A Curse Defied

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A full day has passed since the rescue set forth by Cor'lana. Once Telamon had passed out from her gentle kiss, he'd been rushed to the Temple of Eluna, but examination of him there had proven that there is no trace of the werewolf disease upon him. What is noted quite quickly - and thankfully for that - is that Cor'lana's presence seems to weaken him. The closer she is, the worse off he is. When they are apart, he regains himself, but let her come near again and...

Zeke is currently in the room, his green eyes taking in Telamon's current condition with all due diligence. He huffs a sigh and looks from Cor'lana in the furthest corner that the room has to offer, and then to Telamon, laying on the bed. He looks as though he has words to say, but they are not offered just yet. In fact, he looks as though he is loathe to say them out loud at all.

Dolan is actually closer to Telamon than is his wife, and Zeke finally says what it is that needs said. "The curssse isss very sspecific. It isss tied to you Telamon, and to you Cor'lana. It drainsss the very life from you, when sssshe isss clossse. The more contact, the more you lossse of your-ssself. Thisss one thinksss... that it may be tied to the very root of you both. Thisss one isss not very versssed in magicsss, but thisss one hass treated many illnessssess. Thisss one thinkss if you were to remain touching for very long; that Telamon would die."

Telamon's expression is... chilling. Very few things have pushed him to the limits of what might be considered proper, or for that matter righteous. But this... his eyes are full of absolute fury. Not at Zeke. Not at Cor'lana. Not at the temple. But at the man who orchestrated this.

"I'd kill him again if he wasn't already dead," Telamon snarls. He's propped up in the bed, and honestly doesn't look any worse for the wear. Fatigue and bruising have faded, and a proper meal and a good night's sleep have helped him bounce back. But... his fingers curl in the bed's covers, as he struggles to control his temper.

"How do we break this, Zeke? This isn't something like an infernal contract. There should be a way to unravel it."

Dolan had happened to be with Zeke when the pair arrived, and has taken up a position by the door. He had immediately done so, on seeing Telamon and Lana, and now leans on it, effectively holding it closed. He is, curiously, in full arms and armor, carrying full gear, minus only the greatsword, but listens closely. "So that was the curse Lana mentioned," he chimes in. "That's a fucking nasty curse." Questions are written plainly across the mobile half of his features and loom in his eyes, but now isn't the place or time to ask.

Unlike the fury of her husband, Cor'lana's violet eyes are as dark as the grave. They've been like this ever since Zalgiman hit the ground--and Telamon soon after. Even as she looks at Zeke, it seems she's half here and half elsewhere, fighting with her thoughts and whatever shadows hide within them.

"Why couldn't it be me that was cursed," she murmurs, before she looks at Telamon. Even for him, the darkness in her eyes remains. "I'm sure he chose this curse for a reason. Telamon, do you remember the properties of the potion he had you drink?

Zeke hesitates. It's clear that Telamon's question is perhaps the one he wanted to answer the least and he shifts from foot to foot before offering his reply. "Firsstly, thiss one would not sssuggesst that you try to remove it with your own magic. If it isss tied to you, doing ssso may make it take deeper root insside yesss?" He looks at Cor'lana and his eyes nictate. "There are waysss yet though yesss. Thisss one can try to undo the magic with the power of the Dragonfather, but... Thisss one doess not wissh to make you hope too ssstrongly; thiss one iss a healer not a mage yesss?"

Here his eyes flicker to Dolan for a moment before returning his gaze to Telamon. "There are other, very ssstrong magicss which have greater scertainty of sssuccesss, but they are very difficult and few have the ability to do them. Each curssse hasss a weaknesss Telamon, a cure for every wrong. And if all elssse failsss..." He looks the man dead in the eye. "Thisss one can take the curssse."

While Zeke and Telamon converse, Dolan turns his gaze, and his whole head, towards Cor'lana in the far corner. The stare is the Redeemer's stare, intent, soul-searching, and entirely impassive. He says nothing to the conversation going on around him, instead focusing all his attention on her.

Telamon scowls at Zeke, but nods. "I'm good, and I do have the ability to break an enchantment, but... you're right. Things can go backwards fast if you don't properly handle it." He offers Lana a reassuring smile, and nods sourly to Dolan. "He hated me at the end, there. Hated me, I think, not just because of what I had, but because of what I had told him. That he didn't have to be this way. I think... as long as he could believe he didn't have a choice he could hide from it, but I... took that from him."

He flexes his hands. "Zeke, you've done a lot for my friend Dolan here. I don't want you taking on my burden. If you can remove the curse with the power of Eli, then I would consent to it. There are other ways to expunge curses -- I remember Keriga telling me of the oruch purification lodges, and how those could be used to strip a curse away... if you could take the heat."

At Lana's question, Tel makes a face. "Give me a moment," he says, focusing. "He was furious. Furious when I told him about Gustov. He was hellbent on forcing that potion on me -- he grabbed my nose at first to try and get me to open my mouth, and when that didn't work he forced my mouth open finally. I remember it tasted foul, and it was definitely magical. There was a hair on my lip at the end of it, that I spit out -- hence why I thought it was lycanthropy."

GAME: Ravenstongue rolls Perform/Oratory: (5)+23: 28

Cor'lana's violet eyes flicker shut. Maybe it's because she can feel the weight of Dolan's gaze. Maybe it's just the weight of the words that Zeke has to offer. Maybe it's the speculation that Telamon offers.

"I hoped beyond hope, and you declined," she murmurs so quietly. A line repeated, but only one in the room would recognize where from. Her eyes still closed, she goes on to say, "Zalgiman was lost. He put all of his hopes on being with me. He couldn't imagine a future that involved him living and being without me as a lover, couldn't accept even me telling him that there was a way to happiness for him--but it would look different than the one he wanted. He wanted me to save him, but in a specific way. And when I couldn't--he did this."

Her eyes open, still dark, not fully meeting anyone's gaze. "I would bet that hair was mine," she says. "Because it is me who is killing you, Telamon. None other."

"It isss very likely ssso." Zeke admits to Telamon and Cor'lana. He looks at the man. "Thisss one will try firssst, but if thisss one failsss, thisss one will dissscusss further yesss? There are optionss." He draws closer to the bedridden man, and holds his claw just shy of touching. "If thisss one hasss permisssion, thisss one will begin."

Dolan's gaze doesn't waver, doesn't move. He doesn't move, either. "Say the rest, Lana," he tells her, warningly. "I don't know what you two did, or what happened, but the least you owe Tel, and everyone who marched with you, is the truth. The whole truth."

He softens, then, just a little. "You won't stop being my friend. Either of you. You know that. Just tell me, and Tel, the truth."

"Dammit, Lana, we talked about this. The fault lies equally on me. I should've kept a closer eye, and realized he was becoming obsessed. You don't have the experience with this kind of social jousting." Telamon rubs the bridge of his nose. "And in any case, I refuse to accept this state of affairs."

He looks up, and his starry eyes flash. "We try to remove it. If Zeke cannot, we look elsewhere. We keep looking until we succeed and the curse is gone. I'm not going to give that madman even the slightest shred of a victory. I will not quit."

Tel looks to Zeke, and nods. "Go ahead, Zeke. I trust you."

GAME: Ravenstongue rolls Will: (19)+14: 33

Cor'lana trembles a little. Not exactly from fear of Dolan, but fear of what she has to say. "I don't know if it's relevant to the curse," she says. "But it may well be. If what Zeke tries does not work... curses in storybooks always have a way of ending them. A true love's kiss, for instance, to end the sleeping spell that has befallen a princess. And while you scoff--I know Zalgiman well enough to know that he would craft such a curse. He was..."

She shakes her head. "He was a mind and a soul like mine, which I realized far too late," she says. "I had let my disgust and hatred of what he was overrule me. I laughed at his expense and toyed with him like a childhood bully does to a much smaller child, except that I led him on. Yet until the end, he had no hatred for me. He hated only Telamon, not knowing that Telamon was participating, too. I know that Zalgiman's obsession with me might have always ended this way--for he loved me from afar, stole bits and pieces of me without knowing, and created the rest of the portrait. A woman who doesn't exist. The woman who would save him from despair--if only she loved him the way he loved her."

It seems for a moment that she might fall apart, despite the fact that Telamon is the one who is cursed. But... she still stands. A woman worthy of commanding an army. So she looks her general, Dolan, in the eye.

"All of this could have been prevented. The lives lost. The curse. Everything. Not by me walking off with Zalgiman and betraying the love of my life--because he, too, would have found issue with me eventually, because I did not live up to his ideal. But if I had half a heart--if I had reached out in friendship and not with a dagger hidden behind my back and with sweet words I didn't mean--then perhaps he would have listened. Perhaps he would not have declined. Perhaps the love of my life would not be dying in my very presence. Perhaps my most warm friend would not be here casting the judgment I so rightfully deserve."

Her eyes are hollow. "In this, he wins. I do not know how to come back from this. Not when I feel that I am the monster. Perhaps the curse is only over when I die, not Telamon."

GAME: Zeke casts Remove Curse. Caster Level: 16 DC: 18
GAME: Zeke rolls 1d20+16: (5)+16: 21

Even as Cor'lana explains Zeke makes his prayer. The magic boils up inside of him and he pours comforting warmth through Telamon though there is no immediate way to tell if the curse is gone or if it remains. Zeke looks at Cor'lana as she completes her explanation and waits a moment longer. "If you will Cor'lana, the only way to know if he isss free isss for you to touch him." He doesn't comment on her words, but his job here is not to judge, but to try and cure his patient. That must come first and foremost.

Telamon's expression twists in pain at Lana's wrenching words. Reflexively, he reaches for her -- curse or not. "You couldn't have helped it, Lana. You couldn't have helped him. He didn't want to be helped." His voice drops. "All he wanted was someone to tell him it was all okay. And it wasn't."

He reaches up to wipe his face, and stares at the wetness on his hands. "Please, Lana," he says, looking at her. "Don't do this to yourself. Move forward. Focus on what we can do to repair all the damage he's done -- to the world, and to us."

He relaxes a little as Zeke intones his prayer, but as Zeke notes, there's only one way to find out. Fortunately this is the definition of 'controlled environment'.

"I can't possibly judge you any harder than you're judging yourself, Lana." Dolan doesn't move, doesn't back down, but neither is the dark cloud of anger present that he never hides when it is there. "It's hard to say what might have happened if you'd done things differently." Finally, the gaze drops, and he sighs, then resumes. "We're all an ass sometimes." Notably, he isn't moving to approach either of them, at this point, just staying right where he is. "What matters is what you do now. Kicking yourself isn't going to undo anything. The only thing you can do is make it right, yeah?"

"I'd understand if you did judge me harder," Lana says with a small smile to Dolan that... seems comforted by his words but still very much betrays the weight she is wearing. She hasn't removed her flower crown from when they assaulted the camp, and for all the feeling it's a motion of one in power--struggling with the consequences of her actions.

"But you are right," she adds on, looking more firmly at Telamon. "Both of you are right. I may either carry the weight or choose to drown underneath it without fighting for my life to reach the surface and catch that all-precious breath."

It's a moment before she does as Telamon and Zeke ask: to move forward in the literal sense. She does so, her face going into a stone-like expression. There's no hope of that being the end of it.

Zeke steps slightly to the side, but there's a readiness in the sith-makar, preparation to pull the two apart if Cor'lana's touch should drain the life from Telamon's body. His green eyes are laser focused and intent. For all the words that are passing between everyone, he is not oblivious or without thought on these things, but this is the proving ground. The moment in which they find out if the curse has been abated.

Telamon looks up at Lana, and he smiles. It's the smile he had when they married, it's the one for her, and only her. A promise that no matter how rough it gets, they will be together. "No illness will take my love from you, no Tyrant will take my love from you," he reminds her.

And then their hands touch. A moment and then--

Telamon falls back, with a coughing gasp, his face turning pale. He mouths -- but thankfully doesn't voice -- a curse. His fist clenches, and he grits his teeth. "...Well... shit."

Dolan had turned his head to watch, as well, and when it doesn't go so well, he swears too, and doesn't bother to conceal it. "Damn it. You said there are other ways." His head turns immediately back to Zeke. The judgment past, he blinks, stricken with horror as what he is witnesses takes root, crystalizes in his mind. "That bastard," he shakes his head slowly, his heart going out to them both.

"So, what are our options?" he asks the group at large.

Even though Cor'lana approached with a stone-faced expression, it's not enough to save her entirely as he goes pale and starts dying before her eyes again. She shuts her eyes, turns around, and walks back to her corner of the room, facing it for a moment.

"A bed. My friend. My soulmate. The healer. Flowers," Cor'lana says quietly to herself. "It is a Kesenday in Eatonis, the month of my birth. The year is 1025."

She shudders, wipes tears from her eyes, and then turns back around. "I... If we are going to seek out magic, then it must be more powerful magic than this. Someone capable of miracles. Beyond that..."

Cor'lana looks thoughtful. "We research similar curses. Or we enlist the aid of the Vardamans to speak to Zalgiman's soul in the beyond to find out what it is that would break it, as he is the one that crafted the curse. A fanciful idea, I admit, but it's what I can think of with ease for the moment."

"Thesse are good ideasss." Zeke says to Cor'lana, watching her carefully as she returns to her corner. He notes how quickly Telamon recovers once she is away, and his eyes are hooded with thought. He emits a soft sigh and looks at Telamon. "Thisss one can ssstill take the curssse from you Telamon. Cor'lana isss not thisss onesss mate, being parted from her will not harm thisss onesss heart. Then you would be free to sseek the cure, to be at her ssside while you do ssso."

He will not press this point, but he feels the need to offer it again.

Telamon catches his breath. He looks like he wants to take the paint off the walls, but after a few moments he focuses. Staring at Lana. Realizing he needs to do something to break the pattern of sadness in the room. And so of course, he says the first thing that pops into his head. "You know, Lana, you really do have a pretty derriere."

Grinning despite himself, he looks at Zeke and Dolan. "Zeke... you're a good man. But I can't ask that of you. It's wrong. What if the curse mutates? There's plenty of stories about curses going weird when they get misdirected." He exhales. "Alright. Research is good. I... you know, I bet I could cast legend lore on the curse, or even on myself, and see what shakes loose. I mean, worst case scenario I just learn a whole bunch of silly information I already knew." He looks to Dolan and Lana again. "I want you to go find Verna, and see if she's got a solution. She's wise with magic." His expression suddenly looks like he's biting a lemon. "...And gods help me, maybe we can ask Archmage Mikilos for advice as well. I know his reputation, but he's probably one of the most skilled wizards in Alexandros."

"Yeah, I need to talk to Verna anyway, soon as Andie's done." The mobile half of Dolan's expression darkens again, with deep worry and something else, but he doesn't explain. "I'll see if we can find her." He still hasn't moved, his eyes moving between the pair of them, and his arms remain folded. "You think between us we can come up with enough fish to ask Tanith if she knows how?" The question is offhand, only half-serious.

The comment on her posterior does put a flush onto Cor'lana's cheeks, but it's paired with a sort of uncomfortable look between Dolan and Zeke, like she's worried about their comfort with such a comment. "I'm glad even as you are dying, you still find it lovely," she says lightly.

The mention of a certain golden gets Cor'lana's eyes alight, the lightest they've been since since Telamon's kidnapping. "Tanith!" she says. "Tanith--she could. She could. I'd buy a fleet of fish if I could--if it meant she could break the curse on Telamon. If anyone could, it would be her, that beautiful golden-scaled wonder."

Even the fervor of her voice--the sort that she uses for delivering poems on the joys of life, the sort that she used to quell the mountain in Quelynos--returns as she speaks of Tanith. "We should ask her first."

Zeke looks around the room uncertainly, it's clear he has something on his mind but is uncertain if he should say it or not. He lets out a low concerned rumble when Mikilos is mentioned and shakes his head, only for Dolan to suggest the small gold dragon who he has seen but only a few times. "Thisss one isss unscertain how a sssamll dragon could help, but... If you are dessssperate enough to go to Mikilossss, thisss one sssuggessstsss kin firssst. Sseldan isss ssskilld with magicsss."

Telamon blinks. "I... maybe." He's hedging his bets. Shifting his gaze to Zeke, he explains. "Tanith is... more than she seems, Zeke. I don't think it's my place to say more, but she is a servant of Ni'essa, and has been a guest in my home." His expression becomes rueful. "Which entailed me buying a -lot- of fish."

Telamon looks at the others. "Alright. I... can probably contact Tanith, one way or another. Dolan..." he pauses, then continues, "Thank you. You helped save Lana, and now you've helped save me. You'll always be welcome in my house."

"I don't get to make comments about your - derriere, as Tel puts it," Dolan chuckles, some of his own smile returning when he sees Lana light up, and the banter between the two. "I've got my hands full with Andie." Again, that grin brightens into something positively wicked, a good-humored gleam coupled with a farmboy that is totally enthralled with his lady. "You two have saved my ass as well," he replies, some of the smile fading. "That's what friends are for, Tel, and you two'll always have a friend in me, yeah?"

He hesitates, though, and looks between them. "I might not be able to help you two too much this time. Jal'goroth's after Andie. I don't expect you two to do anything about it, but I thought you ought to know. If Tanith can help - I'll help gather fish if I can, but I can't leave her alone right now."

"Seldan..." Cor'lana's expression becomes concerned with Zeke's suggestion. "It's true. He is gifted. But so many people--that's all they do when they talk to him, is to ask him for help, for guidance, to demand that he do something. If I do trouble him--it will be with an apology. I would be a poor friend if I contacted him only to demand him to solve a problem."

She sighs. "Not that I am a good friend for anyone much of late, I feel, but--once again, I must not be weighed down by it all, lest I drown and find myself asking Zalgiman the question myself in the Halls."

But then the subject of Jal'goroth comes up. And Cor'lana stares at Dolan. "You do not expect me to do anything about it?" she asks. "Dolan--I bear a weapon that can kill the demon. If you find it again, I can be there to help."

In truth Cor'lana's concern is the reason that Zeke did not bring the paladin up immediately as a solution. The blue-scale sith looks at Cor'lana very seriously. "If you have need to ssshare wordsss Cor'lana, thisss one isss here for sssuch. Thessse are trying timesss, and our enemiesss do try to bring usss low. Try to make usss tear our-ssselves and one another apart." It was in fact why he had offered to take the curse, because this was a weakness between the two that he loathed to see. They were stronger together.

"Precisely. They hate that we come together, as friends, as lovers, as comrades, as spouses." Telamon has sat up again. "Zeke... at some point I would like to speak with Seldan. I am, however, going to try and contact Tanith. If nothing else, she might be interested to hear my story. Especially if I supplement it with fish."

He looks sympathetically at Dolan. "I understand. Whatever help you need, Dolan, don't hesitate to ask. You may not get both of us until we get rid of this curse -- but by Ni'essa's silver light I will help you make Jal'goroth regret ever messing with you or your fiancee."

It is hard for Dolan to ask, when these two are already dealing with a horror of their own. It is doubly hard for Dolan to admit that he'll need their help, and so he is left leaning against the door, eyes downcast, staring at his boots. "I - thank you both. I didn't want to ask. You two have enough to deal with. If I need help, I'll call. Just - make sure we don't disappear, yeah?" He lifts one hand to scratch at his hairline. "I sure as sunrise intend to make him regret ever crossing my path - for a very short time, before he is fucking destroyed." The last is said with a black scowl. "I'm just glad we got the warning."

GAME: Telamon rolls sense motive+3: (5)+20+3: 28
GAME: Ravenstongue rolls hmm: aliased to Sense Motive+3: (19)+20+3: 42
GAME: Zeke rolls Sense Motive: (13)+5: 18

It's Cor'lana's turn for the gaze, although hers is less of the inquisitor's compelling gaze and more of a concerned friend. "Dolan... You can tell us everything," she says, gently. "As you said yourself--we are friends. Nothing will ever change that. You compelled me to speak my mind about it all and we were able to discuss it, so speak of your end. Please."

"If you will." Zeke adds with a nod to Dolan. He offers no pressure on his own behalf, only friendly curiosity. It is in the end, Dolan's choice.

Telamon turns in the bed so he can actually get up. He's stripped to the waist, though thankfully it's just pajama bottoms he's wearing and not his torn pants. Visible across his back is the elaborate gold, blue and silver star chart like an elaborate, intricate pattern. "What Lana said," Telamon adds with a small grin. "Zeke, do you have a shirt around here somewhere? I'm pretty sure I'd like to wear something a little more modest if I go pray..."

"Here, I've got a spare." Dolan finally stands from where he's been leaning against the door, and walks over to a different corner of the room, where his usual pack is stashed. He digs through it for a moment or two, and tosses a simple, high-collared, pale green shirt in Telamon's direction. "Might be a bit big-" He trails off at the sight of the massive star chart, staring for a moment or two. "Damn, that's impressive, Tel," he breathes.

He picks up the pack and walks back over to the door, then. "I - " Deep embarrassment floods him, but he knows that if he asked it of Lana, he'd better give the same. "I'm not really supposed to be fighting right now, not for the next week or so," he admits finally, in a halting tone that says that this is a hard admission. "It's not going to stop me if something happens, but - I - I guess I pushed it a little hard, and they want me to back off."

Cor'lana looks... deeply moved. "Dolan... After everything you've been through? You helped me anyway despite orders?" It looks like she might cry all over again, but she just shakes her head, a soft smile coming to her face. "I--I apologize for asking it of you, but also? You're truly one of the strongest people I know. I am honored to have a friend such as you. Both Tel and I are."

She shakes her head. "It's true that both Tel and I are... dealing with this, so our capacity to help is limited. But it can be done. It will be done. Even if I have to offer Tanith all the fish in the sea. Even if I have to rouse Zalgiman's sleeping spirit to ask him the question of the cure. At that time, you will have us completely in aid."

"You did what you did for your ally Dolan." Zeke offers quietly and without judgment, though his green eyes do show concern. "For your friend. But thisss one doesss sssuggessst that you begin to think of your-ssself. Of your body. You are important too." This said, and Telamon given a shirt, the sith-makar makes for the door slowly. "Thisss one can be of little more aid here, but thisss one will be available if there isss need." He gives Telemon and Cor'lana a firm look, but does not comment further there. Though there is something in his green-eyed gaze that bespeaks volumes to one who can read it. Then he turns away.

Telamon glances back, and actually blushes a bit. "Oh! Yeah... heh. Lana's usually the only one who sees it." He begins to pull Dolan's shirt on, and it's clear -- yeah, it's big. Still. "Alright," he squares his shoulders. "We all have things to do. We're going to get them done, and then we're going to have drinks together and cheer about it afterward." His eyes flash, and despite everything... the fierce optimism is still there. The confidence.

His eyes move to Lana, and he smiles... tapping his temple. "Doesn't matter what barriers are in our way, love. We're never apart." His feet hit the floor, and he straightens up. Rolling his head back and forth a bit. "Let's go write another chapter in the story."