrine,” and “law.”

“The seven virtues of the Inquisitors,” noted one of the acolytes. The acolyte used a large knocker on the door, and it opened slightly. An Inquisitor peered out, seeing the acolytes, Lamai, Rune, and Ratana, then he opened the door. The party walked into an arched hallway with a stone floor line with armor suits, each bearing a halberd with the hand and torch emblem on the breastplate.

“Welcome,” the Inquisitor said. “Our captain is expecting you. Please, right this way.” He led the party down the hall and then into a room with a long wooden table and high-backed chairs upholstered in red. The room had two large fireplaces, one at each end of the table. It was decorated with tapestries depicting scenes of battles. Some house servants dressed in fine silk clothes came out of a doorway next to the fireplace and pulled back the chairs, were Lamai and Rune sat down. They helped Ratana into one of the chairs and gave her a large pillow to lean on. The servants and acolytes left, then a tall Inquisitor with gray hair and a neatly trimmed gray beard in red woolen clothes and a flowing gray cape came in from the door with another man behind him. The man loosed his cape, and the other Inquisitor took it from him and left the room.

“Greetings,” he said. “I’m captain Jaawnat of the Inquisitors. I am honored to have you as my guests today.”

“The pleasure is ours,” Lamai said cordially. “My name is Lamai, and this is Rune, my son-in-law and his wife, Ratana. I apologize for not being dressed more appropriately for such a fine occasion.”

“Please, think nothing of it. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” Jaawnat said. “I’ve heard so much about what happened to you in Neuasut from the rumors there, and I am glad to hear it from the primary source finally. We must get the facts straight about this because it is a matter of Church and Imperial security. But before we do, shall we eat?”

“Yes, thank you,” Lamai said.

The captain clapped his hands loudly, and the servants came back in with a spread of food and set it on the table. There was roast duck, cheese, fresh fruit, roasted vegetables, and freshly baked bread. The smell was savory and filled the room. More servants came in and set goblets before the captain and each of the guests and filled them with ale. Rune picked up the ale and sipped it then chuckled, “I see you like our brew.”

“Your brew?” the captain asked.

“Yes, I believe this is what we make at our brewery in Neuasut,” he commented.

“Fine ale you make then!” the captain exclaimed. The servants served the food, and they ate it while making small talk about their business back in Neuasut, family, the weather, and the journey south. It all passed the time quickly, and before too long, they finished eating. Rune was much merrier with a few goblets of ale in him by now, and the captain had endeared himself to Rune. They were chatting and laughing with one another, like reunited friends. The sun had all but disappeared and the light coming in from outside was dim. The servants lit candles around the room and built a fire in the fireplace giving the room a cozier ambiance. They then cleared the table and brought in a dessert of spice cakes. Lamai and Ratana thanked the servants, who then walked out.

After dessert, the captain got down to business. He summoned a scribe, who came in and stood attentively with the guests and captain.

“Now, please tell me what happened that night,” the captain asked.

Ratana started, recounting the tale of how she was leaving the brewery and then being chased by the demon into the square. She recounted the fate of the phalanx and how the demon utterly obliterated them. She told from her vantage point about Camon and Achara challenging the beast, of the battle with the beast with the flaming sword, and how the demon disintegrated like embers from a fire. She then recalled the constable and his questioning of her.

Lamai filled in the details of what happened after the battle, helping Ratana back home and tending to her, only to watch the corruption overtake her leg. She then recalled taking her out the next day to find help in desperation. She recalled Camon taking Ratana to the local Church and breaking into the Church, then using the priest’s table and stones to perform a ritual. She also recounted Camon’s use of the red stone and how it cured her of the corruption. She then recalled Camon’s interaction with the constable.

Rune filled in the details with the constable and how Camon intimidated the constable. He then recounted making preparations for the trip south and all that happened along the way but making no mention of Camon and Achara accompanying them on the journey south.

The scribe furiously wrote down every detail of the accounts from all three of the guests. When he had stopped writing, there was a brief silence, then the captain asked, “So, the man that saved you – do you know if he was a Paladin?”

“That was the rumor,” Lamai said. “Most of the townspeople of Neuasut were convinced he was.”

“What do you think he was?” the captain asked.

“I believe he was,” Lamai said.

“And the girl with him?” the captain asked.

“I don’t think so,” Ratana answered. “She didn’t have the legendary sword they carry.”

“Tell me, when and where was the last you saw them?” the captain asked.

“Last we saw them?” Rune answered back. He looked at Lamai and Ratana with a glint in his eyes, then looked back at the captain, “This afternoon, right here in Rahtneua.” eome site sotd eome site sotd eome site sotd eome site sotd

Achara was back at the apartment, poking at a fire that she had started. Camon had set a teapot over the flames of fire to boil water. It was now out on the balcony overlooking the courtyard. They had only lit one candle in the apartment, which was more than ample light. The last bit of twilight was hanging on over the horizon before it was completely night. Even so, the moonlight was bright in the sky from the three moons, even though none of them were in full phase.

Achara watched the fire crackle, not thinking much about it. It was warm on her face and peaceful as the embers glowed red. She was somewhat in a daze thinking about the day’s events, then she then froze a still as a statue. She closed her eyes then said, “Ratana?” out loud.

“Rune told the Inquisitors you are here,” she heard in her head. “They are on their way to get you. You must leave!”

“Leave?” she said aloud.

“Yes, leave now!” the voice said again.

Achara jumped up off the wooden chair she was sitting on and rushed over to the doors leading out to the balcony, “Camon, the Inquisitors are on their way here! Rune told them everything! We’ve got to leave!”

“Wait. What? Slow down,” Camon said with a confused look on his face.

“It was Ratana,” Achara said. “She reached out to me and warned me that they… that the Inquisitors are coming. Rune told them we are here.”

“And you are certain of this?” Camon asked skeptically.

“As clear as I am talking to you,” she said.

“Then get your things,” he commanded. He rushed into the apartment to his room and collected his sword and other items and threw them into a bag. He slung the bag over his shoulder and met Achara in the living area near the fire. He went to the door and opened it, and could hear heavy boots coming up the stairs. “Shades!” he whispered, “They’re here already. Quick, to the balcony.”

They went to the balcony and looked down. They were three stories up over the courtyard. Camon looked down and could see a low roof off to the right of the balcony. He then climbed over the edge and lowered himself down until he was hanging off the balcony’s edge. Achara followed. He then began to swing back and forth, then let go falling about 10 feet onto the roof below. He landed on his feet, then rolled to break the fall. Achara repeated the move. They then lowered themselves off the low roof, hanging onto the edge, and dropped to the ground.

“We’ve got to find a way out of here. They will have sealed the main door to prevent our escape that way,” Camon noted. They worked their way around the edge of the courtyard when Camon looked into a window, “Doesn’t look like anyone is home.” He used his sword to pry the window open, which didn’t take much effort. He and Achara climbed into the window, then closed it from the inside. They then saw the Inquisitors come out onto the balcony scanning the courtyard from the apartment. “That was close,” Camon said. They groped their way through the dark apartment and found a window that opened up into a garden next to a small street. Camon then opened the window and looked out left and right. “To the right is the avenue where the main entrance to the building is but to the left is unknown to me,” he said.

“Take our chances with the left,” Achara said. They climbed out the window and carefully closed it behind them. They heard more boots running up the avenue, so they ducked behind some bushes in the garden as they passed. They then quietly left the garden and stayed close to the wall on the street, moving as quickly as they could. Achara checked around the corner, then said, “Clear.” The back entrances to many of the buildings that faced the avenue line the back street, and storage crates, barrels, and other items covered its surface.

“We need to work our way to the south side of the city,” Camon said. “There is a place where I used to sneak in and out of the city when I was a kid. The Inquisitors will be looking everywhere, and we won’t be able to go through any of the main gates either at night or during the day.”

“Where will we go then?” Achara asked.

“We will need somewhere to lay low, and I think I know just the place,” he said. “And I think there is someone there you’ll want to meet.”

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