Tired, hurt and with the crippled King in two the party limped their way back toward Dundee, first returning to Agneses home to collect their horses. As they left the forbidding woods, their spirits were struck another blow as Sir Arthur suddenly spurred his mount to a canter and sped away down the road leaving the party in his wake. Murdo and Fen gave chance but even their swift feet were not enough to catch the powerful horse and he was already on the ferry by the time they made it to the village on the southern banks of the Tay. There, they gave up, knowing that he would be in the Cathedral by the time they made it over the river, and instead waited for their friends. Late afternoon, witht he light fading fast the rag-tag group returned to Dundee and, skirting the town square and the cathedral, they went instead the the University to get what help they could for the King.
Over the following few weeks it became apparent that the destruction of the withered dragonheart had indeed finished the spread of corruption and life in Dundee returned to an uneasy tense approximation of normality. The nights after the part returned to the city saw two more attacks from the possessed cannibal devil-creatures, but the bands were small and the attacks were easily dealt with by the increased guard presence and some some local civic-minded civilians. After two nights, there came the first uneasy night of peace and a few days later the Earl declared the curfew over and the city cleansed of the curse that had plagued it.
The Earl knew the truth, for the party had told him of the events that transpired on Tentsmuirs shores and indeed he met with King Tita before he was taken to meet Hestaby. So to did the Bishop for (presumably) Sir Arthur must surely have told them. Yet it would seem that neither felt that such a strange and astonishing tale of myth, magic and legend should be told. Instead it was proclaimed that the city thanked the heroes of the city guard, the noble families who donated men to help the city, the people of Dundee for their forbearance in the face of trying circumstances, God for delivering them from the devils work – and somewhat grudgingly the Earl even thanked the church for their tireless efforts to protect the immortal souls of those in Dundee, rich and poor alike.
The churches slant on the situation turned out to be somewhat different. In packed church halls throughout Dundee, and not least the cathedral itself, the church proclaimed Gods victory – their victory – over the Devil and his works. They preached to a great many who listened of the victory that faith in God gave them and the priests, monks and nuns extorted people to reaffirm and renew their faith in the lord. The Earls response did not counter the church directly, but the guards were vigilant and the Earl was forthright in his insistance that the laws of Dundee be upheld and that attacks on Others in Dundee would not be tolerated. Indeed, minstrels and bards throughout Dundee were unusually active in reminding the people they played to of the role, the heroism, showed by these people in the aftermath of the Laws eruption. And so a different battle began, a battle not of swords, but of propaganda, faith, whispers and words. A subtle and careful battle for the soul of Dundee.
Over the next few months tensions between the rulers of Dundee and the church rose as the nobles, one after the other, began to take sides. Still, for the everyday folk things returned to a semblance of normality. The winter cold set in proper and thick snows came to the city and the countryside surrounding it. Nevertheless, the workers worked, merchants peddled their wares and, when the silvery tay was free of ice, ships came to the harbour bringing food, drink and other goods from foreign parts. Banditry and piracy, while always remaining, were not so problematic as to significantly hurt trade though prices rose as the cold of winder set in proper.
For the party, Agnes finally met with Aiden upon his return and he spoke with him about her cough. She was seen around the university for a time, clearly in pain, until eventually she was seen no more. Fen returned to the slums where he can still be found assisting people wherever he is able and Orion, although taciturn and terse as ever, can still be sometimes seen frequenting the warehouses and taverns around the docks. Naught was seen of Sir Arthur for some time. It was rumoured that he had unburdened his sole over some dark deeds to the Bishop himself and had been told he could only receive absolution after a long period of isolation, abstinence, mediation and prayer, something the pious young knight had enthusiastically welcomed. Upon his return to society and his cousin he was observed by some to be a humbler man, quieter, somehow more twitch and intense and prone to long period of solitary prayer. He shunned galas, dances, and fancy feasts in preference for the bible, plain food and the company of the Cathedral congregation. Surprisingly, his standing and reputation only grew – in no small part due to the churches good opinion of the young man.
Noted for his part, Struman was granted a rare pardon by the Earl but not before he was stripped of his rank and standing in the city guard and so he was gifted a new start in life. Surprisingly, he and Cid (now calling himself Sod to avoid the attentions of the guard, decided to go into business and, buying a cheap property on the docks, began a pie shop (Bullseye Pies) that swiftly gained a reputation for fine affordable food thanks in no small part to the pair hiring a mysterious mercenary called Douglas who, it turns out, was a surprisingly talented cook. Elara returned to her village in the highlands, seeking to know if Eonan was cured, but also to speak with the wise women of her village of the deal she had made with the Old Man of the Sea and the child growing inside her. For Murdo, life returned to normal – at least relatively. During Sir Arthurs absence he called on Katherine often and she welcomed him warmly – a fact not unnoticed by the nobility of the city. Upon Sir Arthurs return to the household however he chaperoned her often and her welcome grew colder, though whether this was her doing or the presence of her cousin was unclear. Still, an uneasy peace reigned over Dundee as the winter festivals passed and many tales were told in the taverns of Dundee about the ravaging disease now being called the ravening plague, and some even mentioned a role for some of our heros in its end, despite the churches efforts to claim the credit.
Elaras pregnancy progressed fast, and fears grew for her. In mid-January, barely three months after her pact was consummated, the midwifes of the village declared her time was imminent. Fearing for her life, Elara and the wise woman went with great haste to the shore, reasoning that, given the child’s heritage, a birth in the sea might encourage things. This did not go well, as it turned out. As her labour began and the waves washed over her there was terrible pain and the child writhed inside her as if hurting. Draging her from the sea the wise woman was at a loss but with a sudden flash of insight Elara understood – even as water returns to the sea in time, falling first as freshwater rain and flowing through bright streams and slow languid rivers, so must her childs journey be to his eventual dominion; first, he must be freshwater, before he was salty. As the rain clouds broke overhead and the wise woman and her midwifes lay her shivering in a nearly freshwater stream so she gave birth to a boy child, hale and healthy, and surrounded by a myriad of small excited water spirits. She names him Ethan. They returned to her village for a time. Ethan was growing fast, far faster than a normal child and he needed no mobile hung over his crib for he was entertained by water spirits, unseen by any without the gift of astral sight. Elara began to feel a strong draw to return to Dundee, as if the sea there called her too it so it could watch over her and within weeks she had made plans to return and departed. Upon her return to Dundee she was gifted a smallholding just along the north shore by the Earl (out at what would today be Broughty Ferry) and she arranged for a wet nurse to attend her child. And with that she went to the university to renew her acquaintance with her companions, only to find Struman, Cid and Murdo departing for a meeting with the Earls Castilian to discuss matters of great import. Coincidence? I think not; rather Fate – and she joined them for their talk. As it turned out, not the least important thing that they discussed was the disappearance of a young girl from a noble house, only a few days ago…