I awoke to Kara stirring me; I felt exhausted and had a thirst, which nearly locked my throat from all speech. I first thought I overslept and the others were ready and waiting for our trip into the sewers. It was then that it dawned on me I wasn’t in my bed, but in Princess Anneka’s and she was asleep to my right. The pleasure of seeing her radiant peaceful face was replaced by panic, what had I done and why could I not remember? Andrew was also present in the royal chamber and they recited a tale of a curse placed upon the Princess and I from the locket merchant three days ago and that she was in fact Loreena the Enchantress an agent of lady Crimson and the woman I saved from brigands the day prior.
A party including Aranwe, Andrew, Faelwyn, Leyorin and Tendra was sent out to retrieve the missing locks of hair to break the spell. They managed to capture the Enchantress who was a victim in her own right from Lady Crimson, but they were ambushed by two dozen Blackguard lead by General Thraken. Leyorin fell in battle and Faelwyn stayed behind to allow the others to escape. On the journey back Aranwe was wounded by a poisoned black arrow. At news of this Kara ran to check on Arenwe. I began to make preparations to depart and go after Leyorin and Faelwyn. Andrew believes them dead, but I had to at least try. With Arenwe under the best care available in the city we gathered our belonging and went to the stables. Waiting for us were several spare mounts, five guards and a half elf noble by the name of Darren Farstryder. He was most excited to be of aide; Kara appeared to have met him before. With Andrew at our side we set out.
That night we reached the old keep. A unnatural fire has scorched the grounds and walls. None of the corpses remained. Inside the keep we encountered four animated Blackguard corpses who called out for Rowe’s death. We returned them to a true death, but the rest of the keep was empty. Moving out of the tree line was a battered, wounded and older looking Leyorin. He retold the battle between Faelwyn and Thraken. He believed for an unknown reason that Faelwyn was taken alive. Some debate was made of the decision which including a female elf. Between that news and the black arrow attack on Aranwe we all believed the female elf was Viper. With no tracks to follow we returned back to Merikesh.
Upon our return Lord Farstryder noted that the banquet where Princess Anneka would declare her new husband will be held in two days time. The conversation further revealed that there are three suitors for the Princess; Lord Stormblade, Garrick Dorn The Grey Bear and Darren Farstryder although he has his eyes set on Kara. I felt light headed at the news, but reassured myself this could not the truth. Once back at the palace we learned that Arenwe has survived the worst of the poison, but is still unconscious. Kara filled me in on the Heart Seeker bow that Viper is after. We concluded that Viper must be holding Faelwyn hostage for the bow, but till she makes contact with us there is little we can do.
I confronted Princess Anneka about the suitors and it was like a dagger to my gut when she confirmed the news. She doesn’t want to take a husband out of tradition, but she would for her people, it’s what they need to feel safe. I was shocked that she would marry with out love, as love is the singular quality that separates man from animal. Not to mention that her suitor would become King and the ultimate authority and no one is more passionate and better suited to rule the Je’han then Anneka. My attempts at reason failed to penetrate her duty to her people’s and tradition. I had to excuse myself to catch my breath. I returned to our suite feeling completely defeated. Kara kindly made herself available to me, and I shared my feelings and failure with the Princess. Kara told me that my talk to her about holding on to hope and that the future could be changed stirred with in her and now it was my turn not to lose hope. We have two days to change the Princess’s mind and Kara would help.
The next night we attended a gala thrown by the Farstryders. Being in the presence of the Princess in her stunning white gown overshadowed my despair, temporarily until the royal suitors presented themselves. I learned that Lord Vitol Stormblade was cousin to Aden Kell. I must confess I miss behaved towards the suitors especially Vitol, but the taught of his hands on her brought out the worst in me.
As part of the entertainment exotic swordsmen were dueling with the guests. Vitol challenged Kara and I to participate unless we we’re afraid. Seeing this as an opportunity I addressed the nobles of Merikesh announcing how women can be just as powerful and brave as any man and that I’d bet on Kara’s blade over any man in the kingdom. Unable to accept the challenge by Kara alone I entered the ring as well as our host Darren who I imagine set up the entire event to show off to Kara.
Individually we entered a melee contest of three touches. It quickly became apparent that these entertainers where not playing to the touch, the circles we stepped with in were magic and dampened sound along with imprisoning us with our assassins. The bard announcing the competition was an Antivian Crow sorcerer employed by Lady Crimson. Once finding us capable opponents the Sorcerer joined my opponent against me hurling balls of lightning and Darren’s combatant abandoned him to double up on Kara. The guards tried in earnest to break down the magic barrier. Kara suffered several deep wounds, but managed to strike down the two and I slew the last swordsmen. Alone against the three of us the sorcerer ended his own live in an eruption of lightning, but not before vowing that the crows would finish the contract in time.
The barrier finally broke and we returned to the palace to get immediate treatment to Kara. The Princess apologized for all of the danger that has befallen us since first arriving in their lands. This caused me to think of Leyorin, Niles, Aranwe, Faelwyn and Kara. They all have suffered as payment for my vow to slay the dragon lord of the Midlands and my pledge to stay in Merikesh a little longer in so that selfishly I could have more time with Anneka. It does not seem far that I remain standing when so many have fallen or suffered. This line of thought has speech was interrupted by the Princess’ declaration that tomorrow’s banquet will continue as planned. I was appalled that her thought could so quickly go back to choosing a king for her people at the cost of her right to love. Unable to hear anymore I unceremoniously excused myself.