Chapter 3: Devil's Advocate
"Come in, come in!" a booming, friendly voice directs as you are led into a new room.
Getting to Edwin Contoso, leader of the Illuden, was a much less daunting task then getting to Gemini. First off, you didn't need to solve some complex lock to get to speak with him. Secondly, you have noticed how well organized the Illuden territory is—with more signage and directions to get to where you needed to go.
That isn't to say you weren't tested on the way—not to mention that whole undead confrontation— though you are starting to believe that's just how your life is now that you are the one with the Mark.
As you walk forward, you see Edwin, otherwise known by his stage name, "The Marvelous Edwin Contoso," sitting at a desk scattered with cards, books, and other miscellaneous papers. He grins at you as you step into his office. There's a kindness and charisma that seems to radiate from him—which you assume is partly how he came into such a position and notoriety.
You feel Chester shuffle and jump out of your pack, landing on the floor. He roots around on the floor of Edwin's office, eventually finding a top hat on the ground. You see Chester crawl inside and seem to disappear.
Can't say I'm surprised. Chester will probably show up back in my pack eventually. You turn your attention to Edwin.
"Ah! Bearer of the Mark! To what do I owe the pleasure of your arrival?" He announces as he stands up, trinkets falling out of his sleeves as he reaches for a handshake.
Before you try to explain the predicament you have found yourself in, you hear a knock at the door. Turning around, you see Alice enter the room.
"Alice! Must be my lucky day to have both of you visiting me today!" You see Alice grin with a warmth atypical of her usual persona. Edwin crosses to the front of his desk to greet her. "Father, we need to talk to you about something important."
It is almost hard for you to believe that Alice is Edwin's daughter; Edwin comes off as warm and a tad lackadaisical whereas Alice is all business.
"Oh. Well, that doesn't sound good," Edwin remarks, rubbing his chin. "Shoot. What's going on?"
"There have been increasing reports of unearthed graves in the area, seemingly dug out by human hands. We tried to see if the Marcana knew anything about it, but I was told Gemini just brushed off the issue. It all seems very... unusual."
The mention of the Marcana, and especially Gemini, brings a flash of a grimace over Edwin's face. However, just as soon as it appears, Edwin's distaste is replaced again with his jovial façade.
"Alice," he says in a parental tone. "Gemini must have brushed it off because she already knew about the graves. It's her hippy-dippy cult blowing up the landscape again and not worrying about the consequences of their actions. They have no restraint." Edwin shakes his head in disapproval. "Certainly aggravating, but nothing outside their usual M.O."
"I don't think it's that," you finally speak up. "I saw something come out of the ground. Something human yet… inhuman. A monster."
"I agree with them, Father. This seems like something more. A body coming out of the ground; This feels like dark magic." Alice seems to plead to him, while trying to keep a level-headed demeanor.
"Do you have any proof of this undead monster?" Edwin asks you.
"Uh… no. It kind of… exploded." You scratch at the back of your head. Edwin grimaces at your answer.
"Well it seems to me that you have nothing to back up your claims except a few unearthed graves. Alice, did you even happen to see this monster?"
"No, Father. But—"
"Alice, I know you are desperate to prove yourself, but even the Marcana are not barbaric enough to play with dark magic." Edwin lets out a sigh, sitting down against his desk. "Alice, you are so much like your mother—You've been working yourself to death with the new Illuden and discovering the new Bearer of the Mark. I'm afraid you're starting to see things where there are none. I think you need to take a break."
Alice pales at the mention of taking a break.
"N-no! I'm fine! I swear!" she utters out.
"Please let this go, Alice. It's nothing."
"As you wish, Father," her tone now resigned.
"Let's go," you say, primarily to Alice. "Thank you for your time," you politely say to Edwin, trying to stay civil despite being annoyed. Alice leads you outside, before collapsing in frustration onto the nearest bench.
Looking at you with pleading eyes, she says "There's something weird going on here. We both know it. Gemini and my father are too blinded by their hatred of each other to recognize the problem. We need to do something to get them to listen."
Alice exhales. You are starting to feel her frustration with all the politics that seem to be involved.
"What is the use of having the Mark of Merlin if everyone is just going to dismiss me?" you say, expressing your inner feelings.
"That's not true, you've been traveling around and—wait," Alice's eyes light up. She stands up quickly, almost knocking you back. "I think I have an idea. Let me track down Robert and see if he agrees. I want you to keep talking to the Illuden families and show them the potential you have. Once they see your skills, they can't deny who you are."
You don't quite understand what Alice has up her sleeve, but you can't help but admire her spark. Also, the compliment doesn't hurt either—it's been a grueling time with little thanks, so you appreciate the acknowledgement.
"Let's do this." Alice says, determined as she rushes away.
You head further south into Illudo territory to see what challenges await you and anxiously wait to hear Alice's plan.