The Keepers of Los Claustros

Chapter 8: Madness in Freedom

News reached the Empty Barrel of a crime spree in Freedom. A rash of murders, targeting tiefling women, had erupted. Without thinking, without consulting with her fellow Keepers, Orianna set out for her home city. After all, tieflings were her people. Though few and far between, they shared a common bond – a connective tissue. Her teammates gave chase, and soon they arrived at the capitol of The Human Federation.

The rumors swirled around the lower quarters – a slasher on the loose – a cave – one would-be victim escaped and held in custody. The Keepers tracked her to a barracks, where city guards held her under tight watch. When Orianna requested to see her, however, the guards unflinchingly allowed her access. Whether this was because of her racial affinity, her psionic power, or something else, Orianna entered suspiciously.

The girl was no older than eighteen, much like Orianna, afflicted with just a drop of demonic influence, enough to wear an aura of supernatural beauty and existential fear. The girl told them what she knew – a man, a human noble, abducted her, rode out to a cave, and prepared a ritual slaughter. She escaped only because the killer was so distracted by his own mad ravings. “Her, it’s her, they’re all her.”

Orianna and the Keepers paid a superstitious local tracker an immense sum to take them out to one of the only inhabitable caves in the area – just outside the city walls, away from prying eyes. They released the woodsman of his contract and entered the cave. Orianna scanned the main rooms for any signs of him, and she found it. A book, bound in red leather with gold edging around the pages. A note written in the cover. She slammed it shut before the others could see.

Then, they found him. Joseph, a wild-eyed man dressed in what once must have been elegant finery, now too small for him, worn through and dirty. “It’s you!” He summoned an undead guardian, one of his stitched-together tiefling girls, and attacked.

Orianna defended herself, and with the aid of the rest of the Keepers, managed to subdue his creatures. She then impaled Joseph before he could preemptively reveal her secret. The reason she had fled to the city was because she was responsible for this. She had not raised a finger to kill these girls, but it had been her immense psionic power that snapped the mind of her childhood rival – a boy named Joseph. For years, he had been stashed away in an abattoir, but then his wealthy parents ran out of money and he was thrown onto the streets, obsessed with exacting his revenge against Orianna. She took the necklace from around his neck. A necklace he had stolen from her in their childhood – a simple brass pendant, and she draped it around her neck. She confessed it all to her allies, and for the first time they embraced her – not as a fellow Keeper, but as a friend and fellow sufferer. She vowed silently that she would continue to increase her power until even the flow of time was hers to command. And then, she would return to her childhood and stop any of this from happening.

In the morning, the Keepers told the escaped tiefling that her captor was dead. She smiled, the kind only a beleaguered woman can smile, and asked where they would go next. The Keepers told her of Los Claustros, where the people were all right, and you could see the mountains, and there was no bustle. The girl asked if she could come along.

Within days, she was the star of the town. Everyone flocked to the Empty Barrel on the nights she was working. Orianna smiled, proud of her new friend, the barmaid, the pretty tiefling with a heart of gold. Also waiting at the bar was a hulking figure with the body of a shark, who introduced himself as Kove. He told the Keepers of a past in which he protected other towns as part of a roving band of adventurers. But, having found himself the last of his crew, he elected to spend his time preparing Los Claustros for the oncoming D-Day.

With Kove’s bolstering presence in the group, Orianna decided to return East to search for more suitable candidates for Keeperhood. She bid the group farewell and promised to return before the portals opened.

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