Choose Your Own Adventure 47: Do I Know You?
You chose to stick around the burned-out town of Zajez, in hopes of finding more information.
Before moving on to more serious investigations, you pay a visit to the River Shayev, at one of its calmer points, to look at your own reflection. Based on your sketchy memories, you’ve lost some weight since you were here last, and your stolen clothing is completely different. There are dark circles under your eyes. Those and the dust on your clothing and skin are a clear sign of your ongoing travel, and you tell yourself that it has nothing to do with the recent strain. Your cut your hair short, roughly, with your knight, at shoulder level, and leave it loose, as no soldier would do. You hide your sword before you move on. You don’t have any hair dye, but you know a spell simple enough to make it and your eyes appear a lighter color than they actually are. In sum, you look little like the woman you were when you were last in Zajez.
You find a moment to reflect that it is more than your appearance that has changed.
But the increasing warmth of the late spring day sends you forward. A little breeze stirs some of the ashes, but there is no other movement. After a couple of hours, you eventually reach the side of the town furthest from the burned out skeleton of the monastery, where it looks as though someone made an effort to save a building or two. The damage is still severe, and there are no signs of recent habitation. A little ways from the down, there are signs of what might have been a campsite, months ago.
Before you try to figure out where any survivors might have gone, you visit the monastery further up the hill. Or what’s left of it, which is very little indeed. The fire must have burned hottest here. You see no one but the long dead.
After a couple of days of further travel, guessing at the likely path of the survivors, you find another village, a truly tiny one, although it still has a small tavern. It’s along a road that leads to some of the northern mines, and probably gets enough travelers passing through to support itself, barely.
This time of year, though, the number of people traveling north is starting to drop off, and you’re here early in the day. There are only about a half-dozen other people, including the barkeep who hands you your mug of mead. Good quality, for such a small place. After a word of praise, you ask, “What happened to the village east of here?”
“Zajez? Burned to the ground. We’re not really sure why. Some people are saying it was just one person who started it, deliberate arson, but…”
An older woman who was sitting in a corner perks up at the words, and takes the seat next to you. “She was one of the Emperor’s Hands. I’m sure of it.”
The barkeep winces. “Mama, don’t say such dangerous things-”
“I’m an old woman, I’ll say what I like!” She narrows her eyes at him, and he backs down. “I’ve seen ’em, in the capital, training once. I’d read about ’em, too, since the monks let me visit their library well enough. I’m glad you moved here, Terand. I’d…” She sniffs, then moves on. “Dunno what she was doing. Maybe the folks at the monastery did something to hurt the Emperor. But the Emperor’s Hands, they’re a tough lot. She wasn’t wearing a uniform, this one, just straight black. Matched her hair. They say the Hands wield weapons and wizardry with equal skill, and they’re right. They also say they do anything the Emperor wants. Anything. But I doubt they’d kill a crazy old lady for saying mean things about them.” She gives the barkeep, her son, another stern look.
“How did you get away?”
“I wasn’t there when it started, out picking mushrooms. I saw it all from the woods. Eyesight’s still good, you know. And then I ran as fast as I could.”
Then she asks you, “So, what are you doing in these parts?”
You take a drink, then reply, “Just passing through. My fortunes went sour, so I’m looking for a better place to start again with some old friends.”
She nods understandingly. “Lots of folks around here do that.”
“Did many people escape?”
“A few,” she says. “Too few. But we’re hoping to rebuild. The library, though… I’m not sure that can really be rebuilt.”
Option 49: Help the people here rebuild Zajez. After all, since this is where you did a lot of damage, it might seem an unlikely place to stay. Your pursuers may not look for your here.
Option 50: You still need to know what happened to you, and prevent the unknown horrible things that could be unleashed by the spell cast on you. And odds are, someone will eventually track you down. Go back to Alederik to look for more answers.
Option 51: Enough of this Empire. Head for the eastern frontier.