Interlude 15 – Upriver

Stretching her stiff limbs as she woke up from her nap, Seona let out a little yawn, set her head back on her shoulders, then got up from the deck and walked off the boat she had ridden up the river. The Goldbed River, she was pretty sure it was called. Something like that?

The wandering dullahan paused as she walked onto the stone dock, unconsciously tilting her head in thought as she tried to figure out the geography of Inrapaba. Again. 

Really, why did the mortal realms have to be so weird? Everything was in a set, physical place; why not just layer things like a normal world?

“Hey, Mira, which river were we on?” she decided to ask, turning to-… “Uh, Mira?”

Seona blinked, staring at the ferry boat she’d walked off of, then went back up the gangplank and glanced around with a small frown on her face. For some reason, she wasn’t seeing the others. “Mira? Julius? Hey, Cyrus!” 

The crew was around, sure. Mostly orcs that were giving her some wary looks, but she wasn’t seeing any of her friends…Hmm…time to risk something. “Hey Joffy!” 

She waited. Nope, no lycanthrope either…How did that happen?? Joff had really great ears and always noticed when someone was talking about her! So what the heck?? Did they leave without her?

Mira frowned, then glanced at the nearest orc, who flinched at her attention. “Hey, did you see three humans and a lycan leaving this ship earlier?”

“…U-Uh…no ma’am. None’a us saw anythin’ like that.”

“Hmmmmmm…” She crossed her arms behind her back, continuing to stare at the sweaty, panicking orc as she thought over the issue. “Not at all?”

“N-N-No, no, w-we didn’t.”

“Huh. You know, you really should keep better track of your passengers.” 

The orcish ferryman blinked in confusion, but Seona was already heading off the boat again, a deep frown on her face as she looked around. Hm. Weird that the ship she took looked a lot like the fishing boats around…Well, best not to get distracted. Her friends were lost in a strange city and clearly she needed to find them!

So she put her fingers to her lips and blew a sharp whistle, summoning Siegard out of the nether in a flash of flame and darkness and a loud, demonic whinny that got more than a few fishers and dockworkers around to flinch and yelp.

Seona wasn’t paying attention to them though, instead going right up to her steed and climbing into his saddle, all while patting his mane of course. “Awww, good boy! You came really quick this time! Did you miss me? Aw, you did, didn’t you?”

Siegard just snorted in reply, shifting on his hooves before starting off into a trot as Seona urged him forward off the docks and onto the streets of what she was pretty sure was Capitalia. That was where they were going, right? Though maybe they stopped somewhere along the way… 

She was pretty sure they would have informed her if they had to make a stop. Not to mention Joffy would have made a fuss about stopping. 

…Did they fall off the boat!? 

No, wait, they would have stopped the boat to pick up anyone who fell off. 

Hm…now that she thought about it, they were capable, right? Sure, Cyrus might be a bit weird, but Mira was there to keep him in line. And Jofrid was no nonsense enough to stay out of any mess, or just scare off an approaching one. Meanwhile, Julius was…

Hm.

For a brief moment, she thought about everything Julius had done since she met him, from charging a manticore with just a sword, to agreeing to be beaten senseless for his blood training. 

…Feeling a wave of worry crash over her, Seona pulled the reins on Siegard and sent him charging through the city, startling pedestrians and guards alike out of her way. Capable or not, who knew what kind of trouble he’d get into without someone keeping an eye on him!?

So with that thought in mind, Seona rushed through the city, glancing every which way as she moved around the tall, stone buildings and over paved roads. The fear was there, of course, as it always was. Terror crawled and clung to those who saw the harbinger of death, an ever rolling tempest of spreading panic. 

No calm yet though.

It was still weird to her how calm Julius could be around her. Really, it was weird how calm everybody in that group could be around her. Jofrid had that wariness, but Cyrus and Mira were totally fine with her too, aside from the initial freakout. Maybe it was a thing with non-darklanders? Could be they just didn’t have enough demon blood to be scared…Though Mira practically radiated demonic power and she didn’t fear her in the slightest. In fact, she outright challenged, sparred, and flirted with her, and seemed to be really interested-

Focus! Focusing, focusing, eyes on the path, things to be done! No getting lost in thought, that was the way to get lost in fact! So, now, where should she be going? Julius was trying to find Valondrac, and Valondrac was the Demon Lord, sooooo…biggest building? Yeah, that made sense, go to the biggest building and she’s bound to be there since she’d own the biggest, fanciest building around! Yes, brilliant, cracked the code!

Though the building that she arrived at certainly looked odd for a demon lord. It was certainly big, but it didn’t look like a castle. Rather than a big structure with towers and walls and all that, it seemed more like a very large, black, blocky building with long, yellow windows and gold columns and a very square, flat, tiled roof. Also in black. Maybe Valondrac had a different style? Oh well, something to worry about later. 

Thankfully, there was an open empty space between the walls and the nearby buildings–just a bit of barren stone that didn’t have anything on it at all, for some reason–so she was able to rush faster to the gates. Hm, probably not a good idea to bust down the gates. Pulling the reins back, Seona stopped just in time, so as to not crash into the copper bars.

And hey, thankfully, there was someone on the other side there. Granted, they seemed afraid of her too–more a subdued, nervous fear than any outright panic–but that was to be expected. Said person was dressed in a short black jacket, black pants, black gloves, and black boots–all trimmed and buttoned with gold trim and gold buttons–along with a simple, flat, golden mask engraved with a black M crossing through an equally black D on their forehead. 

Oh, and they had a saber at their waist, one with a gold pommel and guard. Which probably meant they were a guard. Guards had guards, it just made sense.

“You there. Where’s the person in charge?” Seona asked as she looked down upon them. 

“A-Ah… I-I-I’ll go get them,” the guard said as they took a step back. Before running away. Hm. Well, at least they were speedy. Hopefully this Valondrac person would be fast as well. Unless she was busy…Hm.

Maybe she was busy meeting Julius… Was that why he left without saying anything? And the others chased after him because he ran off? Yes, that did make a weird amount of sense…

So, wait, was she interrupting their meeting? Julius had a thing for Valondrac, so was this a date? Would he be mad if she interrupted his date? Oh, maybe she made a mistake here–

“Hello.” Seona blinked, then looked back at the gate. On the other side, there was a new person. She could tell they were new since their mask and decorations were all platinum instead of gold. Oh, and they had a few medals with jewels on their jacket. And they didn’t have a sword. Also they were about a foot taller than the last person so there was that too. Though what was really interesting was how they were actually calm. 

“Hi!” she greeted the surprisingly calm individual, raising a hand in greeting, “Are you Valondrac?”

“No.” The man–she was pretty sure he was a guy, his spirit was tinged in that direction–inclined his head slightly, his voice deep and calm. “I am Ouer.”

“Ohh. Well, could you bring her here? If she’s not busy.”

“I cannot.”

“Oh. Why not?”

“The Lord Valondrac does not reside within our church, Miss.”

Seona blinked, then looked up at the building again. It didn’t really look like the Blood Church… “…Are you sure? I’m pretty sure Capitalia doesn’t have a church.”

“I imagine it does not, Miss. However, this city is known as Coinguard. Capitalia is more southward. The Lord Valondrac thought it best to set her capital further from any churches, so as not to show favor to particular faiths.”

“Ohhh…” Well jeez, Julius must’ve gotten really lost. “So is my friend still in there?”

“Who would your friend be, Miss?”

“He’s a lightlander, about yay high-” She raised her hand a few inches over her head to show him. “-with blond hair and a beard. Oh! I think he’s a white human? They go by colors, right? Oh but he’s like, tanned white, not pale white.”

“Hm. Your friend is remarkably tall for a human.”

“Really? I didn’t notice. Are lightland humans shorter or something?”

“Miss, you are on a horse.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Er, yeah? What’s your point?”

The church guy just stared at her. “Unfortunately, your friend has not come here. We rarely get visitors.”

“Oh.” Well dang, now she didn’t know where to look, and she was curious. “Why not?”

“I imagine he simply was not in the area.”

“No, not that part. The visitor part. You guys seem alright to me.”

“I appreciate the compliment, harbinger of death and destruction.”

“You’re welcome, weird mask guy!”

He stared at her again, silently. Probably thinking about things. “This is the Church of Debt, Miss. People rarely come here because we exact tolls for our services. The nature of the world is one where actions must be repaid in turn. We uphold that reality, and there are few who wish to incur such a debt with us.”

“Ohh. Hm. So do I owe you for asking about stuff?”

“A valid question. One few would think to ask. You are an intelligent person, though not a wise one.”

“Well, wisdom is supposed to come with age, right? So I think I still have a ways to go for that.”

“Quite. You seek a friend of yours, correct?”

“Indeed I do!” She smiled at him.

“Would you like to request our services in finding him?”

“Oh, I don’t think you need to do that, I could probably find him on my own.” Though, wait…how familiar was Julius with the Dark Lands? Sure, he was with Mira and Cyrus, but they were all pretty foreign to here, right? So they could all get lost. And three people being lost together was worse than one person being lost alone, since the lostness would multiply… “Ah, wait, on second thought, sure!”

Ouer hadn’t moved from his spot at all, so she probably didn’t need to tell him to wait. “Wonderful. Please, come in.” And that was when he turned around and started walking, so she followed him, urging Siegard through the gate after the weird guy.

Funny enough, he looked over his shoulder as he did, stopping on the stone walkway. “Hm. That gate is intended to act as a barrier to all forms of magical entry.”

“Oh cool! Though, how does it block people from just flying over it?”

“…We have further measures for that, Miss.” Huh. Cool. 

Seona took a glance back at the closed gate as Ouer started walking again. It did look pretty fancy, now that she actually Looked at it. Same went for the huge barrier wall extending high up into the sky. Mortals came up with such cool things sometimes.

Anyway, the interior of the Debt Church was pretty neat too. Big double doors led inside–and she had to dismiss Siegard since he was too tall, so that was a shame–and the main hall was all lit up with some black-flame torches. Rare to see those out of Duidan, but neat that some mortals figured it out.

There were also statues and counters around, and some demons talking to church members at said counters. Like, the church people were behind the counters, talking with demons, who were doing transactions or something. It was interesting. It was mostly the gold-souled Avaricians around, but she did notice a few other races, all of which immediately went stiff and/or shrunk back when they noticed her presence. Even Sin feared Death, after all.

Oh yeah, also a lot of scales around. The measuring kind, not the reptilian/piscine kind. Those were neat too.

Soon enough though, they were past all of that and in some type of backroom, on the other side of all the counters. It was a dark room, round, with a round table in the center and two chairs on either side of it. Ouer sat in one chair and Seona sat in the other, directly across from one another and looking over the round, crystal ball set up in the center of the table.

“Before we begin, Miss, I do wish to confirm something.” 

“Oh, alright. What’s the thing?”

Ouer steepled his hands together, his elbows on the table. His weird, blank mask looked more like a face now, for some reason, portraying some stern guy. “The Church will take a payment for this service. You may decide the price now, or after-”

“Now, please.”

He stared at her again. “What are you offering, Miss?”

Hm, that was a good question…What would finding out where Julius was be worth? Hmmmm…

Seona opened her mouth, reached up, pinched a canine between her thumb and forefinger, and snapped it with a sharp twist. She put the tooth down on the table, beaming as a new one quickly grew in its place. Minimal blood too, so that was good. “Would that suffice?”

“…” Ouer looked down at the tooth. Ouer looked up at Seona. Ouer looked back at the tooth. “…That is sufficient, yes. If I may, I believe you may have overpaid for this service, Miss.”

“Oh, that’s fine, you can keep the change. Actually, condition time, don’t use that to summon me. I have to, y’know-” She mimed slitting her own throat. Which really wouldn’t affect her, because headlessness, now that she thought about it. “-whenever someone summons me. Prices and taboos.”

“Understood. I thank you for informing me.” He took the tooth and put it in the breast pocket of his coat, then raised his gloved hands and held them over the crystal ball. “Who do you seek, Miss?”

“Julius Goldforge, of the Light Lands,” she replied, already looking into the crystal’s surface.

It was smoky, swirling with a black fog that slowly shifted into an overhead view of a different city, one with an even larger castle. “The man named Goldforge is in the city of Capitalia, Miss. He is within the boundaries of Valondrac’s grand castle.”

“Oh, well that was simple. Huh, I was kinda expecting to have to work more for it…”

Ouer shrugged. “I am a skilled seer, Miss. If you so desire, I could show you him directly.”

“Oh, sure, why not? Might as well see what he’s up to.”

And so, the vision in the crystal shifted, moving into the central tower of the castle and into-…

“…”

“…”

“…H-Huh.” Seona stared at the image. The, er…moving image. Hm. Hm hm hm. That was a bedroom. “…”

“…”

“…So. So. Soey so so. That…That is…” She tilted her head slightly, her face absolutely burning with a massive blush. “…So that’s Valondrac. And that’s Julius.”

“I can end the vision at any time, Miss.”

“…Well, um…Hm.”

“…Miss.”

“I’m thinking.”

“Miss.”

“…So does this get multiple angles-”

Miss.

“Okay okay! Sorry, just…hm.” She had to bite back a disappointed noise when the image abruptly cut out, turning black again. “…Hey, you said I overpaid, right?”

“Miss, please-”

“No no, I’m not asking about that! Just…can I try looking at what my other friends are up to? They were with Julius, so I’m curious.”

Ouer sighed in obvious exasperation. Wow, that never happened to her. “Very well. What are their names?”

“Okay, uh, one’s Cyrus Gerrish, and the other’s Mira…Lovalde? Yeah, I think she’s using her mom’s name…So yeah, those two, please.”

“Very well. I will go in order then.” The crystal ball glowed again, displaying an image of Cyrus-…

So that one cut to black even faster. “No.”

“…I mean, I guess that’s fair, but…hmph…” Seona definitely was not pouting. Nor was she disappointed. Just sorta…annoyed that she wasn’t getting her money’s worth, yeah, that was it. Though she did wonder who that guy Cyrus was with was. “So how about Mira?”

“If I get even the slightest hint that she is mid-coitus, I am ending the viewing immediately.”

“Y-Yeah, that’s fine.” Jeez, why did he have to say it like that? Now she was picturing…Okay, ending that line of thought very very quickly because her face already felt like it was burning.

And for the third and final viewing, the dark fog shifted once more, forming into…Huh. Mira chatting with some orcish lady and an old man. In some type of workshop. Hm.

“Are you disappointed?”

“…A little,” she admitted, pouting, “Well, thanks for your help anyway, I should probably get–Oh wait, can I get one more viewing?”

“I am not going back to the other viewings.”

“Yeah, I guessed you wouldn’t, but could you look at a different person? Her name’s Jofrid Otakin and I just got curious what she might be up to.”

“Hm. Very well. This is the last viewing, however.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Now that I know where to go, I can totally get there fine on my own!”

For some reason, Ouer’s stern mask looked strangely dubious there. Still, he extended his hands over the crystal ball one more time, and the surface changed once more, revealing…

“…”

“…”

“…Huh. I really wasn’t expecting that.”

Who knew Jofrid owned so many stuffed animals? Or that she liked to nuzzle into a big pile of them like a big happy doggy? Which she technically was, but still, awwwwww.

“Can we stay on this one?”

“…” Ouer sighed. “…We may.”

“Yay!” Best time she got lost ever!

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