Lady Adavina's mansion a squarish, imposing building, chalky-white, but with the facade done in light blue and gold. The mansion grounds were sprawling, to say the least, the grass kept short and three alleyways meandering artistically from the gate to the steps that lead to the door.
Amell saw all this though the gate, of course, since the liveried guards posted there would not allow her and Sten passage.
"Halt!" one of them, a tall, middle-aged man said, raising his hand in an authoritative gesture. "State your business here," he continued in his thick, Nevarran accent.
"We're here to see revered mother Allina," Amell replied.
The guards threw sidelong looks at Sten, who remained impassive under their scrutiny.
"I have this letter for her," Amell added, producing Sorrel's letter. "From a woman named Sorrel...?"
On a sign from the first guard, the other, a much younger man, took the letter from Amell and briskly headed up to the house.
The wait was as long as expected, considering how large the house probably was, and how much time it would take to find the revered mother in such a place, but it seemed to pass even slower for Amell, who's become anxious to meet this woman.
Finally, the young guard returned and whispered something in his elder's ear. The latter nodded and opened the door.
"I'll be escorting you to her," he said.
"Thank you," Amell said, though she didn't miss the distrustful look he gave to her robes.
He said nothing more.
Curiously, he did not lead them to the mansion, but down a side-path that lead to a slightly smaller, but just as luxurious, house. It seemed like a simpler, more practical version of the mansion, perched on the bank of a green-tinged pond, in the shade of three tall trees.
The door opened. An elderly woman, thin and dry, appeared in the doorway. She gave the guard a look that was not quite a glare.
"Alaid, it wasn't necessary to escort them," she said, her voice just as thick with the Nevarran accent. "They are guests, yes?"
Alaid, the guard, grunted in reply. The woman—revered mother Allina, most likely—gestured them in. Alaid did not enter, but remained staring after the two strangers until the door closed behind them.
The revered mother pointedly pulled the curtains, obscuring Alaid's view through the window, and gestured for them to take seat on one of the many divans in her parlor.
"You are here on behalf of Sorrel, yes?" Allina asked, shuffling towards a seat of her own and sitting down only after her guests did so. "I did not have time to read the full letter, but you are to help with my problem, yes?"
She looked from Sten to Amell with rheumy eyes.
"She said you believed there was a maleficar in the household?" Amell offered.
Allina sighed and flopped back into her armchair.
"I do not want to believe it, and yet, what else could it be?" she said mournfully.
"What lead you to this conclusion?" Amell asked.
"It started a few months ago," Allina started explaining.
Small things, at first. A drape bursting into flames for no apparent reason. Small objects being sent flying through the air without anybody touching them. Always many people in the room at the time. All these were mostly harmless and minimally damaging, of course. People thought a gremlin—some sort of creature of myth around those parts, Amell gathered—was responsible for mischief. The servants placed saucers of milk with cat whiskers in doorways, because legend said that was what appeased gremlins.
"If only it had been a gremlin," Allina sighed.
Then, all began having oddly same dreams, night after night. Not always nightmares, of course, but unsettling, and always the same. Dreams of falling; dreams of fumbling in the dark through an unfamiliar room; dreams of running from, or towards, something undefined.
Nobody was truly harmed until one of Lady Elerre's suitors (one of Lady Adavina's daughters, who was of marriageable age, Allina explained) was struck by a leaping flame from the fireplace. The problem, of course, was that at the time, he'd been on the opposite side of the room. Like an arrow, the flame sprung across the parlor, over the heads of numerous socialites gathered there at the time, and straight into the face of young Guillaume Methian, quite a handsome man before this incident.
"But why," Amell wondered out loud. "Why would a maleficar attack him?"
"Is evil not enough of a reason?" revered mother Allina shrugged.
Amell didn't believe so, no; even evil had to have some sort of impetus to act certain ways. But she remained quiet.
Templars came, inevitably, interrogating and testing everyone who'd been present at the time, but apart from scaring them, they did not accomplish much. This was when revered mother Allina sent her letter to Sorrel, reasoning that only another mage could find the one causing all this grief.
But the worst came only days later, when Lady Adavina's brother and her husband dueled each other to death over a small, inconsequential matter. Lady Adavina's brother, Morrald, challenged Lord Adavina to mortal combat. Lord Adavina could not rightly refuse without losing face, and at any rate, he knew himself to be a much better swordsman than his brother-in-law. However, seemingly possessed by a demon from beyond the Veil, no matter how many blows Lady Adavina's brother took, he rose up again, finally exhausting Lord Adavina and defeating him with a slash to the throat. Lord Adavina died almost instantly.
Morrald died minutes later, collapsing to the ground, soaked in his own blood and covered in wounds gotten during the duel.
"We thought maybe... maybe Morrald had been the maleficar," Allina said. "But just days later, we entered the main dining hall to find all the furniture seemingly gone. When we looked up, we realized—it had been frozen to the ceiling."
"Frozen to the ceiling?" Amell repeated.
"Oh, yes. Chairs, table, even the candle holders, all neatly arranged on the ceiling as if mirroring their proper position on the ground," Allina nodded. "It took two days for the ice to melt and everything to fall down. We'd just... we'd hear things fall through the day, great crashes as chairs splintered on the floor. When the table fell..." Allina shook her head. She did not continue.
"And you believe a maleficar is responsible for all of this?"
"Don't you?" Allina blinked.
Amell pursed her lips.
"We'll have to see," she said to herself quietly.