Etelle looked dismayed when she returned to him. "These are Shine and Shadow?"
"…What?" Fayne asked. "Yes, I did recover them and yes I do have them. In my pack. What are you even talking about? You can't see them."
Etelle looked confused now.
Fayne sighed and pulled out the daggers. "Here."
"Now, as I was saying," Etelle continued. "The Templars back in Adessa will think that I am a fool for bringing back simple daggers and not an artifact of great importance."
"Well they are very nice daggers and who knows what other properties it won't be your problem to discover they possess?" Fayne asked rhetorically. "Besides, they didn't send you out to retrieve artifacts of great importance generically, now did they? They wanted you to bring back these specific artifacts and you will and so they have no business being upset with you. Except maybe for losing the rest of your team."
Etelle sighed. "If only the templars would see it that way!"
"Are the templars really that petty and stupid they'd blame you for the fact that the artifact they know nothing about isn't what they wildly guessed it could be?" Fayne asked skeptically.
Etelle hesitated. "I wouldn't say 'petty' or 'stupid' exactly…"
Fayne sighed. "Well good luck with that, then."
Etelle gave her some money and off she went.
She was merrily killing her way through all the Ettin in the area when Holn ran up to her.
"You did it! You found my bride! Did you see the sexy way she slaughtered that Ettin?" Holn asked, star-struck.
Fayne took a step back, suddenly quite uncomfortable. "Uh, no offense Holn but I'm not going to marry you."
Holn blinked at her. "You? Well no offense to you either but I wouldn't want that!"
"But I'm the one who killed that Ettin."
"No, no, I saw my lovely bride do it with my own eyes!"
"Yeah, that's impossible since it was me," Fayne argued. "And does is strike you as at all odd you don't appear to have a name for your bride? Or that she could have been 'frightened' away from meeting you because of some pests when she could take out a full-grown Ettin like I just did?"
"Well…I…" Holn broke off. "You're right! That's not my bride! That's a filthy leanashe! Can you go kill it for me to preserve the memory of my bride?"
"I was probably going to kill it when it attacked me anyway in a moment but…you realize there was never any bride, right? Just a leanashe who was going to kill you. What's to preserve?" Fayne asked reasonably.
"Oh just do it and let me revel in my cognitive dissonance in peace," Holn snapped.
Sighing, Fayne took out the leanashe.
"Thank you so much for that," Holn said gratefully. "I guess I'm going to go live with Thaddeus in Didenhil after all. In the meantime here, take my wedding ring."
Fayne held up her hands. "Okay, hold on, guy! Just because I killed your killer non-nymph fiancé doesn't mean that I want to-"
Holn twitched. "Why do you keep thinking I want to get married?"
"Oh, I don't know," Fayne said sarcastically. "Maybe it was the fact that you literally got engaged to some weird creature whose name you didn't even know at the drop of a hat and you won't stop talking about how lonely you are. And you want to give me a wedding ring!"
"It's a reward for helping me and, no, my hand is not a part of that reward," Holn said frigidly. "I expect you to keep it with you always or at least store it in your house or something and not sell it like a normal reward because this isn't just a normal reward. It's my wedding ring. It has far too much sentimental value and I'm trusting you not to pawn it."
Fayne made a face. "Well if I can't even sell it without being a terrible person then can you just keep it?"
"No. And I also need you to go find a charm of my wife's that I left lying on top of her grave and some Ettin stole," Holn told her.
"So demanding," Fayne complained but she set off anyway.
When she returned with the charm, Holn gave her what appeared to be all the money he had and said she could sleep in his home whenever she wanted. It was a nice gesture but also sort of creepy so she quickly left.
Fayne returned to the House of Ballads and took a moment to revel in the adulation of her fae subjects before going to find Alyn. She was attempting to convince one of the fae that she had the Codex of Destiny but, since actually Fayne had it, she only had limited success.
"Ah, here you are!" Alyn exclaimed. "I was starting to think that you would never show up."
"Really?" Fayne couldn't believe it. "It's only been like two days."
"Well I know you didn't come straight here."
"I came mostly straight here," Fayne said. "Seriously, you need to lower your expectations about my punctuality. I've kept Agarth waiting for months at a time before."
"Yes but that was Agarth and he's obviously a lot less interesting than I am," Alyn reasoned.
"Yeah, lower those expectations down right now or you're going to drive yourself crazy waiting for me," Fayne warned.
"This is Glianel, loremaster of the House of Ballads," Alyn introduced. "Give the Codex over to him and let's see if he can do anything with it. I doubt it, personally, but it won't hurt to try."
"I know who King Sagrell is!" Glianel exclaimed, highly insulted.
Alyn stared at her. "I'm sorry. Did he just say that you were King Sagrell?"
"Oh, did you not know that?" Fayne asked innocently.
"I had heard that King Wencen was displaced for cowardice and the mortal Sagrell took up the throne but since they refuse to acknowledge people outside of their roles there really wasn't any way for me to know it was you," Alyn said defensively. "Though perhaps the fact that the Maid was changing the telling and you changed it right back should have been some sort of a clue."
Glianel held out his hand for the codex and Fayne gave it to him. "Why would a codex reveal itself to you?"
"Uh, well, I was over at the Theater of Fate and Agarth told me that I should touch it so he could see what my fate was and it sort of broke so I took this and left," Fayne said. "I'll concede that it's pretty odd, really."
"Oh, what is this nonsense?" Glianel burst out.
"What nonsense?" Fayne asked him.
"It says that someone is going to come along and change Fate and grant a permanent death to the fae and I don't even…it's nonsense. Nothing but nonsense," Glianel said firmly. "Therefore it must all be lies because I don't like what it says."
"Not for nothing but…remember the Maid of Windemere? And how she kept changing the Telling? And how I accidentally ended up changing the Telling by stopping her? And how, with her prismere, the only way I could have done that was by having no Fate myself to bind me? And how everyone is giving me grief because I probably permanently killed a bunch of people by not having any skill in dispellment? And that's how I became your king in the first place?"
Glianel coughed, embarrassed. "Oh, right. That. Well I guess this could be genuine after all. But I still don't like it and it's creepy and I don't want anything to do with it. And besides, I can only read a little bit of it anyway so you really should take it to the High King in Ysa."
"Well thanks anyway," Fayne told him. She turned to Alyn. "Now what?"
"Now we go to Ysa to see the High King. Unfortunately, he doesn't want people cluttering up his nice fae city and killing him would be quite the coup for Gadflow so we'll need to get permission from the oldest living mortal, Nyralim, to see him," Alyn said.
"How old is the oldest living mortal?" Fayne asked.
"I'm not sure exactly but he's surprisingly older than the fae," Alyn said. "He's also a giant talking tree. Kind of weird, I know. And he, like most people who have had dealings with me, can't stand me. Something about me betraying him or something, I don't even remember. I'll pop up again later on but you'll probably do better on your own. I don't think you were involved with the Nyralim incident but then again who can say? Certainly not you. And even if you were, you have amnesia now so I'm sure it doesn't count."
"Oh great," Fayne deadpanned.
"Here's where you go," Alyn said, showing Fayne the spot on the map. "Go ahead, take your time with this if you want. I'm not actually waiting this time."
"I just know this is a test!"
Test or not, Fayne was promised that it was perfectly alright to go do other things instead of going to meet with the giant talking ancient tree and so she decided she might as well go look up the Warsworn since she had been told she could join and had to deliver the message from that corpse.
She just sort of wandered into their Keep and nobody tried to stop her or ask for any identification despite how heavily armed she was so she couldn't say that she was favorably impressed from the start.
There was an old guy standing a few feet away from the entrance so she decided to walk up to him first.
"A commendation from Odura, huh? Well that will get you in the front door but you'll still have to survive your first mission before you can be more than the hired help," the man said.
"Well that doesn't sound very appealing. And I got the impression from Odura that you guys were literally willing to take anybody you were so desperate for bodies," Fayne said. "I had to slaughter the whole Red Legion to get the damn commendation in the first place!"
The man raised an eyebrow. "Really? Because we've been having a bit of a problem with them here and-"
"Oh, never mind," Fayne snapped. "How did you even know that I met him, much less that he gave me a commendation?"
"Well you came up to me, didn't you?" the man asked rhetorically. "I'm Tine Delfric. I'm in charge. If you wanted a mission board quest thing I'm not the guy to talk to. So I figured that you were here to join up, and if you were serious you'd have the commendation, or you were here to try and assassinate me and you don't look that stupid."
There was only one thing to say to that. "But why Odura specifically? Is he literally your only recruiter?"
"We're not so desperate we need more than that, not yet," Delfric said. "Listen, there's a war going on and any chance for heroics was lost long ago."
"Not according to the House of Ballads where I performed all sorts of feats of heroism and became king. Or Canneroc where I saved them all from being eaten by spiders. Or Didenhil where I killed enough people I stopped a plague. Or-"
"Okay, okay, I get it. But there's no heroism to be found with the Warsworn so it's good you're getting that in elsewhere," Delfric interrupted. "Hirelings like yourself can make a good living standing guard."
"I'd rather stab myself in the eye," Fayne said honestly.
"Well there's also a road patrol leaving soon. Traders on this one road keep getting attacked so wander the road awhile and hope that whoever is attacking is stupid enough to attack you but also weak enough not to kill you," Delfric said. "Do something interesting and maybe one day you, too, will get to join the lowest ranks of our order."
"I can see why they don't put you in charge of recruitment and only send people here when they're fully committed," Fayne said.
Before she left she decided to talk to some of the other people in the Keep to see if anything interesting was going on. She approached one man and he groaned. Not a good sign.
"Oh, stop gawking. Sure there are grander sights than Shielding Keep but it's home," the man said defensively.
"Oh, I wasn't gawking," Fayne assured him. "And I wouldn't. I don't actually think I've seen a grander keep than this before."
"Have you seen any other keeps before?" the man asked.
"I'm not entirely sure so probably not," Fayne replied.
"Well that's alright then. I'm Idwold Freward. If you're looking to join up with the Warsworn talk to Tine Delfric," Idwold said.
"I just did that two minutes ago and you were looking right at us," Fayne pointed out.
Idwold shrugged. "Well I can't say that I was paying the most attention in the world now can I? Anyway, if you complete any of the tasks on the quest board then – Warsworn or freelancer – talk to me and I'll pay you."
"I should probably talk to you anyway and give you this," Fayne said, digging into her pack and pulling out the note from the corpse she found earlier. "This guy apparently finished your Ettin quest. But then he died."
"In that case we don't have to pay him and certainly won't pay you for finding his body," Idwold said, taking the note. "Ah, but here he said he didn't even kill all of the Ettin!"
"I killed all the Ettin in the area though, my track record being what it is, I'm sure they'll bet better or something or more will come to the area. Are Ettin fae?"
"I'm sure I don't know," Idwold said. "But I'm just going to take your word for it that you killed them so take this money."
"That's oddly trusting," Fayne said. "I think I'll have to remember that and take a look at your quest board."
There was only one quest up and it apparently was reposted. It turned out that if nobody did the contract then every five days they kept reposting it until it annoyed someone enough to actually do it. In this case, Fayne was supposed to kill a bunch of trolls in Haxhi. She couldn't promise the posting wouldn't need to be reposted another five times but she'd look into it. And even if someone else also killed the trolls, there would always be plenty for her to kill.
Fayne went off to go find the man she was supposed to bring to Warden's Bridge in Didenhil for the start of their patrol. He was in a healer's home standing worriedly over an ill woman.
"The plague still?" Fayne asked, surprised. "I thought I fixed that."
"Oh, it's not the plague," Astrid said. "They've just all got the flu."
Fayne explained their mission to her fellow recruit and he looked relieved.
"Paid work?" he asked rhetorically. "That's great. The gold's running low and Mother's not doing too good."
Fayne winced. "Oh, don't say that! You're tempting Fate."
"If my fate is to die doing this then I don't see how me saying something or not is going to change is," the man said reasonably.
"Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you," Fayne said. She let the man leave first and then turned to the ill woman. "You know, I feel bad. I do. Take this just in case."
"Thank you," the woman said, surprised. "But what exactly do you-"
"Sorry, got to go. Warsworn work," Fayne interrupted, running off.
She met up with a group of Warsworn that just happened to include Ost Odura.
"Done recruiting for now?" she asked.
"I'm never done recruiting," Odura said. "So if I spot someone that looks like they are competent-ish and isn't already a member of our order, I'm going to need to break away from the group for a minute. I'm surprised it took you this long to make your way here. I gave you that commendation more than three months ago and I know this group only contains hirelings. Surely if you were still a hireling after all this time, you'd just give it up as a bad job."
"Actually," one of the other hirelings spoke up. "I've been a hireling for five years now and I have to say that it is one of the most fulfilling-"
"Oh, shut up," Odura snapped.
"Well, I had to go become the king of the House of Ballads first," Fayne explained. "That seemed a little more pressing as they were actually under attack and in a state of some emergency and things seem to be okay here."
"For now, yes," Odura said. "But if people were prepared for emergencies they wouldn't really be emergencies, would they?"
"I don't know about that," the same hireling said. "After all, if you know that a flood is coming – or a Tuatha attack – then maybe you can try to prepare for it but you can't prevent it entirely and-"
"One more word and I'm throwing you out of the order," Odura warned him.
He wisely shut up.
"Now, we're here to investigate the missing travelers. Just basically wander around and hope you see something," Odura instructed. "We'll meet up in a little while."
The group split up and Fayne dutifully investigated rocks and footprints and basically learned nothing. When she got to what she vaguely thought might kind of be the meeting spot, only Odura was there waiting for her.
"Oh good, I'm in the right spot," Fayne said, sighing in relief. "But wait, where is everyone else? Did they get lost? I totally didn't get lost so they have no excuse. Should we go looking for them or something? Am I early? Or am I late and you had to wait around for me?"
"Actually…" Odura trailed off, looking awkward. "They all died."
Fayne's eyebrows shot up. "All of them?"
"Yeah. I was just waiting for you. They were picked off one by one and it turns out we've got Niskaru back here," Odura said.
"I was gone for maybe five minutes!" Fayne protested.
"The Niskaru strike fast and now we have to go investigate the source of it and wipe them all out," Odura told her.
"What's a Niskaru?"
"Niskaru are the demonic creatures straight from hell who want to wipe out all life," Odura explained. "We Warsworn stand against them but we haven't had to in quite some time. We should really go deal with this, just the two of us."
"Are you sure that's the best plan?" Fayne asked uncertainly. "I mean, I know that I'm amazing and I have faith that you're pretty competent if they put you in charge and you want to do this but…seriously? Let's go back and get reinforcements."
"It's too late for that."
"Not really. We don't know that they're launching an attack right now or anything. It wouldn't take very long," Fayne said.
"I'm going and if you want to get paid and have a chance to get promoted you'll go, too," Odura said stubbornly.
Fayne sighed. "Oh, alright. But I didn't really plan on killing any minor demons today."
Somehow, Odura seemed to know exactly where the Niskaru would be coming from which Fayne found terribly odd and a bit suspicious.
At last, he stopped before an entrance. "Okay, the patrol's done. Here's your pay. You can make your way back on your own or come with me to kill all the Niskaru and maybe make Pledgeshield."
"Maybe?" Fayne couldn't believe it. "You want me to face down demonic creatures and who even knows what else and you can't even guarantee I'll get promoted?"
"Tine Delfric hates promoting people so quickly," Odura confided. "He thinks it sets a bad example for all the rest. And to be fair, when this kind of thing happens all the hopeless ones who haven't done anything deserving start pestering him for a promotion because of 'seniority.' Besides, we might not even find any Niskaru here and then you wouldn't even deserve a promotion."
"I might deserve one for being willing to face down a Niskaru," Fayne suggested hopefully.
Odura sighed. "Just come on, will you? Brigand's Hall is a thieves' den, just so you know, so there's going to be traps everywhere."
"Just like whenever I go into any building that isn't a home or an inn," Fayne said, sighing.
"Hey, how about I put you in charge, new recruit?" Odura asked suddenly. "I need to think and I can't both think and walk in front."
"Then maybe you shouldn't be leading at all…" Fayne suggested tactfully. "Oh, right, war and a shortage of men."
And so Fayne ran around looting things, getting hit with traps she couldn't be bothered to avoid, and eventually came across a group of people.
"What's this?" Odura asked, finally shaking himself out of the stupor he'd been trailing after her in. "Bloody mages and not Belen's Testament, either."
"What's a Bhelen's Testament?" Fayne asked curiously.
"They're a death cult," Odura explained. "They worship a god of death and believe they are saving people by killing everyone. It's rather terrifying how quick they are to massacre everyone. I have no idea how they manage to not kill each other long enough to recruit. Or how they recruit anyone when they kill everyone they meet. Just…their logistics makes no sense at all. But this isn't them. These people must have powerful chaos magic to summon and control Niskaru."
"Chaos magic?" Fayne repeated. "Now you're just making things up."
"I'll tell you what. We survive this and I'll buy you a drink and tell you all about it," Odura promised.
Fayne winced. "Oh, now you had to tempt Fate, too!"
Odura didn't answer and merely attacked the mages. Fayne joined in and soon the mages were all dead. Odura looked pointedly at one of the Niskaru and took out his sword and Fayne could only watch in horror as the other Niskaru very slowly approached him and impaled him.
With Odura out of the way, it was up to Fayne to single-handedly defeat them both. Careful not to let one of them get behind her, she did so and ran up to Odura who was still breathing if only barely.
"How could you not see that coming?" Fayne demanded. "It was moving very, very slow."
"If…if you saw it…coming then wh-why didn't…you stop it? Or at least…warn…me…?" Odura asked. But then he died and so Fayne didn't have to answer that very pertinent question.
Instead, she continued on and eventually heard some sort of mage identify himself and his fellows as the something weird starting with an F.
"The Ferengi?" Fayne asked, puzzled.
"The Fahrlangi," the mage corrected, summoning a giant Niskaru.
It was a little bit more complicated to kill this one but she ultimately was able to beat it to death with its own fate. She grabbed everything in the room, including some weird thing she didn't know what it was, and headed back to the Keep.
"Well, hireling?" Delfric asked her. "How goes the patrol? Or did you choose not to do it. If you just skipped it then I can't promise that another opportunity will come knocking on your door."
"Oh, no, I went," Fayne said. "But everyone but me – including Ost Odura – died horribly. They were killed by Niskaru who were summoned by some people calling themselves the Ferengi, I think. It was really weird."
Delfric stared at her. "Then…no offense but how are you still standing? Did you flee like a coward?"
"You mean 'like a sane person when faced with demonic hellbeasts'?" Fayne corrected.
Delfric nodded. "Yes, like that."
"I did not. I killed all the Niskaru and the Ferengi who were there and then I came back here," Fayne explained.
"But…you're only a hireling!" Delfric burst out, unable to believe it.
"Yeah, but that's just because I joined up all of five minutes ago," Fayne pointed out. "Technically speaking the weakest of all people who dream of becoming a Warsworn and someone who can decimate armies would both have to start off as a hireling. You look at people with my rank and decide that we must be weak but actually I just killed all of the Niskaru there without breaking a sweat. And Odura promised me he'd strongly consider making me a Pledgeshield if I went with him to kill the Niskaru but he died before he was able to do it."
"Well then let me make you a Pledgeshield," Delfric said. "Fayne, you're a Pledgeshield."
Fayne shrugged. "Sweet. I really love how everyone keeps just automatically believing my version of events with no proof."
"Are you lying?" Delfric asked sternly.
"No but you can hardly just take my word for that, can you?" Fayne asked rhetorically.
"Actually, I think that I can," Delfric replied.
"I should probably tell you I found this weird thing and it might be important or it might just be some modern art," Fayne said, taking it out of her pack and showing it to Delfric.
He took it reverently. Perhaps he was an art fan. "This…this is the Heart of Sibun. Eagon won this centuries ago. It should be locked in our Ancient Vault."
Probably not art then. She would have asked who this Eagon was but he seemed to think she should already know and she didn't want to expose herself as uninformed especially if it was something really basic. "Clearly your Ancient Vault isn't particularly secure."
"Clearly," Delfric agreed grimly. "Go to Helmgard keep and work with Grian Shane to figure out who managed to rob us and why and if we need to kill any more Niskaru. I would have liked to have sent Ost on this task but since he's dead I might as well send the newest and most inexperienced of our order instead."
"Shouldn't something as dangerous as a Niskaru summoner or whatever this is be destroyed instead of just put into storage?" Fayne wondered. "I mean, in what possibly situation could you see yourself needing to use the Niskaru and summoning them being a good plan?"
"You'd be surprised who might think that was a good idea," Delfric said absent-mindedly. "And we can't destroy it. It's been declared a historical artifact. You know how it is."
"I…okay then," Fayne said, mystified. "I'll get going to Helmsgard."
She was walking along, hoping she was going in the right direction, when she came across man.
"You, there, did the Warsworn send you?" he asked hopefully.
"I guess that depends," Fayne said. "This clearly isn't Helmsgard Keep-"
"Oh, no, this is nowhere near it," the man said. "Here, give me your map and I'll point it out. Right there."
"Why does everyone always assume I have a map?" Fayne wondered.
"Because only an idiot would travel without one," the man answered.
"As I said, this isn't the Keep so if you're here to destroy some trolls and there was a note on the quest board about it then yeah I guess I was technically sent in that the notice was reposted and I agreed to do it."
"Good to know you, then," the man said, shaking her hand. "My name is Declan Malus. My companion Jory was killed and I've been here for about a week. There were more trolls than expected and they were fiercer than I anticipated, too. I'm severely injured so I hope you can take them all by yourself."
"Somehow I doubt that will be a problem," Fayne told him.
"We were expecting rock trolls but it's actually mountain trolls. Good luck!"
She had killed just taken out her fifth troll when she ran into a gnome.
"I'm afraid you've caught me at a bad time," the gnome told her. "The famed hospitality of the gnomes may be missing today."
"Famed hospitality?" Fayne repeated, surprised. "This is literally the first I've ever heard of such a thing."
The gnome stared at her in horror. "Well now I really can't let you leave without experiencing it but now's really not the best time."
"Why don't you tell me what's going on?" Fayne said persuasively.
"My name is Stellen Reitan. I'm a surveyor from the east. As a surveyor, my journal is my most precious possession and I literally cannot get by without it," Stellen began.
"And, let me guess, you lost it."
"I didn't lose it," Stellen said indignantly. "My friend Horace Despero wanted to borrow it and he went off into a cave and I haven't seen him or it since."
"Oh, I get it," Fayne said, snapping her fingers. "He must have stolen your journal and taken off and you'll never see him again. He'll either sell your journal outright or use the secrets to further his own career. That really sucks."
"He didn't steal my journal!" Stellen cried. "Why would you even think that?"
Fayne shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe something about how 'Horace Despero' is the most obvious fake name that I have ever heard in my life. It is just seriously ridiculous."
"It really is his real name," Stellen tried to tell her.
"I'm sure it is," Fayne said patronizingly.
Stellen twitched. "No, my problem, you see, is that I think my friend is probably dead and my journal lost but I know if I go in there I'll just die, too, and my journal isn't quite worth my life. If somebody else could go and find out what happened and bring my journal and, miraculously, my friend back to me then I'd be eternally grateful. And monetarily grateful just in case I'm not being clear."
"Well I don't think you're going to find anything but if you promise that if I go in this cave and make a good-faith effort to find him and he's not there then you'll still pay me anyway then I'll go look for him," Fayne offered.
"Oh, thank you so much!" Stellen exclaimed. "The cave's right over there. I've pretty much been camped right outside of it waiting so unless there's a back entrance he literally couldn't have snuck past me and that's part of why I'm so certain that he's still in there and probably dead."
Declan had wandered over at some point during the conversation so she went over to him.
"How many trolls was I supposed to kill? I got five of them," Fayne said.
"You were supposed to kill all of them," Declan said.
"And I'm supposed to wander around hoping I haven't missed one for how long now?"
"Actually, I'm pretty sure there were just the five," Declan admitted. "So I guess you're done then. It's amazing what you've managed to accomplish."
Fayne decided not to mention that it hadn't really taken all that much to kill the trolls because she was sure this guy with his dead friend wouldn't appreciate her thoughts on the matter.
"Since the trolls are now dead and I don't have to look at that damned unfilled quest anymore, I can safely return home with my honor," Declan said. "If you hadn't come along I probably would have made no effort to kill the trolls again or get any adequate medical attention and would have just died out here so as not to embarrass myself. You can have Jory's sword hilt. It was very important to him so please don't sell it. I know you never met him but it has sentimental value. You'd best hurry up back to Shielding Keep before someone else tries to do this quest, sees that it's been completed, and takes the credit."
"Are people really that horrible?" Fayne asked.
"I would absolutely do just that," Declan replied. "Well, later then."
Fayne went into the cave and was quickly set upon by some walking skeletons. They were never that challenging to deal with but they also never seemed to attack on their own. She pressed further into a cave and eventually found a cage with a body and a tattered journal lying right next to it. While it was kind of a weird idea that someone would be captured and tortured or at least held until they died of starvation or something and take the time to write in a journal. But then, if they suspected they were going to die it could be the only way anyone would ever know what would happen to them.
She skimmed it and found out it didn't belong to Stellen's friend but to some bounty hunter who thought this girl wanted to destroy a 'foolish cult' he had been hired to get rid of but she actually betrayed him to the cult and they were doing some weird ritual.
Fayne had just turned away from the cage to look for Despero's body when he was attacked by a leanashe. She vaguely wondered if this was the 'Keska' that the bounty hunter had fallen for. Granted she didn't appear to have any legs and the guy had clearly mentioned having a weakness for, well, legs but Holn had thought a leanashe was a nymph-bride so they apparently had some sort of mind-control powers.
She killed the thing that may or may not be Keska and then found Stellen's journal on a nearby corpse. Well, at least he probably hadn't been captured before his death.
When she made her way back to Stellen, he somehow knew that she had his journal with her.
"My journal!" he cried exuberantly. "I trust this wasn't too difficult to obtain."
"Actually, I think you trust that it was or you have no excuse for standing around fretting instead of going in yourself," Fayne corrected.
"Well…I only meant for one of your skill," he tried.
"You had no way of knowing how skilled I was when you sent me in," Fayne pointed out, crossing her arms.
Stellen awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, yes, but I figured you were probably more skilled than me since you clearly have more weapons than me. And if not, I'd lose nothing if you died and I didn't have to pay you. But you didn't die! So, what happened to Horace?"
"Don't think I didn't notice you asked about that stupid journal first," Fayne said. "And your friend is dead. So I guess I was wrong about him wanting to rip you off."
"I'm glad you realize that now."
"Oh, right," Fayne said. "He's dead."
"Oh, that sucks," Stellen said, sounding remarkably not broken up about this. "Well, here's your gold. Goodbye."
"Are you two even friends or not?" Fayne demanded. "You spent all this time trying to convince me you were so worried and wanted to know if he was okay and now you don't even care."
Stellen shrugged. "It's a dangerous line of work and he up and died with my journal in an area I could never, ever get it back from. You've always got to take the circumstances into account."
"I am judging you so hard right now."