A Prepared Poet

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A rainy Bernfleur day sees Cor'lana stepping inside the Temple of Daeus, casting the hood off her rain-slicked violet cloak to peer around once she's in the building. While the place is still on high alert, the sorceress is known to be a friend of Dolan, so naturally, she approaches a Sunblade and asks, "Is the Corona known as Dolan here today?"

She carries a basket looped around her arm, but there appears to be nothing in it yet. Presumably, this is her very first stop for the day.

"When isn't he?" the woman laughs, removing her helm to reveal a dark brown braid that tumbles down into the breastplate of the armor and brown eyes. "I swear he and his lady-love are attached at the hip. If she's here, he's here." She turns to peer across the Temple grounds. "He may be with the armsmaster," she adds more seriously, the laugh fading. "We've all been working our tails off since that devil showed up, and he might be working harder than anyone for all he wasn't here when it happened. Check the main courtyard."

Inside the Temple proper, there is no rain, only gray skies above and warmth on the ground. Dolan is, as promised, in the courtyard, and the clash of steel rings out across the grounds, along with a deeper voice. "Good! Good! Resist me for as long as you can, holding that stance."

Cor'lana nods, a sober expression finding itself at home on her face with the Sunblade's words. "I imagine he is," she replies. "I've always known him to be that sort of driven person. Thank you for the directions."

She finds her way to the courtyard, and she stands a respectful (and safe) distance from Dolan and his opponent as they clash. Her violet eyes inspect the melee as it goes on, watching with rapt attention. But she does not call out to Dolan, as this is his training and she will not interrupt him for the sake of her conversation.

Dolan's opponent is a fit man with a little bit of pepper amid the salt in his hair. He seems to have lost nothing, though, and the pair are wielding practice greatswords, wooden blades easily four feet and maybe five feet long. Dolan, stripped to shirt, brace, trousers, and boots, and drenched in sweat, holds a defensive stance against the pressure of his opponent. The two struggle for two or three minutes before Dolan releases, the point of the wooden blade dropping to the ground.

"Good. You make progress," the older man tells him, as Dolan sinks to a knee, holding the shoulder beneath the brace with his other hand. "You will wield the greatsword yet, and sooner rather than later, although I think you will not be able to do it without the support. But, you have had enough for the day, and I believe you have a visitor." He turns his head towards Lana, and bows politely.

Cor'lana curtsies before the older man, sweeping out the skirt of her lavender-colored dress underneath her cloak as she does so. "Thank you kindly for letting me speak to my friend," she says politely, accompanied by a small smile. "I have pressing business with him."

Her eyes flicker to the blades--the fact that they're as long as she is tall is not lost on her, it seems--and then she holds her hand out to Dolan. "May I help you up, Brydion?" she asks. "You fought quite well, in my amateur opinion."

Dolan is still breathing hard, but drops the hand and takes Lana's hand in his much larger, sweaty one to get to his feet. "Brightest of days, Lana," he greets by voice alone, a warm and easy grin spreading across the mobile half of his features despite the clear discomfort. "Thanks." Once he is standing, he leans down and picks up the practice blade, offering it hilt-first to the old man. "You think so? Thank you, Master Zein. I can't wait."

When the practice blades have been gathered up and the armsmaster has left, Dolan turns to Lana, still grinning like a fool, and drops the hand to let it move back to his shoulder. "What news?"

Cor'lana nods her own farewell to Zein as he leaves, but her attention is fully on Dolan as she helps him up. Her hand returns to the handle of the basket that's tucked into the crook of her other arm. "Pothy says hi, for one thing, and I'm sure he'll be happy to hear you're doing well with the greatsword," she says. "I would have brought him with me, but I've learned that it's perhaps better to not bring Pothy along on the days that I go to the market to retrieve snacks for him. Otherwise he'll keep me tied up for hours while he samples everything and begs me to buy all of a vendor has to offer."

The pleasant smile on her face falls. "But I did have a matter I wanted to speak with you about," she says. "May we find a more private space?"

That gets a bright laugh - the Corona appears to be in a good mood, despite hurting more than a little. "I believe that. He would have lost his mind if he'd been with Tel the other day when I found him in the market. Still, I'm glad the little bugger likes his snacks, and you both are kind to put up with his nonsense."

The smile fades, but only about halfway. His shirt and hair are soaked in sweat, and the shirt clings to him, the small divots in the back making something of a hazy outline of what Lana knows to be beneath. "Yeah, follow me." He doesn't seem to have other gear present here, it may be elsewhere, and he gestures that show should follow him to one of the buildings in the complex.

At the door, though, he hesitates, looks back at her uncertainly, then shakes his head and leads her inside, towards what would be Temple quarters. This area is quiet, and before long, he leads her to a cell in the corner that is devoid of all but furniture. No personal effects or comforts at all.

Cor'lana smirks a little with the remarks on Pothy. "I do love my little brother," she says as she follows Dolan. "Even if he is a feathered pain in the rear at times." But she has little to offer besides that in commentary as they walk.

Once they're in the cell, Cor'lana nods. "My apologies for making us stand and talk here, but the reason will be apparent fairly quickly," she says. "Do you remember when I told you about the fey that challenged Pothy to a duel as a result of him staying in the Court of the Queen of Air and Darkness for some time? And before you think otherwise--no, I am not asking you to intervene in that matter." A small hint of a smirk finds her lips there.

"I can't anyway, Lana," Dolan answers firmly, sitting down on the edge of the empty cot and holding the braced shoulder. "I'm not leaving Andie. Not while Jal'goroth or one of his cohorts is still out there. I'm not leaving her again." The guilt rests heavily in those words, and he turns himself so that he can face her fully. "Sit. What's going on?"

"I understand, and Jal'goroth is why I came here to talk," Cor'lana says, nodding soberly. She takes a seat at Dolan's direction. "The reason why Pothy was in that fey court was because of a deal I made with the Her Majesty to take down a demon that had attempted to strangle Telamon quite some time ago and wears the stolen faces of people. I received, for my efforts, a weapon of truedeath called Mortal Dread: a sword capable of killing even the immortal. I am sworn to its safekeeping and to never turn it against fey. For all of this time, I have kept it safe and out of enemy hands."

She looks at Dolan. "The time to finally bring it to bear has finally arrived. I believe Jal'goroth is my enemy. And once I kill this enemy with Mortal Dread, I will send the blade back to its rightful owner and have that hanging over my head no more."

Dolan listens intently to this, chest still heaving as he breathes deeply, and he makes a few gentle massaging motions on the brace that covers his shoulder. "THat sounds like a pretty powerful weapon. It can really kill him as if we'd hunted him down in the Hells? Do you think it's all Jal'goroth, or does he have a cohort or two - or several?" The questions comes out of him slowly, thoughtfully. "He's just one general of a greater power - does it have to be only the one?"

"If I were to use this blade on anything, it would kill them, and they would stay dead forever," Cor'lana asserts. "That is the nature of Mortal Dread. I swore an oath, and the terms said that the blade is mine until my foe is slain--at which point, it must return to Her Majesty's Court to its rightful wielder."

She looks thoughtful for a moment. "It is possible by the wording that I could use it on more than one foe," she says, "so long as 'my foe'--the demon who nearly strangled Telamon--still lives and is the last to die. But I do not play lightly with the vows that I swore. I swore my oath--and if the oath is broken or violated, then I forfeit my very existence. It is better to not play with it."

It takes Dolan a few moments to silence to digest the weighty information presented. "Shit," he breathes softly. "That's a damned serious oath. So you can only take out the one. S'pose we'd better be sure it really is Jal'goroth, yeah? It seems likely, but it sure as sunrise seems like the same approach. Demons take the facts of others all the time, though. It's one of the devices they use to deceive."

He drums the fingers of his left hand on his knee and presses his lips together into a thin line, clearly thinking hard. "I can see if Zeke's willing to do a communing for me, but the servant of Daeus might not know. It hurts nothing to ask."

Cor'lana nods soberly with Dolan's question. "We need to be certain," she says. "As certain as anything. The demon who I swore to kill was once wearing Aya's appearance--she had said she'd loved someone once, but she'd killed him. She had come to our house looking for Seldan--it was his house once--and when we had no Seldan to show her, she tried to get us to swear we wouldn't tell anyone in the city of her existence. We escaped only because Telamon was able to blind her with a spell."

She looks at Dolan now, a hardness in her violet eyes. "So you can see why Telamon and I are interested in seeing this thing dead. A communing might be helpful in identification, at least. Just so we know."

The inquisitor's harlequin stare is eerie and, to some, unnerving, although Dolan's gentle rubbing of his shoulder and pursed lips hint that he may not intend for it to be. "I understand. I'll find Zeke and see if he's willing. We can ask more than one question, so it might be best to have a list of questions to ask. The answers will be "yes", "no", or "unknown", and sometimes the servant will say a little more, but it's never totally clear, yeah? What else do we want to know?"

Cor'lana doesn't look bothered by Dolan's stare for a moment. She knows what he's endured at the hands of demons, and she knows that what she's described as Telamon enduring is all too familiar to her friend, who happens to be an inquisitor. "Given that we're limited to those answers," she says, "we had likely assemble a list of questions, yes."

She begins counting off on her fingers with each question. "Is the demon known as Jal'goroth the one who assaulted Telamon Lupecyll-Atlon in his home a year ago? Is the demon known as Jal'goroth currently in the Hells? Are there more demons working in concert with Jal'goroth? That's three questions--potentially a fourth if you ask if Jal'goroth is here in the material plane."

"Have you got ink and parchment? You'll want to write down the questions, and leave room for the answers," Dolan points out, sitting up straight. "Once the spell starts, I can't hesitate, and Zeke won't be able to hear me. I can ask if he minds you being present for it, although one more is the most I'd want. No discussion of the answers is possible while the servant is present."

The question just makes Cor'lana grin. "Asking a poet if she has ink and parchment is a good bet," she tells Dolan as she reaches into a bag underneath her cloak and produces exactly what's needed, setting down her basket in the process: a bottle of ink, a small writing quill (seemingly fashioned from a Pothy feather?), and parchment. Her handwriting is both quick and neat as she writes down the questions, leaving plenty of space for the answers.

"I don't mind attending," she says. "It will be... interesting, to see the divine interact with someone in that way." The word 'interesting' has a number of layers to the way it's said. No skepticism whatsoever, but rather curiosity and yet a defensive sort of layer on top of the curious shell.

There is a bare desk and a stool in the room with the cot, devoid of all personal effects but convenient to the task required. Dolan watches as Lana extracts pen and ink, an answering grin blooming across his features at the obviousness. The last part, though, makes the expression go ragged. "It's real, all right, Lana. I haven't got any doubt that you're more attached to Vaire than you ever were to the Father of Time. All you ever needed to do was look in the right place." He tilts his head a little, the smile very small, and watches as she writes.

"What else do we want to know, and don't? Is there still a cult summoning Jal'goroth?" He sucks in a breath, and hesitates. "Is Andelena's brother Seb being held by evil entities? If so, is he located on this plane? Is he being held in the Hells?"

Cor'lana diligently records these next questions as he recites them, flipping to a new sheet of parchment when the first is no longer enough for the questions and the space to contain them. "These are good questions, too," she says. "I imagine they must weight heavily on your fiancee's mind--and yours. I know that if Telamon had a sibling--gods forbid--I would worry as well."

She looks up at Dolan. "I no longer question the place of a god in my life. Vaire has responded to me. I do not follow Her like a Muse would, but I am joyed to know that someone is listening when I pray. That I am not alone nor that I am abandoned in that aspect. That is why I feel... intrigued? by the prospect of attending this communing."

But Cor'lana pauses a moment. "But if you only want one other--than perhaps your fiancee ought to attend instead. It may mean more to her to see the communing in person, as you do both serve the Knight. I am merely an interested observer, but I also know when observation might merely be gawking instead."

A little smirk crosses her lips. "I am a little too familiar with gawking as of late, after all."

"Yeah." It's a quiet admission that Dolan makes, and one that makes his grin fade. "Yeah, I'm worried, and so is she. She might want to come along, if she isn't mired in her own duties." The right hand continues to work across his shoulder and over to his back, but drops now, the hand falling into his lap. "I don't mind if you come, but I'll have to ask Zeke. It's up to him."

The last remark, though, brings the grin back, along with just a touch of wickedness. "And here I thought you liked being gawked at. Maybe you can stare at others for a change," he teases. "See how it feels."

Cor'lana puts the finishing touches on her sheets of parchment. A flicker of magic ensures that the ink is set and dry on the pages, and she fishes out a little violet-colored ribbon from her bag. Here, she pauses to reach into the sleeve of her dress, where she pulls out a pin--like the kind used in sewing--and she uses it to create a small set of holes in the corners of both pages. The ribbon gets threaded through the holes, tying them together, and she hands the finished document to him. "Handbound pamphlets of poetry are quite popular in the Theatre District," she explains. "And it'll keep the two from getting lost."

She snickers at Dolan's remark as she returns the pin to its original hiding spot from within the sleeve. "It's not that I like being gawked at," she says. "Truthfully, there isn't much to look at to begin with. The symbol I wear on my chest is one I wear proudly, but it also draws the eye. I've come to realize that--and like any tool, it could be used, although the last time I did, I was... burned for it."

The sorceress stifles a sigh. Instead she offers Dolan a grin. "Besides, the only gawking I try to do is for Telamon," she says. "Although--I did notice something earlier." She sort of gestures in the broad direction of Dolan's chest. "Did you do something new?"

Dolan continues to watch Lana as she executes this process, this time with some interest. He takes the finished document, eyeing it, peering at the pages. "Huh. Never heard of that before," he admits, closing the pages and looking up. "Thanks for this. I'll speak to Zeke today, before I leave."

To wear such a mark proudly and openly - Dolan scratches at his hairline uncomfortably as that idea falls on his ears. "It really is beautiful," he admits. "Not like mine. If I did that, I'd be arrested for frightening the children." The smile is gone, and his gaze has drifted to his lap in a very farmboyish embarrassment. Thus it is that he only half-catches the gesture. "Do something new? Like-?"

Cor'lana catches the embarrassment, and she seems very hesitant about even pressing. But she says, "If it's what I think it is, I think it's good for you. Self-expression is important, you know? And far be it from me--someone walking around with art on her chest--to ever think differently of anyone else who does something similar."

She adds more idly, "I probably ought to get my ears pierced. Telamon keeps looking at a pair of earrings from this one place at the market and saying I'd look cute wearing them." The smile on her face widens with the mention of her husband.

It's the last comment that tells Dolan what she's talking about, and he relaxes, laughing just a little self-consciously. "Ah, you meant that. Yeah, I found this shop one day in the Market District. I didn't know anyone did that, until Andie and I talked to the shopkeep," he admits. "I was curious what it felt like. I mean - I'd had things in my skin before, but -" He loosens and lifts the sweat-dampened shirt to show small gold balls on either side of each of his nipples, around the basketweave of scars that Kol's attentions had left behind. They get a moment's gaze, and he tucks the shirt back into his waistband. "I think Andie likes them at least as much as I do," he admits, his grin somewhat sheepish. "It's funny, too. I haven't had anywhere near as many bad moments after I got these. I think they help keep me in the here and now, yeah?"

"It's on your own terms," Cor'lana says, smiling. "What we struggle with are ghosts of our past--and while it doesn't make sense for many people, sometimes what anchors us is to revisit details of those ghosts, but to reframe them in new places. It's like lifting a line from a poem and putting it into a new one--the meaning of the words alone might be the same, but in the collective of the whole text, it means something new and different."

She lifts herself up from her chair, picking up the basket. "I think they look nice--although I don't think I could ever pull them off myself," she adds with a grin. "Besides--it's best not to get metal involved if one is working with the fey."

The signal is clear, and Dolan stands as well when she does, still looking just a little sheepish, holding the papers in one hand. "Huh. You might be right. I hadn't thought of it like that." It's the last remark, though, that draws an amused snort. "I'll take your word for that, Lana. The less I deal with fae, the happier Andie and I will both be. Did you need anything else? I'm supposed to go and soak for a while."

"Go soak," Cor'lana says with a small smile. "Otherwise your fiancee might track you down and make you. Goodness knows I would do the same with Tel."

She walks to the entrance of the cell, basket curled around her arm. "I have to go find those snacks you brought over last time," Cor'lana says, the smile blooming into a grin. "Pothy apparently wants to become yellow with dust again. You should have seen the look on Telamon's face when he came home the last time. Vaire's verse with you, Brydion."

And with that greeting--which shows that Cor'lana really does feel more at home with the Lady of Inspiration than the Father of Time--she departs, finding her way out of the Temple.