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Rivers Bend Stories - In Character Discussions

One morning a few days after their arrival, Branwyn walked back into their room with a small stack of cards and messages. Plopping herself down on the edge of the bed, she started thumbing through them. “We got our tickets for the opera for the night after next. Sarengar is in the production and reserved us a box. He sent a note asking us to stay after the show for a party with the cast. This should be fun! I am so glad that Sarengar is in town. You may have met him at Prince Loplin’s ball, but if not, you shall meet him soon. I think you will like him.”

Tiberius rolled over in bed and yawned. “Yes, I think we’ll be ready to leave this room in a couple of days.”

Branwyn laughed and gave Tiberius’ leg a playful smack. Then she continued going through the messages. Nothing from Cornelia or Dryads Lair, so all seemed safe at the moment. She read the last card and smiled. “Do you think you can entertain yourself for an afternoon? My old mentor said he is free and would like a visit.”

Her husband sat up. “I think I can manage. But that means we still have a couple of hours to kill,” he said and pulled her back into the bed. The cards and messages in her hands spilled down onto the floor.

Later that day, Branwyn arrived at the mage academy of Bellamin Tannyth. She was quickly escorted into Bellamin’s office. After a warm greeting, Branwyn sank into a cushioned chair while her former mentor poured the two of them some tea.

“So how is life as an Ambassador, young one? Your fame seems to continue to grow, I see. Yes, word has reached me,” he said kindly.

Branwyn took her cup and said happily, “That trial is over, thankfully. Count Joffrey Vilmar has replaced me. But now I head home to Drillian to see what the war has done to our people and our lands. I might actually find that I would rather have stayed in Terraguard if some of what I have heard is true.”

Bellamin nodded sagely. “Yes, the news coming from Drillian has not been pleasant. To say the least. I am grateful that any turmoil here in Rivers Bend is mostly confined to the noble families’ petty squabbling and does not involve the entire city becoming involved with their occasional violent outbursts. These are dark days in Drillian, but with all wars, they do come to an end in due course and life brightens and moves on again.”

The mage added another pinch of sugar into his tea and moved his finger over the cup to stir it magically. “But I see your life may have gotten brighter already. Is that a wedding band on your finger or have you acquired another magic ring. Or both?”

Branwyn held out her left hand to look at the ring on her hand, not having thought of that possibility before. “Magic? I don’t think so. I seriously doubt the woman who supplied this ring would part with one imbued with magic. But, yes, I am married. To the most wonderful man I could ever imagine for myself. We are on our honeymoon here while waiting for our companions to arrive. I would like you to meet him before we go if you have the time. He is Prince … was … well, he goes by Lord Tiberius Branadarus when he is away from home. And he is definitely away from home. I am taking him home to Drillian,” Branwyn sighed, looking down into her teacup.

“Yet you seem troubled,” Bellamin said kindly and waited for Branwyn speak again.

Now that she was finally here and had a chance to speak, Branwyn took a moment to think about what she could safely say. “Mages do not often marry, do they? I cannot think of one I have ever heard of that is or was. Perhaps it is because they are more solitary creatures by nature. Or maybe it is because trouble has a way of following them more than others. I don’t know. But there is a vampire. A very powerful vampire that threatens both my new husband and me. This vampire is over 200 years old and is extremely wealthy and politically powerful. The vampire has resources at their disposal that I cannot possibly match.’

Branwyn took the liberty of pouring herself some more tea as she continued. “The thing is, this vampire has demanded that we return to the Mist and never emerge again. We are taking a risk just staying here in Rivers Bend and I find myself continually looking over my shoulder for enemies appearing. I do not think this vampire would appear herself, but I would not put it past her to send forces to capture us and return us to her presence. I have not discussed this with my husband for fear as to what he would do. He is the bravest, most fiercesome fighter I have ever met, but I am not sure even with his powers and mine that we could fight such a creature and have both of us survive. I wanted to talk to you about this because Tiberius and I are both fighters. I know how to attack, but am at a loss as to how we should protect ourselves against such a thing. I was hoping that you would have some advice for me.”

Reaching over with a small jar Bellamin poured a touch more honey into Branwyn's mug. "One of the blessing of The Mist is how it cloaks from Divination it is true. It also protects vampires from the normally harmful effects of daylight. It is curious that a vampire would wish to send you into The Mist to prevent her from being able to watch over your actions. Are you certain she is protecting you from herself? or from her enemies that would use you or your husband against her? Tiberius Branadarus sounds like a well established old family. He must have connections and perhaps this vampire wishes to have you remove a chess piece from the board?"

An apprentice enters the room and brings in a scroll. Bellamin reads it over quickly, "I will address the Council tomorrow" he says to the young girl. Dismissed she quietly leaves.

Bellamin looks at Branwyn, "Have you mastered chess?"

Branwyn laughed. “Chess? Prince Loplin of Dryads Lair and I played a few times and he beat me mercilessly. Technically I know the rules of how to play, but I haven’t bothered to spend the time studying strategy. I just push my pieces up the board and watch them get taken eventually. Too much sneaking and hiding in chess. It doesn’t suit me,” she said wrinkling her nose a bit in distaste.

“But about this vampire. The Mist is safe for us because no one can use divination and find us there. We would be out of sight. Out of mind. In fact, there may be rumours spread at some point that Lord Branadarus and perhaps even myself have met an untimely end. And as long as we stay in the Mist, no one will know differently. I don’t even know if Terraguard has an Ambassador stationed in Drillian. This vampire cannot do what she wishes to do if we are roaming freely in or around her lands. So I was given a choice, to escape or die. She considered herself quite generous in the offering of such. The problem is how do I explain this to my husband? I am not fond of the idea of continually charming him into submission. And so if we do eventually venture forth back out of the Mist, how do we protect ourselves from this vampire?”

"In answer to the one question no there are no Ambassadors to the Small Kingdoms from Terraguard because they think it beneath them. Here in Rivers Bend we serve as the outpost tot he wilderness for those seeking a grand adventure. They must have thought you quite exotic at times." He smiled as he watched memories of balls and dinners flash through Branwyn's face.

"For protecting your self I think you are very capable of that. The question would seem to be why would she come after you? I mentioned chess for exactly the reason you dislike it. The feint with one hand while laying the trap in the other. If this vampire is as powerful as you think, then why would she let you leave? Why not just kill you then and there? Did she have a chance to do that and let you slip away? Why? That is what you have to think on. Are you a pawn she is sacrificing? Or a knight she is using to strike at someone with surprise?"

"You say you might be declared dead, who would benefit from that? If in fact you are not dead?"

Bellamin paused and looked more sternly at Branwyn. "I am not happy to have you contemplating charming a man just to keep him at your side. If he is your husband by choice and not by charm then why not simply explain this situation to him? Would he not want to know a vampire is after him?"

He softened a bit, "I also note you have new skills to teleport where you wish so now you have an entire world to go visit and explore."

Branwyn frowned and said a bit impatiently, “I didn’t say I was going to charm him. In fact, I said I didn’t like the idea. Besides, I generally find charm spells to be little more than cheap parlour tricks and they display a certain degree of cowardice in a way of handling situations that I do not find attractive in a magic user. But what kind of mage would I be, if when presented with a problematic situation, that I didn’t consider all options? I considered it and tossed it aside.”

Branwyn sighed and sank deeper into the cushions of the chair. “But this woman … this thing … does make me feel like a coward. It is too hard for you to understand unless I tell you everything.”

Branwyn pulled herself up out of the chair and began pacing about the office. “My husband is supposed to be dead. He needs to be dead for his mother to get what she wants. So why is he alive? His mother had a soft spot for him? She thought that I was strong enough to keep him safe if she allowed such a weakness in herself and did not kill him? Probably both. If he was on his own, she most likely would have killed him as she did her other children. So if she drives us away and says that he is dead, she gets what she wants.”

She shook her head as the thoughts rushed through and continued. “We are not pieces in some game of hers. We are simply loose ends. Out of some freakish lapse of judgment on her part, she gave us an opportunity to live. If I wish for a happy life, all I have to do is stay safely in the Mist and allow her to continue to do what she does. She does not want to hear about or see us ever again. Which is why I said she might just declare us both dead. It would just seem simpler that way, would it not? The problem is …’

‘The problem is my husband is an adventurer and part of the reason that he wants to be with me is that he wants to continue our life together going on grand adventures. But any time we leave the Mist and say our names aloud, we jeopardize this vampire’s safety and, that, she will not allow. Lord Branadarus’ mother is the vampire and he does not know. So to tell him would be to shatter all illusions he has had of his mother, his life, his kingdom. And I didn’t tell him immediately when I found out, which was, it turned out, the night before our wedding when I was locked up in a room in her castle. So I am now complicit. I suppose the easiest and most self-serving thing to do would be to tell him, have him hate me and then leave me. That would put me and everyone else I am close to out of danger because it is likely he would go straight to her. As far as my heart is concerned, I have no control over it. Hearts either mend when they are broken or they turn to stone and crumble. The body seldom has a say in what path the heart will take. But if I tell him and he stomps off to his death alone, the fate of my heart will no longer be of any concern to me. That is the easy path.’

‘The harder path is to keep quiet and keep him safe. I am supposed to protect him. Telling him the truth will hurt him, but the lies may just about kill me. I suppose after all this talk, this is what I am really asking. How do I protect him and not lose me in the process? I don't think there is any magic in these worlds that can do that.”

Bellamin sat and watched as Branwyn paced back and forth like a caged beast. "I can see you feel trapped by the situation and I would not be surprised to see sparks fly from your fingertips. Having a vampire for a mother in law would be dangerous enough but for one who would kill her own children even moreso. Are you so sure that he does not know his mother is a vampire? I would think it is a fairly hard thing to hide for decades."

"I am certain that there is no magic that can heal a heart broken by love. Yet just as you would not charm somone into submission can you really lie to him to keep him that way?"

"Does anyone else know she is a vampire? Someone that he would trust? Or perhaps someone that he does not trust so he will be forced to see the truth in your words. If, or when, he does believe you then I would expect he will be understanding. You protected him from a grave danger. An adventurer like yourself will know how valuable that is in a companion. You protected him from someone he loves, if he does love his mother, from an attack that he would not see coming. You give him information, assistance, support. I have no doubt that after he does know if he decides to leave that you would go with him if you do love him as you assuredly seem to."

"I think we need nourishment," He rang a bell and an apprentice appeared with two trays. Bellamin smiled, "Vorhin, you are paying very close attention to have both of those already prepared. Did you have questions for Branwyn?"

Vorhin cleared his throat and bobbed his head. "Pardon Marquessa Branwyn the Mysterious, I would ask a boon. I have heard you have a spell that devours the flesh off of your opponents. I would ask what quest can I do for you that you would agree to teach me such a spell? What can I bring for you?"

Branwyn’s eyebrow arched at the request and she looked the mage up and down. “Now why would a city mage need a spell that tears living flesh from bone? Have you ever seen such a horror? If you wish to learn this spell, you must be prepared to face using it. If you still agree that this is a spell that you want, then yes, I can teach it to you.” Branwyn sat down again and looked appreciatively at the tray prepared for her. “As for me? I am in need of some protection scrolls. From the undead in particular. We are returning to the Mist soon after all. And yes, yes, I know. You may have to deal with priests to get them. Better you than me. I would also need the particulars of their strengths and limitations. When you read a scroll like that ten feet from a wraith, it helps to know if it will truly protect you.” Branwyn turned her attention back to the tray. “This is lovely … Vorhin? I hadn’t realized that I was indeed hungry. Thank you. I do wish I had my library available. I think I will need to do some research when we return home.”

Branwyn spread some soft cheese onto a roll and waited for Vorhin to respond and exit before returning to her discussion with Bellamin.

Vorhin nodded and smiled. "I will see what I can find and return. I am certain that I want to rip the flesh off of Bordson Del Trill."

Nodding again he quickly left the sitting room.

Branwyn shook her head slightly. “There will be repercussions for attacking a member of one of the noble families with a spell like that. I will refuse him if you wish. It is not a spell intended to settle petty squabbles. In fact, I would be happier to never teach that spell to any mage and I have never done so before. But since he is under your care, I will do it if it pleases you. The first time I ever cast it in battle still haunts me. But then too many things I have done seem to haunt me. I can say that everything I have done has been to protect others, to serve the mission or the Queen, but it doesn’t make it easy sometimes.”

“But my, I am feeling sorry for myself today. That was not my intention for this visit and I thank you for your indulgence,” she said. “But to the vampire again. No, I do not believe that Tiberius knows about the true nature of his mother. What child of royalty really spends much time with their parents? He was not taught to read. And if he knew, I believe he would have told me. He told me she is a witch. Bellamin, I am sure you can imagine the evil and terrible spells I was thinking of for a magic user to achieve over 200 years of life. He knows she is manipulative, but she is his mother and I think he simply accepted what was told to him. Who wouldn’t want to believe and think the best of one’s parents unless forced not to?”

Branwyn paused for a moment. “You bring up an interesting point of collaboration of the truth. I have no idea of who knows what in his kingdom. I did write and warn our group of what she is so that they could take the upmost care in our interactions until we left. There is only one person I can think of in our circle who he could make him believe if he did not take my word on it. I am sure she would be more than happy to help and would enjoy the prospect of the chaos the news of this would cause.’

‘But … the thing is … I don’t know if I want to go back to confront her if he does. It would be one thing to go after a vampire in an abandoned house in the woods. It’s entirely a different matter when that vampire has military strength, her own mages and priests as advisors, and any spells I would use to harm her would be harming his mother. So if he wants to return, do I agree to go and die with him? If he can even stand to look at me after he finds out. Is that to be my fate?”

"We have no fate but the fate we are given" Bellamin murmured. Carefully looking at Branwyn, "I do not see how you can keep a secret like this from him forever. So do you want him to find out now? or later?"

"You have traveled in The Mist for most of your adult life although you were raised outside of it. Do you know any vampires there? Perhaps that would convince your husband how dangerous they are?"

“Well, this will be the last I talk about this today, so I suppose it will be later. And yes, I do happen to be acquainted with a vampire that I could say … owes me a favor. I have thought of speaking with him. Oh Bellamin, there is little than I have not thought of when it comes to this matter. These thoughts overtake me whether I want them to or not. It has helped to be able to voice them aloud as I have not had that opportunity since this whole nightmare began. I know you are busy so I shan’t take any more of your afternoon. But I thank you most gratefully for your time and indulgence of my fears.” Branwyn laughed weakly. “Fear is pretty much an alien emotion to me. I suppose it is but a dangerous side effect of love.” With that she stood and gathered her things to leave.

Bellamin smiled at Branwyn, "You were one of my first wild apprentices and you will always have a place in my home. You know to only send word and you will have a place. I do hope you spend some time in the city and try to learn to relax. When your friends arrive then you will know more of what to do. Go in peace my child.