After a short well-deserved rest, I woke up. My body was replenished but my mind seemed even wearier than it was before. Nightmares have plagued my dreams during the short period of time that I was asleep. Memories with fire, consuming everything that I once held dear. Along with those memories I had an epiphany to develop a new couple of spells that will be of great value from here on now.
Once I accessed the main corridor of the keep I saw Castellan Escobar, a dwarf who wore mostly red clothes and was warden of Greenest’s keep. I was eager to ask him about the library and even though I knew it was not the appropriate time, I asked about it anyway.
Rhogar: Escobar? Are you the keep’s warden? Can you grant me access to the library? I’d like to check its contents.
He looked at me astonished, without knowing what to say.
Escobar: Look, dragonborn, this isn’t the time for such requests. My keep lies under siege by fanatical scum and greedy looters. I know you have saved some of the villagers but there are more pressing matters that I must attend to. Good thing that I’ve ran into you though. Governor Nighthill has requested your presence in the war room above in order to discuss the next steps with the other heroes as well.
I knew the time was not proper, but I may very well lose the only hint that I have for now about what happened to me so long ago. I guess I will have to play along with the locals and help them for the rest of the night until the raiders leave.
Rhogar: Very well. I’ll be on my way then.
Once I gave my confirmation to Escobar he turned around swiftly and went downstairs. Before I could go to the next level of the keep I heard the Halfing’s voice from the same place where Escobar had gone.
Edeline: I Edeline Steepfeet will answer your call! Fear not master dwarf, I led these heroes to your doorstep in the middle of the night and I will lead them out to vanquish the scum that assails your dear town.
Great. The Halfling is still here. Mardred led us here not you. I wonder what kind of a hit she withstood before to have such a defragmented personality. It is better for me to keep an eye on her.
I went upstairs and entered the war room. Inside there was a table with a map of the town and several marble figures above it, probably marking friendly and enemy positions. Governor Nighthill was sitting on the farther side of the table, waiting for the remaining heroes to come. Everyone was there except for Mardred and Edeline. I bowed to everyone and sat by Abal’s side. The Governor nodded and the others seemed receptive to my presence, more than before, surprisingly. A few moments later, the Halfling and Mardred entered the room as well, followed by Escobar, who kept waving his hand on his beard while glancing at Mardred. Huurgh, gross. Escobar went to Nighthill’s side and remained standing while the other two went for their reserved seats.
Nighthill: Thank you for coming heroes. Again I thank you for the deeds you’ve done in this terrible night. It pains me to request more of you if we’re to survive at all.
The governor took a sip from his glass of red wine and then reached forward to the map on the table, pointing to one of the marks above it.
Nighthill: The mill contains all the grain that we have to survive the winter. My guards saw movement around that area but now it is quiet there. The mill must be secured, otherwise we will starve to death in the winter.
Before anyone could even begin to discuss the situation, the governor introduced yet another problem who deserved our attention, reaching for the opposite side of the map where the other marking was.
Nighthill: Miss Swift also told me that while she was at her home, she saw many people moving to the shrine of Chauntea, the goddess of grain also known as the great mother. We’re talking about dozens of people. From what my guards can see from the keep’s walls, the shrine is now surrounded by a lot of torches. They will probably invade the shrine or even burn it to the ground.
After explaining both situations, the governor leaned back in his chair and took another sip, almost emptying the glass of wine.
Nighthill: As you can see, I have my hands full with commanding the operations in the keep, let me remind you that the keep is now under siege as well. Kobolds and cultists surround the walls, probing our defenses. Please, heroes, help us survive the night.
Instead of discussing an actual plan, Melian let out an outburst of indignation, asking Nighthill how much he would pay her for the services performed to Greenest in this time of dire need.
Melian: And how much are you willing to pay for saving your precious city? I don’t work for free, governor.
Nighthill: I know the life of an adventurer isn’t easy and I promise that as soon as this peril goes away I’ll see that you are fairly rewarded.
The dark elf did not look convinced and replied accordingly.
Melian: Don’t make promises that you won’t be able to fulfill.
Nighthill: For my honor milady, I shall see that my word will be accomplished.
Melian: I know where you live, just in case.
The governor raised his eyebrows twice and took the last sip from his glass of wine.
Nighthill: My room is just upstairs you know.
He winked at Melian.
Melian: Good to know…
She pulled an arrow from the quiver and pointed its tip to the governor.
Nighthill: That is exactly what I like.
Edeline: Oh this is too much for my ears. I’m only eighteen years you know!
The female Half-Elf seemed concerned about the current situation. It seemed like she had a particular talent for strategy, judging by how she was studying the map of Greenest and the pieces above it. Since the subject was not of top priority, she interrupted the conversations all around her and asked Nighthill.
Zhiris: Is there any way that we can get out of the keep without facing the forces that surround it?
From a door behind the governor came Escobar, sweating more than before and evidently weary.
Escobar: Yes… There is… There is an underground exit in the basement which leads to a place near the river. I-I have the key right here.
The dwarf placed his hand on his key-chain, tilting the keys against each other while winking two times at Mardred. She clearly wasn’t finding the display of Escobar particularly attractive.
Mardred: I see. Is there a way to cross the river once we’re there?
Escobar: I don’t know. It’s been a long time since that passage was used.
Escobar approached Mardred and gave her the key to the passage to which she only picks up, after grabbing a handkerchief from her bag in order to pick the key from Escobar’s greasy hands.
Rhogar: We should figure it out once we’re there. Perhaps I can freeze the water and allow us safe passage above the level of the river. For now, we have two prisoners to question so that we can obtain answers to what is happening here in Greenest.
The group then discussed what we should do to achieve the objectives that were presented to us. Some said we should split forces, others thought that focusing on a single objective with full force would be the best option. Seeing no apparent end to our discussion, the governor interrupted us.
Nighthill: I’m sorry to interrupt. For now, I don’t have the forces for the quantity of individuals that are around the shrine. Unfortunately, I’m led to think that I must first safeguard the ones that are already away from harm, here in the keep. Their future is mostly dependent on the integrity of the mill.
He then poured some more wine from a jar below the table and took a sip from the glass.
Nighthill: In about an hour from now, I’ll send a force of my guards to the mill through the secret passageway in order to secure it. There are enemies there I’m sure of it, they must be up to something since they vanished from my guard’s sight. Please, heroes, it is best for Greenest if you could save the mill and ensure that my people won’t starve to death.
The discussion continued back and forth, trying to decide the best method of approach when Abal suddenly stood up, making everyone to silence their voices.
Abal: Abal has awakened from his meditation. What the heck is going on?
Nighthill looked at the Half-Elf with a slight tone of envy. The rest of us weren’t really surprised by his behavior.
Escobar: I’d like to take some sleep as well. It has been a while since I’ve paid a visit to my chambers.
We quickly informed him of what we were discussing and then we quickly reached to a conclusion. It was better to gather the information that the prisoners have before deciding our next course of action.
Mardred: Before we decide anything, we should first interrogate the prisoners.
Nighthill: Very well heroes. Please, Escobar, show them the way to the prisoners’ cells.
Escobar bowed and replied to his lord’s command.
Escobar: Yes milord. Follow me, heroes.
The warden of the keep then escorted us downstairs, to a room that connected to two others, probably they were used to stash some goods before but now they served as improvised cellars for the two prisoners we have caught just before entering Greenest’s keep.
Escobar: Here we are.
The dwarf pointed to each door separately.
Escobar: Behind these doors are the prisoners that you have captured before. They are immobilized by chains so you can walk up to them and they won’t be able to lay a finger on you. We do not care for the methods you use as long as the results are favorable for us to better understand what is happening. I shall leave you to your actions now.
Before turning around, Escobar looked at Mardred with a fierce look while he brushed his beard with one hand. If he hadn’t so much beard I’d say he was biting his lip while admiring Mardred’s stature. Really, what is wrong with the people in this keep? Should I remind them that they are under siege? Or sexual attraction is above the answers I seek for the fire that echoed through my hometown? Mardred ignored him nevertheless. She was graceful enough to ignore Escobar without humiliating him. Seeing no reaction from his desired mate, Escobar finished the conversation and then went upstairs.
Escobar: Return to the command room once you’re done with the captives. The governor and I will be waiting.
As the steps of Escobar echoed from farther away into the room where I was at, my group discussed who should be interrogating the prisoners. As sorcerer and Dragonborn, I am known to propel my will to get what I want. I can be convincing and intimidating, however, I must admit that I lack some charm. Melian and Abal were especially interested in being part of the interrogation so I sat this one out in order to avoid a conflict of interest. In the end, Abal combined efforts with Edeline to perform the interrogation while Melian would proceed alone.
The Dark Elf went in first, she shut the door with exceeding force. The following minutes were filled with paused indistinct chats, alongside some of the weirdest and briefest moans I have ever heard. Whatever Melian was doing to the prisoner, surely was having an effect on the prisoner. From the rhythm of the conversation, he was already spilling whatever information he has. After no more than ten minutes, Melian left the room. In contrary to how she entered, now she left the room by closing the door softly and with light feet.
Edeline: So? How did it go?
Abal: Did he talk?
Mardred: Calm down guys. Let Melian think properly.
Melian walked around a little, thinking of everything that the prisoner had just talked.
Melian: All right. Here’s what I got from this lowlife. His name was Zerox and he was recruited by a woman named Frulam Mondath to pillage the town of Greenest. Frulam is a short-haired female human wearing purple robes, usually with some bodyguards around her. She is most probably commanding her troops across Greenest from somewhere within the town.
Caelynn: By the description of her robes, she seems to be an acolyte from the cult of the dragon.
Rhogar: So this cult has enlisted mercenaries and kobolds to pillage the town. But to what purpose?
Melian: I don’t know. He passed out before I could take anything else from him.
Abal: Abal thinks it is time for his great appearance then. Little one, why don’t you take the honor of going in first?
Definitely, with an evil smile on her face, the Halfling replied.
Edeline: He won’t even know what hit him.
Edeline then pulled her hood to cover her tiny head and entered the room where the other prisoner was incarcerated. Two seconds later I heard a shout coming from the room where Edeline entered. Immediately after, followed yet another shout. I did not know that the tiny Hafling had such a pair of vivid lungs. The guard answered breathlessly to whatever questions Edeline asked. What did the little one do to put the former mercenary of the cult of the dragon in such a state of fear? Whatever it was, she managed to keep him talking.
A couple of minutes later the door opened and the Halfling came through. She whispered some words to Abal and then the Half-Elf entered the room where the frightened prisoner was. Once the door was shut, Edeline bragged about her performance.
Edeline: You should have seen the look on his face. HAHAHA! I could listen to his heartbeat! He will tell the rest of the information that we need to know, I’m sure of it.
Zhiris: I hope he does. We need to understand the strategic value that the mill and the shrine have for this cult as well.
Edeline: Don’t worry. Now that I terrorized that human he will do anything to keep me away from him and Abal will use that fear to get the answers that we seek.
Abal took a little longer than Melian did before. But in the end, it was worth the effort. When the door opened, Edeline stepped forward just before Abal could leave the cell only to glance at the prisoner once more. The prisoner let out a brief breath and fainted right there.
Both eager to speak what they had just learned, Abal and Edeline started to brief the rest of the group of what they just learned.
Edeline: So, from what the prisoner told me, I discovered that besides Frulam Mondath, there are higher ranked enemies in Greenest known as Dragon Claw, possibly a hierarchal title granted within the Cult of the Dragon. The last information that the prisoner had related to the shrine of Chauntea was that the invaders had cornered villagers inside of it.
The Halfling then looked to Abal, indicating that she had finished her part.
Abal: Since Abal is very respectful, before I questioned the prisoner about anything, first I asked his name. His name is Okir and just like Zerox he was hired as mercenary to loot Greenest. He did reveal something more than he did to Edeline. Just like Edeline correctly guessed, the Dragon Claws are something like sergeants within the Cult of the Dragon. A position of higher power inside the cult’s ranks. Okir also revealed to me that Frulam has a powerful warrior as her right hand, his name is Langdedrosa Cyanwrath and he warned me that he was much scarier than Edeline herself.
Abal almost laughed, thinking about the controversy of a child being scary but he quickly regained his posture and continued to explain what he had learned.
Abal: Abal asked him if Frulam had any weaknesses. Of course, an underling like him wouldn’t know anything like that but in his wish of revenge against us, he could possibly tell us of her strengths. Which he did. Frulam is always in the company of many guards who will even die in order to protect her. He also marked on my map the location of their main base of operations. In there they protect eggs, eggs which they value more than the gold and other riches pillaged.
Rhogar: There is only one type of eggs worth protecting…
Caelynn: Dragon eggs…
Zhiris: There’s no point in wasting time thinking about the eggs now.
Mardred: Agreed. We should return to the war room and inform the governor of what we learned so that we can depart for the mill at once.
No one opposed the suggestion given by the dwarf paladin and as such, we went upstairs to communicate what new information we collected from the prisoners.
To be continued…