The Whispers – Chapter Ten

Hello there!  Thank you for joining me for another chapter of Tellest’s newest feature, the “interactive” story, The Whispers—a story which you and readers like you are helping me tell.  For ease of navigation, I’m going to have little mini tables of contents on these posts, so feel free to use them to jump around and discover how The Whispers works, how you can help steer the direction of the main character’s choices, and, of course, read the story.  I hope you enjoy taking part in this interesting new Tellest adventure!


The Whispers Concept

The Whispers – Chapter Ten

Voting Instructions


The Whispers Concept

The Whispers is a story that takes place within the Tellest universe.  It’s a story that is written by Michael DeAngelo, but it’s told with help from the readers.  The Whispers follows Declan, a young man who was recently evicted from the temple where he grew up.  When he was younger, he used to hear voices, and the clergy interpreted those voices in ways that they thought brought them closer to divinity.  But with the whispers growing quiet, Declan was no longer needed at the temple, and he was instead shipped off to a nearby adventurers’ guild.  The voices have recently returned in his time of need, and have offered him advice on what to do in order to survive.

If you haven’t already figured it out, you are one of those potential whispers!  At the end of every chapter, Declan is given a choice.  Every reader has the chance to vote and influence Declan’s decision, as long as you’re a member of the Tellest newsletter.  Every time you vote, your voice holds more sway as well.  Everyone who casts their vote in earlier chapters will now have a stronger voice, and Declan will hear them a little clearer.  So for your voice to be heard best, you should get in on this story early.  There is another way to gain additional voting power, but that will be described in the voting instructions at the end of this post.

First thing is first: you’ve got to read the story (starting with chapter one, if you prefer).  Then if you’re not already a member of the newsletter, go ahead and sign up!  Tellest has awesome freebies that we give out right away at sign-up, and more that come along every few weeks.

Without much further adieu, let’s continue our tale, and find out the most recent choice Declan made with the help of our Council of Whispers…



Chapter Ten:
Getting Your Bell Rung

For once, it sounded as though the whispers were second to another noise resonating in Declan’s mind.  Though it had been some time since the intruders had taken the bell and fled with it, the former resident of the temple still heard the tone of the clapper striking the mouth of the mighty instrument.

When he opened his eyes, he expected some semblance of serenity.  As exhausted as battle had made him, he believed he was waking from a nightmare—rather than living one, as he and his allies did.

He did not know when he had succumbed to weariness and pain, nor did he know how long it had lasted.  Fires still crackled in the building, and the groans from those who were injured, as well as the death rattles from those who would not last the night, still filled the hallowed chambers of Fespar Temple.

Despite the wave of stimulation that came over Declan, he fought to sit up.  Strange shadows danced on the walls of the building, for half of the flames of the candelabras had been snuffed out, and large chunks of stone from the temple’s steeple had been ripped out, let to fall on the once-beautiful floor of the building.

Declan tried to listen for advice from the voices that often assailed his mind, but he could not detect them.  It was just as it was before he had been shipped off to the Adventurers of Eladia.  He considered for a moment that perhaps there was something about the temple that limited his ability to confer with the otherworldly whispers.

No, it was not that, he knew.  His ears rung from the noise of the bell, the volume of the screams, the sound of the explosions that roared into the night.  It was bad enough that he could barely hear the groan escaping his own lips as he struggled to his feet.

Though he didn’t know how long he had been unconscious, he knew that it was long enough for the patrons of the temple to risk exiting the building.  Melara and Jarayas and the rest of the highwaymen must have escaped quite some time before.

As his vision settled, Declan watched the horrors continue to unfold around him, even in the absence of the villains who had set the temple ablaze.  The charred remains of more than one patron lay on the ground nearby, and the scent of their burning flesh made it feel as though Declan’s sense of smell was the first that was fighting to return to him.  But he could taste the bile rise to the back of his throat as he watched one of the patrons tug on the arm of a friend or family member who was stuck beneath a large chunk of rubble.  The trapped person offered no assistance, and as their torso separated from their lower body, their companion seemed unable to make peace with the loss.

Fear crept into Declan’s mind then, for he could not see his guildmates nearby.  As he tried to recall the details of the battle they had lost, he could not remember what befell them.  And in the darkness of the place, he could not easily find his fallen companions.

As he took his first step forward, his foot brushed against a sturdy object, and it filled him with some hope to see it there.  The staff he had grown accustomed to was still in good shape and seemed like a beacon amidst the dreariness of the place.  He reached down and plucked it from the floor, and upon standing upright once more, he felt steadier, and more in control of his senses.

He could feel the whispers far in the back of his mind, as though they were scratching to get inside and reveal unspoken secrets to him.  But he didn’t have the capacity to open whatever door had been shut to them.  Instead, he focused on what he could accomplish there in the temple.

Close by, he saw someone wearing an outfit that looked at first like something Ilayeth would have worn.  But the debris that had fallen from the ceiling had coated everything in thin layers of grey and brown, and he soon realized that he was mistaking his ally for someone else.  He helped the patron to her feet regardless and pointed her toward the exit.  Declan would not leave—not until he found his friends.

While he scoured the temple floor looking for Tornig and Ilayeth, he peered into one of the antechambers, and his heart dropped.  His legs grew weak enough that he was at risk of falling to the floor again, and his senses seemed to withdraw once more.

Benedictus, the closest thing he had to a father figure since serving at the temple, lay in a heap against the far wall of the chamber, his blood staining the once immaculate wall behind him.

Declan felt a fire within him though, for he watched the man shift a bit, his eyes twinkling in the faded light that scattered throughout the temple.

Rushing inside, Declan slid along the floor as he dropped to his knees beside his friend.  He helped to prop Benedictus up against the wall, ignoring the agonized growl from the cleric.  Despite the pain surging through him, Benedictus looked upon the young fellow with warmth, as though seeing him again made all the tragedy of that day worth it.

“I did not expect to see you again this day,” the cleric said through gasps and gurgles.  “Yet even now, I can tell you aren’t the same young man who left our care.”

“Save your strength, Benedictus,” Declan said.  “I’ll get you out of here, and—”

Though it took effort, the older fellow shook his head.  “It will not keep,” he insisted.  “I am too far gone.  Magic would not restore me—only delay the inevitable.”

Declan’s jaw dropped to hear such words.

“Do not,” Benedictus said as he looked upon the young man before him.  “Do not fret.  My body may be failing me, but my spirit is full.  I see a man before me filled with purpose.”

Tears filled Declan’s eyes, but as he watched his old friend’s conviction steady him, he sniffed away the emotion running rampant in him, and rubbed his face with the heels of his hands.

“You’re hurt,” Benedictus said, spotting the injuries upon Declan.  Queryn’s talons had raked lines into Declan’s skin, and the blood stained the young man’s outfit.

He couldn’t believe that the cleric spared a thought of him when he was in such a sorry state.  Declan took a moment to look over Benedictus’s wounds, and realized at once that his injuries were just like his.  The harpy’s talons had left the man’s robes in tatters, but there were also deeper wounds, and Declan knew that they had been inflicted by Queryn’s daggers.

For a moment, Declan wondered if Benedictus had incurred her wrath before the Adventurers of Eladia had arrived.  If she had attacked the cleric after Declan had been downed in the fight…

He was pulled from his thoughts then, for a light emanated from his old friend’s body.  Benedictus held his hands up, shaking as they were, and gave shape to the light, a small ball of energy hovering above his wounds.

“What are you doing?” Declan asked.

The cleric answered not with his words, but with his actions, sending the light toward Declan.  Awash in the divine power, the young man who once lived at the temple felt energized, and he looked down to see his wounds close.  There wouldn’t even be a scar from where Queryn’s claws had torn open his flesh.

“I cannot do more,” Benedictus said, and his voice sounded weaker and wearier than it had before he called upon the holy power.  “I am sorry, Declan.  But I am glad that yours is the last face my vision will fall upon.  I have always been proud of you.”

Declan reached out and grabbed a shivering hand.  Benedictus had clammy skin, and a weak grip, and even then, it grew weaker by the second.

“Seek out Brother Carlo…if he yet lives,” the priest said, his voice losing strength, and with a sizable pause present.  “He knows about the bell, and where it came from before it arrived here…and he can tell you…”

He waited for his old friend to give him further instruction, but he realized soon after that Benedictus had expelled his last breath.  The fellow’s chest deflated, and even propped up against the wall, he seemed to shrink, and become less substantial.

Declan’s throat grew raw, and he thought to scream into the temple with all his might, but he could not bring himself to.  He twisted, and fell back against the wall, sitting aside the dearest friend he had made in all the time that he had lived in the building.  Falling apart as it was, it was as though the pieces of his life lay scattered, wind and flames ready to turn them to ash and cast them into the distance.  Tears could no longer be fought back, and as he cried them out, he sobbed hard enough to rattle Benedictus’s body.  He gave his friend’s hand one more squeeze, and gently placed it on his chest, all while croaking groans left his lips.

Though there were screams in the distance, it felt strangely silent, and lonely where he was.

But then, he knew that he was not alone.  The scratching in the back of his mind was still there, and as he closed his eyes and steadied his breathing, Declan felt as if he was ready to open the door.

“You have to go after them,” he heard first, and the darkness that wrapped around his heart at the loss of his friend seemed to compel the same thoughts in him.

“They must pay for what they’ve done,” another voice came through the open door.  “Who knows what other mayhem they will unleash if they remain unchecked?”

“Take your allies and hunt them down.”

Declan’s brow furrowed, and he lurched forward, climbing to one knee.  He could feel rage enveloping him, and wanted nothing more than to give in to the dark temptations that the voices promised him.

One voice, however, seemed to permeate those that insisted that he keep the blood flowing.

“Do not lose yourself to the darkness, Declan.”

He wobbled at the sound of the voice that came through.  Though he was not sure of it, the voice sounded like it belonged to the old man who had breathed his last beside him.  As the echo of it in his mind persisted, he knew that it did not belong to Benedictus, but it was close enough that he remained frozen where he was.  His features softened, and the heat in his face seemed to cool, and his ragged breathing steadied.

“Take your time,” another voice pressed.  “Be patient, and when the time is right, you can see that justice is done.”

That was enough to steady him.  Declan bowed his head, breathing out the growls that fought to escape his lungs.  Despite the unnatural heat in the temple, he took in a cool gasp of air, and looked back to his fallen friend.  He reached over, and grabbed the far hand of the dead cleric, and folded both hands across his chest.

Declan knew that he could not mourn for long.  A loud crash echoed out in the main chamber, and he watched as a plume of dust swept across the floor.

His allies were out there, and he could not delay—not when their fates were in the balance.

Rushing out into the main chamber of the temple, he could see that other pieces of the steeple had come crashing down.  Luckily it seemed as though no one had been struck by the latest debris, but there was no telling when the next chunk would fall, or even if the entire foundation of the building would falter.

Some brave souls helped the weak and wounded out of the building, while other weary patrons fought with all their strength to escape of their own volition.  Among the group, Declan watched as a half-elf, covered in dirt and dust, did her best to hold up a bulky fellow who had a terrible gash upon his leg.

“Ilayeth!” Declan cried.  He hurried in her direction, a wave of relief washing over him.

The mage waved on another patron, directing them to take on the burden of helping the wounded man.  As Declan hurried toward her, she opened her arms and wrapped him in a tight embrace.

“When I didn’t see you, I feared the worst,” she said.  “I worried you were beneath one of these pieces of stone.”

“Not yet,” Declan said.  “But if we don’t move quickly, we might still be flattened.”  He looked above, realizing that he could faintly see the stars in the gap within the steeple.  Shaking his head, he returned to the moment, knowing he did not have time to admire the view.  “Have you seen Tornig?”

Ilayeth’s brow furrowed, and her lips twisted to display her fears had not been completely abated.  “Perhaps he shuffled out of the building.  He fought hard against the bandits.”

Declan nodded, allowing himself to hope again.  But he knew better than to allow optimism to keep him from making sure.

“I’m going to take a quick pass around the room—just to be sure.”

“I will help you,” Ilayeth said.

Declan shook his head.  “If he is outside, as you considered, you might be able to find him there.  I know this temple inside and out.  There are some strange hallways that an injured person might venture down.  I need to make sure Tornig didn’t head anywhere else thinking it was the exit.”

The half-elf squared her jaw, looking a bit nervous to allow such reckless behavior.  “Do not take any risks you do not need to,” she said.  “If anything happens to you, I will never forgive myself.”

The newest member of the guild blew out an uneasy breath.  Without wasting any more time, he turned to face the smoky corner of the room and ventured into the darkness.

Beyond the haze and the clouds of dust that lifted into the room, fires burned, leaving an unsettling glow here and there.  Declan knew that irreplaceable pieces of history would smolder to ashes—from ancient tapestries to religious artifacts—but he knew there were more important things to focus on.

Before long, he couldn’t see far enough in front of him, and he shuffled a few steps at a time, trying to remember the long hallway that ran alongside one of the antechambers.  As he reached out his hand to find the stonework that would lead him there, he heard a groan nearby.

As obscured as his vision was, he couldn’t see anything nearby to indicate where the voice had come from.  He closed his eyes though, and tried to see if he could hear another bout of that tragic sound.

The whispers were too ready to fill whatever silence Declan tried to find, and he shook his head, knowing that they were too discordant to gather advice from in that moment.  Grumbling, he tapped his staff against the floor as if to chide them and silence them like children.

He arched his eyebrow then, however, and looked up at the headpiece of his magical implement.

Channeling his energy into it, he could feel a breeze rise up from his feet.  As it rose, it cast the dust away in circular motions, until it reached the apex of the staff.  Then, all at once, the gust spun back around to the bottom of the staff once more, the spell concluding with a powerful burst that sent the haze barreling away from the aspiring mage.

Not so far away, Declan spotted a pile of wood and stone, and he took a few careful steps toward it.

Another groan reached his ears, but that time, he also heard the words of someone outside of his head.

“That you lad?” the weak voice queried.

Declan knew that it was the dwarf, then.  He hurried ahead, setting his staff down so that he could pluck the hunks of stone and broken pieces of wood away.  After a short while, he could see Tornig’s helmet, and soon after, his dirtied face and tangled beard.

With a little less weight on him, the squat warrior groaned a little more loudly.  “I thought I was on me way to see Gulspire,” he said, invoking his brother’s name in a way that sounded as somber as it was humorous.

“Are you hurt?” Declan asked as he continued to pluck away debris from his companion.

“Only me pride,” the dwarf replied, his lungs able to fill with more air again as he began to squirm out of the mound of stone.  “I stood my own against a troll and a lagano, and instead it was this durned temple that was out to get me.”

As Declan parted his lips to offer up a sly remark, a loud blast resounded behind him.  He ducked down, and hid his face on reflex alone, and he narrowed his eyes as he heard the jingling of glass.

“The gnoll must have left some of her explosives here,” Declan said, realizing that he spoke louder than normal as he contended with the ringing in his ears.

Tornig nodded as he climbed to his feet.  “We need to get out of here,” he shouted, ensuring the young member of his guild could hear him.

It took a few moments for the dwarf to find his footing again.  Whether he had a cramp, or a worse injury hidden beneath his armor, Declan could not tell, but he still moved with urgency.

The explosion left the integrity of the temple worse than ever, and streams of smaller stones fell from the ceiling.  Those bits of debris bounced off Tornig’s helmet, echoing out loud enough that Declan could hear it despite the ringing in his ears.  He lifted his free hand then, covering his head as he ran forward.  It seemed that most of the patrons had cleared out, with the only ones left inside being those who had fallen to the highwaymen, or to the calamity unfolding as the building fell apart.

Declan and Tornig emerged into the cool night and heard a tremendous crash behind them.  Neither had to turn to see what happened, as a cloud of dust swept out of the damaged entryway of the temple.  The patrons that could ran a bit farther back from the building as another explosion rang out inside.

Ilayeth, however, ran toward her two companions.

“You’re both safe,” she said, breathing out a sigh of relief once she stood before them.

“Aye, but things certainly didn’t go as planned,” Tornig said.  “Even with a surprise attack, we couldn’t hold our own against them.”

“They were powerful adversaries,” Ilayeth agreed.  “And they outnumbered us by a great deal.”

Though she spoke of the members who had descended from the steeple, Ilayeth’s words had also reminded Declan of another who had been added to the highwaymen’s numbers.  He reached up and rubbed the back of his head.

“Gorik betrayed us,” he said.  “I could have held fast against them, but—”

Ilayeth shook her head.  “It matters not.  If you stood, they would have seen you cut down.  Tornig and I had already faltered, so the blame is not on you.”

“Bah,” the dwarf said.  “We may not have found victory yet, but we will by the end of this.  As achy as me bones are, I’m ready to hunt them down again.”

“We’re in worse shape than we started, my friend,” the half-elf said.  “And we don’t know where they’ve gone.”

“They’ve got a huge bell on their wagon,” Tornig argued.  “I’m sure they’ll be leaving tracks of some sort.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Declan said.  “We’re too weak to fight them in our state, and we don’t understand why they attacked the temple.  They could have slaughtered everyone and taken any treasures they might have had.  People go to the temple to tithe—there was more money to be found.”

“So, what are ye saying?” the dwarf grumbled.  “We just let them go off?”

“It’s better to come at things with a clear head,” Ilayeth suggested.  “If we know why they came here, we might be able to figure out what is next in their plan, and work to thwart them.”

Declan squared his jaw and blew out an emotional breath.  “Before I found you both in the temple, I discovered a friend of mine who lived here.  Brother Benedictus told me that the bell wasn’t originally a part of the temple, and that another of the cloth—Brother Carlo—would know more about it.  We should seek him out if he survived.”

Ilayeth placed her hand on Declan’s shoulder.  “We will look for him while we steady the people.  And we should also move everyone back a fair distance.  We may have seen the worst of the damage, but the building is weakened, and its walls may crumble further.”

Folding his arms over his chest, Tornig snorted.  “Well, when it finally steadies, I’ve got an axe to find.”


*          *          *


As the sun came up, Declan could feel weariness tugging on the back of his mind.  Even the whispers seemed to drift off to sleep, the scratching he sometimes felt behind his skull subsiding for a time.

Shaking off his growing stupor, Declan reached down and offered a waterskin to an injured temple patron.  The fellow, dirtied by the dust and grime that caked his perspiration, would have guzzled the water down to the last drop, but Declan politely stopped the greedy behavior.

“We’ll get you some more soon,” he said.  “There are some others who haven’t had their first sip.”

The former member of the temple recalled that people with far lesser injuries would come to the temple to pray for healing.  He wondered if anyone who had been in the temple at the time of the attack was there for such a thing.  Were they far worse off for the trip?

As he searched for anyone else who lay in the grass in need of a drink, he spotted Ilayeth venturing his way.

“I was able to convince the clerics to use their healing magic on a few of the younger patrons who were not injured too badly,” the half-elf said.  “I sent them off to alert the members of our guild, so they know what to expect before they come here.  If the group that went to Grey Arches have potions to spare, they could make sure they bring them this way.”

“That is a good idea,” Declan said.  “I sent some of the people who were healthy enough to refill the empty waterskins.  There is a creek nearby.  It won’t have been sanctified by the priests, but it will sate a thirst for sure.”  Just that thought made the dry, scratchy feeling in his throat that much worse.  He turned around, away from the fellow he denied earlier, and took a quick sip.  When he turned back, he had a new question on his mind.  “Where is Tornig?”

“I’ve got him guarding the entrance to the temple,” Ilayeth replied.  “I figure, if the walls crumble and fall on him, he’s got that hard helmet, and that harder skull to protect him.”

Declan could tell she was trying to offer some levity to the situation, but he could barely crack a weary grin.  He bowed his head.  “I haven’t seen Brother Carlo.  I’m afraid he might be among those lost.”

“Don’t give up hope yet,” the half-elf said.  “Let’s go speak to Tornig and see if he’s learned anything that might point us in the right direction.”

Returning a weary nod her way, Declan spun around to face the damaged entrance of the temple.  Before he took a step though, he looked at his waterskin, and tossed it to the thirsty fellow.  Through everything they had experienced, for some reason, that lifted his spirits just a bit.

Together, the pair hurried to the entrance, and they spotted the dwarf leaning upon the handle of his weapon.

“Found your axe then, did you?” Declan wondered.

The dwarf tilted his head back, looking at his two companions through sleepy eyes.  “Truth be told, I’m not certain this is my axe,” he said.  “I don’t know me own hands in front of me for how tired I am.”

“We’ll rest soon,” Ilayeth said.  “But did you see Brother Carlo while you’ve been guarding the entrance?”

Tornig shook his head.  “No one has come in or out since I’ve been keeping watch, heavy eyes or not.”  His brow furrowed then, and he sent an inquisitive look toward his pair of companions.  “Though, that’s not for lack of trying.  An older fellow did come this way, and when I sent him off, he went grumbling into the dark.  Come to think of it, he went around this way,” he said, lifting his axe off the ground and pointing it toward the north end of the temple.”

“Wait a minute,” Declan said.  “That could be it.  That could be Brother Carlo.”  When he was met with curious glances, he held his hand out as though the answer was so simple.  “The clergy of the temple only want to be close to their gods.  Especially in a time such as this, they would be looking for guidance, and for blessings.  If it was Brother Carlo who was barred access to the temple, he might have gone around to the back, where the shrine to one of the gods he holds in high esteem is located.  He might not see the statue, but he would be close to the divine power.”

“Let us head after him,” Ilayeth said.  “Perhaps he has not yet made his way around the building.”

Declan nodded, and even though it was subtle, he found his balance was a bit shaky.  He knew that it would not be long before he would succumb to fatigue, but as long as he had strength in him, he would try to carry on with the advice that Benedictus had given him.

Ilayeth led the way, the half-elf seeming as though she had never been more alive and alert.  If the previous night’s encounter had left her even the slightest bit winded, it did not show.  After a few moments, Declan realized that he fell into step beside his companion as if in a trance, and as he blinked out a few tired tears, he looked over his shoulder and realized they had already rounded one of the corners.  When he turned to continue on ahead, Ilayeth turned again, heading back south around the back of the temple.

At once, Declan knew that they had found who they were looking for.  One of the clerics of the temple sat upon his knees, holding a hand against the back wall of the building.  His eyes were closed, yet he tilted his head as he heard the approach of the pair.

“Brother Carlo?” Declan asked, though he already remembered him by his appearance.  He was certain that they had found the right person.  “We apologize for interrupting your prayer, but—”

“I’d say you’ve more than made up for it, Declan,” the old cleric said, furrowing his brow as he opened his eyes.  He looked at the two who approached, and though his gaze was stern, there still seemed to be some appreciation there.  “After all, you were the answer to our prayers last evening.”

Though darkness still firmly gripped the west side of the temple, the sunlight coming from the east spilled around the building, almost looking as though it was ready to grip it in a sympathetic embrace.

Declan could see the features of the old fellow in the dawn’s light.  Though they had not had very meaningful conversations when he lived at the temple, he could tell that Carlo knew who he was.  There might have even been some semblance of regret peeking out from his features.

“I didn’t do anything,” the young man protested.  “You’ve seen the state of this place.”

“Ah,” Carlo said, looking back at the brickwork at the rear of the building.  “But the temple is not as important as the people inside it.  And while many lives were lost last night, how many more would have been if not for the arrival of you and your companions?”

He let the question linger in the air for a moment, but he did not simply wish to hear himself speak.  “You’ve never come to me for counsel before, child, and I don’t imagine many people asked you to determine my whereabouts.  Is there something that you need from me?”

A twinge of shame came to Declan then, and that subtle shift in his mental state had him a bit more aware of himself.  He felt more awake then as well, and though there was just a moment where he felt more energized, he could feel the whispers beginning to pierce through the veil again.  He knew that he needed to push them out of his mind in order to get to the truth with Brother Carlo.

“Before Brother Benedictus passed, he told me that the bell wasn’t originally a part of the temple,” Declan said.  “It seems as if the bandits weren’t after riches—they were after the bell.  Brother Benedictus seemed to think that you might have had more knowledge as to why that might be.”

“Well, that’s true,” Carlo said.  “To some extent, anyway.  When I was younger, before I was called to the gods, I wanted to be an architect.  By itself, the temple was an impressive construction.  But the bell was something else altogether.  It wasn’t cast here, that much was certain.  So, getting it up to the temple’s steeple was a feat that was one I was interested in.

“Mind you, I was more impressed and concerned with how the bell was brought up to the steeple,” Carlo went on.  “But I do remember reading details about its purchase.”

The cleric hummed then, bringing his hand up to the wisps of grey growing from his chin.  “Declan, did you spend much time in the temple cellars?”

“Only to fetch wine for the services from time to time.”

Carlo rose then, grumbling from the aching his old bones had to acclimate to after the attack.  “There are more chambers there than just for wine.  We have a room for our records down there as well, and I spent a good amount of time there performing research on the construction of the temple throughout the years.  I know that I read something about the bell in one of the documents, but I was more concerned about the construction.  But if you could find it, perhaps you would be able to gather a clue as to why the bandits were so concerned with it.”

Ilayeth bowed, and Declan followed suit, though enough of his weariness remained that he had to fight against gravity to remain standing.

“Thank you, Brother Carlo,” he said.  “I hope that we can find some answers to why these good people had to endure this terrible attack.”

He followed his companion again when Ilayeth spun around, and headed back the way they came.  As they rounded the north corner of the building, Declan reached out to the half-elf.

“Hey, slow down.  I don’t have the kind of energy that you do.”

“I know you’re tired, Declan,” she said.  “But if the bandits were willing to risk an attack on this many people, there had to be an important reason.  And I can only imagine the chaos they are willing to sew now that they have the bell.  But we won’t have to imagine for long if we find out the instrument’s history.”  She hurried along then, making her way to the front of the temple.

But before she could venture too far, she was stopped in her tracks.

There, ahead of her, in the clearing ahead of the building, she saw a group of familiar faces.  The members of the guild who had gone to Grey Arches had arrived.

While Ilayeth knew at once upon seeing the newest arrivals, it took Declan a moment to understand what transpired.  It was only upon seeing a man upon a powerful steed with a shield upon his arm that he realized they were his new allies.  The sigil of the guild, a sword beside a staff upon a teal field, sat emblazoned upon the shield, and for some reason, in that moment, Declan felt a sigh of relief leave his lungs.

He noticed other faces that didn’t look like those who had been in the temple when it had been attacked.  A priest with more formidable attire—chainmail sitting atop his robes—went from one injured person to another, summoning the divine arts to close wounds and offer reprieve from pain.  A woman wearing a striking blue muffin hat, along with feathers that looked as teal as the sigil of the guild, strummed a lute as she gathered up some of the weariest people in the clearing.  Just hearing her song for a moment left Declan feeling a bit less fatigued.

Declan also spotted a figure who stood out from the predominantly human and dwarven patrons of the temple.  An avarian, one of Tellest’s anthropomorphic birdfolk, looked to the broken entryway of the building, speaking with Tornig about what had occurred during and since the attack.  Declan even recognized a familiar face among the recent arrivals.  Erik, the man who had brought him to the guild, was his usual gruff self, barking orders at those in the clearing who were healthy enough to take them.

The man on the horse spotted Ilayeth as she seemed to glide across the ground.  “There you are,” he said, his voice powerful and stern.  “We had heard from those behind at the guild that you had come this way.  When we spotted the damage and the injured, we feared the worst until Tornig came forward.”

“It was still a travesty, Mason,” Ilayeth said.  “We came here hoping we could put a stop to the carnage, and instead we were only here to witness it firsthand.”  She sighed, and bowed her head, but as Declan walked up beside her, her features seemed to light up.  “Ah.  Mason, please allow me to introduce you to the newest member of our guild.  This is Declan.”  She paused, as though she was trying to recall the young fellow’s surname, but after allowing the silence to sit in the air for long enough, she turned to the man on the horse.  “Declan, this is Mason Gwynne.”

Offering up a polite bow, Declan kept himself propped up that time with his staff.  “I’ve heard your name mentioned quite a lot since I’ve met everyone.  Are you the leader of the guild?”

Mason chortled, allowing a one-sided grin to stretch across his face.  “Not the leader, no.  Just someone left in charge while our more storied members pursue riches and glory across Aeratul.”

“We wish to hear all about Grey Arches,” Ilayeth said then, “but I believe that tale must wait until after we do our best to track down the people who attacked the temple.  We believe that the theft of the bell has greater meaning, and therefore greater repercussions for our corner of the world.  We’ve discovered that the bell wasn’t built here, and we’re planning on doing a bit more research in the—”

“That won’t be necessary,” Mason said.  “Once we’ve done our part here, and healed the sick and injured, those of us who just arrived will be on our way after the bandits.  We’ll hunt them down and make them pay for what they did here.  You three, on the other hand… I want you to head back to the guild house and rest.  You survived two attacks by these bandits, and from what I understand, in both cases it was by the skin of your teeth.  I’ll not allow a third risk.”

“But we know the highwaymen better than anyone,” Ilayeth protested.  “And with greater numbers, your group won’t have as much to worry about.”

“My decision is final,” Mason insisted.  The man did not even seem to pass a single consideration to the newest member of the guild, though Declan looked to Ilayeth for guidance rather than who appeared to be the more senior member of the guild.

Her cheeks gone rosy, Ilayeth turned, using a gentle touch to steer Declan toward the temple.  “Come on.  We shall fetch Tornig and then be on our way.”

The half-elf stepped across the clearing, drawing nearer to their other companion.  When Tornig saw them coming, he turned to acknowledge them, and that had the avarian turning as well.

“Ilayeth!” the avarian said.  “I am so glad that the lot of you survived.  We expected risk and ruin when we went to Grey Arches, but we were not expecting to have to worry about you.  I hear that things could have gone a lot worse during both of these attacks, and that, aside from some time to heal, our guild mates will all be right as rain.”

“Yes, well… We’re being rewarded for our job well done by being sent back to recover with the rest of them,” the sorceress said.

The avarian’s brow arched.  “Mason is not allowing you to join us in pursuit of the bandits?”

Ilayeth shook her head.  She sighed, but then took a step to her side, sweeping her hands out toward the man who remained a stranger to the birdfolk.  “Ezra, this is Declan, our newest member.”

The avarian looked to the young man, and his eyes widened.  “And yet, in spite of how new he is to the guild, he wields the Staff of Ciminorn.”

Declan couldn’t tell whether Ezra’s tone was one of amazement or indignation.  The lad could feel his face growing warm, and he was sure that his cheeks had grown flush.  “When the bandits attacked the guildhouse, the only thing I could think to do was grab a weapon.  The staff was what called to me.”

Ezra hummed a note that almost sounded like a whistle.  “Well, no one has truly been able to utilize that staff since the eldest members of the guild have passed.  I should like to discuss more with you at length upon our return.”

Feeling as though he was not a target of the avarian’s wrath, Declan breathed out a discreet sigh of relief.  Following that, he took a moment to size up the strange being.  Ezra, the guild’s artificer, looked more like a scholar than an adventurer.  He wore ornate robes, with inlaid gold sat upon shades of teal and purple—a color that almost looked identical to that of Ilayeth’s cloak.  The feathers atop his head began as a snowy white, but as they descended closer to his neck, they appeared as mottled gold.  That same pattern extended to the wings that protruded from the carefully sewn holes in the robes, as well as the fellow’s hands.  Ezra held onto a staff of his own, it seemed.

“Adventurers of Eladia,” the small group heard then.  As Declan turned around, he could see that Mason had removed his sword from the scabbard on his hip, and he lifted it high into the air.  “Gather up and prepare.  We ride after the fiends who dared to attack the good people of Novistrus.”

Ezra took a deep breath and fluttered his wings.  “I suppose I better prepare for another flight.  We shall reconvene soon if fortune favors us.”

As the avarian stepped away, Declan noticed that the others in the guild, including those he had not yet met, returned to their horses behind Mason.

Before Mason had flicked the reins of his powerful steed, Declan could feel the scratching of the first voices rising from deep within his mind.

“The other members of the guild do not know the danger they risk by leaving you behind,” the first whisper to break through the pack rasped.  “You need to follow them.”

“If there is strength in numbers, returning to the guild to recruit more to this dangerous cause could mean the difference between victory and defeat,” another voice supposed.  

“It does not matter how many people intend to fight the bandits,” yet another voice interjected.  “If you do not know why the bell was stolen, you are missing a part of an important puzzle.  And the answers may be lost to you if this temple cannot remain standing.”

“Declan,” Ilayeth said, placing her hand upon the man’s shoulder.  “Declan, what are the voices trying to tell you?”

“Follow the others.”

“Return to the guildhouse at once.”

“Pursue knowledge.”

Declan gnashed his teeth together as he forced his eyes shut.  He did not realize it, but he relinquished hold of the staff then, bringing both of his hands to his temples.

“There are too many of them,” he growled.



Voting Instructions

Another new chapter means another new choice to make, which you can influence.  You have until May 31st to safely join the Tellest Newsletter in time to cast your vote.  I’ll be sending out newsletter emails to my readers, with the two choices prepared for Declan.  Then, on June 1st, I’ll interpret the votes and see how the whispers influenced Declan.

Remember, there are two ways for you to accumulate voting power in The Whispers:

  • First, when you vote through the newsletter, you get an extra voting point for every chapter you’ve voted on.  If you voted in each of the previous chapters, your vote this month would be worth a whopping nine points!
  • Second—and this one is for the Tellest superfans—if you are a Tellest patron on Patreon, you get an additional voting point for every $1 you pledge per month.  And that is in addition to any of the other rewards you would receive at the specified pledge level.  So, if you pledged at the $3 level, you would get 3 votes on Patreon, in addition to your votes on the newsletter responses.  That’s a lot of sway over Declan!  But it’s another way for me to thank you for helping me keep the lights on.


That wraps up how to vote for this month.  Remember, sign up for the Tellest newsletter if you’re not a member already, and prepare for the follow-up poll later this month in order to cast your vote.  Then we’ll see next month what Declan does in his current situation!

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Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.

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