The Quester: Lady Irane of Tarth
"Betrayer!" screamed Lady Irane at the massed ranks of the enemy before her.
"Submit now," replied a pleasant-sounding voice, "or suffer the consequences."
"Never!" returned lady Irane, silently motioning her comrades to move closer, then she uttered her spell: "Iave Tuve Go" and the world changed to black.
"Welcome back Lady Irane" a kind but slightly pompous voice greeted her as colour and the world began to return to her. It was the voice of her Majordomo, Bob. "And of course to you Magar and Lady Badra", he greeted her companions who had escaped along with her. "I take it that negotiations with the Oracle Ceresa did not go well".
"Oh they went fine," snarled Irane. "We came to an agreement - that ring that she wanted for safe passage through her lands. So we found the ring, handed it over, then when we were going through her lands as agreed, she surrounded and attacked us. Words cannot describe what she is, she's a villain, a miserable ...". She mentally ran through a list of vile epithets before choosing the worst she could think of. "A miserable politician!".
"Perhaps we shouldn't have tried sneaking through her land in the first place." the calm Magar suggested, shrugging as Irane directed her glare at him.
"We had no hostile intent." she retorted. "We were just trying to get to that lost temple on the other side beyond her lands. Well she won't stop us. We'll just have to find another route now."
"In the meantime," her Majordomo intervened trying to calm her down by changing the subject, "perhaps you would like to see the latest research we have uncovered."
"You've made some breakthroughs?" Irane asked eagerly.
"We have indeed, and after you have rested and eaten, I will discuss them with you."
"Hmmm" snorted Irane, but after a moment reluctantly allowed herself to be herded towards her Quarters.
The view out of the windows from her rooms never failed to inspire Lady Irane. From the top of the tallest spire, she could see all of Shakana, the Hidden City laid out down below her. At night the street lanterns showed up as a whirl of sparkly patterns and the city walls in the distance were bathed in a faint glow from the magical defences. By day the mountains all around in the distance provided a comforting feeling of security from the outside world, while the veils of illusion could sometimes be spotted in the sunlight. "Shakana, the greatest city in the world, the cradle that will bring a new civilization to this world." thought Irane. One day they will come from all over the world, to gain enlightenment, or knowledge or just to gaze in wonder at this city. But for now it would remain hidden and secure. And right now she had one majordomo to hunt down and extract this new research he had taunted her with.
She found him in the Great Library, perusing a few old scrolls. He looked up and smiled at her impatient look, but allowed her to open the conversation. When she continued staring at him ominously, he gave in.
"OK, I'll get to the subject. Do you remember that body encased in ice you found to the north-east of us?"
She took a few moments to recollect. "Oh yes. It looked almost alive in that ice. We didn't know whether to try to break open the ice or not."
"Well our researchers found this ancient scroll." he said, picking up one of the scrolls he had been reading. "It was written by a human, a traveller, about a hundred years ago. Here's the key passage:
<<In ye empire of Vaydar, it was ye custome to freeze ye enemies in karborite, a khemickal of strange unkyklable powers.>>"
"Unkyklable - what does that mean?" interrupted Lady Irane.
"Well I saw another term he used for it. He called it non-biodegradable. I think the traveller meant that the person was frozen alive, and could be revived at a later date."
"So they froze their enemies alive? Why not just kill them? Were they daft, these Vaydars?"
"I don't know. But anyway their Empire collapsed soon after when their main city, along with their Emperor, was mysteriously blown up."
"Do we know how they revived those that were frozen?"
"It says that they used a sacrificial knife to cut away the material, and then the body would revive."
"A sacrificial knife? I think I've seen one of those - didn't we take one from some zombies a year or so ago?"
"Yes, they seem to be fairly common. However I think that you sold the knife to a merchant soon afterwards."
"Oh well, we'll find another one."
"In the meantime, you should know that Jordur's party returned successfully from a quest and left you with some new toys to try out at the weapon range."
"New weapons! I've got to check them out right now."
She eagerly made her way out of the library, followed more sedately by the majordomo. As he entered the range, he saw that Lady Irane had already found the new weapon, a gleaming longbow along with a quiver full of arrows. She looked a bit disappointed.
"It's nice and shiny, but is it any better than my current bow?" she asked.
"Why don't you try it out? First use some ordinary arrows and aim at that target over there." he pointed to a target a hundred yards away.
She did as he instructed. She drew the bow and shot the first arrow, then almost immediately a second, and a third. They all hit the target. Then she stumbled a bit, dropping the bow as if it was hot.
"Holy smoke." Irane exclaimed. "How did I shoot them so quickly?". She stooped to retrieve the bow, then looked at it in wonder. There were some runes glowing along its length.
"We think there is a magic from these runes that cause a new arrow to be drawn as the previous arrow is released. Your hand moves to retrieve an arrow, the arrow seems to appear in the hand and the bow is nocked and drawn. It is very quick and difficult to see happening, but you can witness the results."
"Yes!" shouted Lady Irane, "this is going to be the best weapon ever! I feel just like a machine when I use it. I think I am going to name it ... the Machine Bow."
"Now try one of these arrows that came with it - no just one arrow - you'll see why shortly."
Irane drew the bow again with the new arrow, sighted the same target and released. As soon as the arrow left the bow, it seemed to burst into flame. Then as it hit the target, there was a loud KABOOM and lots of smoke. When the smoke disappeard, the target had disappeared.
"Holy flaming arrows with high explosive and smoke!" Irane exclaimed. "The Machine Bow with High Explosive arrows - what a combination!"
The rest of the day was spent discussing the Quests that had been completed and those still open. She had aided the Alchemist in his difficulties with bandits, and had been promised any rare materials she wanted. At the moment, Irane did not know which rare materials would be useful, so she had left that open.
Irane decided that it would be best to continue with the Quest she had been on, to find the Lost Library of Arkania. Since she could not go through Oracle Ceresa's lands, she had to consider alternative routes. She decided that south-west was the direction to travel, which would take her to the lands of Altar. She hoped for better luck at coming to a safe-passage agreement with the ruler of Altar, Lord Relias.
The frozen-body-in-ice Quest could wait until somebody had found another sacrificial knife. The Dragon's cave was being investigated by Jordur and his companions. And there were a number of quests that needed further research, like the search for the Pipes of Peace, if they existed. Irane remembered an old bard singing about them in a tavern years ago. He had apparently been a member of a famous musical band, called the Slugs, that had travelled extensively throughout the world, so he might have known what he was singing about. If she could find the Pipes and use them to bring peace to the world ... and perhaps the Library of Arkania would help in locating them.
So shortly after dawn the next day, Lady Irane and her companions were gathered to set out to the lands of Altar. They had decided to approach openly and attempt a safe-passage agreement rather than attempt to sneak through.
"Fare you well, Lady Irane." called her majordomo.
"Thank you Bob." she replied. "All right, lets up and ride. Altar awaits!"