Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 25

Rowan levels her hand crossbow, taking a careful bead on the Grick’s head.  As it raises itself from biting at the comatose form of Tuskor, she squeezes the trigger and the bolt flashes out to catch the monster in the throat.  It falls, choking on its own black blood to thrash weakly on the floor.

Lanaver moves in with bravado, blades moving in tandem.  “Give up already, would ya?  We got you cornered and there’s no escape.”

“Take me if you can you bastard!”  Is his defiant reply.

Lanaver leaps to the attack with a flurry of stabs and feints, leading with his dagger before stabbing his rapier beneath the sergeant’s buckler, wounding him in the thigh.

Sebastian bends over Tuskor, applying a field medical kit to staunch the considerable bleeding and disinfect the disease ridden bites from the still twitching Grick. Sebastian looks up from his bloody work to meet the sergeant’s eye. “Vengeance has come upon your head, surrender or die!”

“To the Nine Hells with you, whoreson!” Spits the sergeant, hefting his shield once more and advancing on Sebastian. He makes a series of slashing cuts with his heavy broadsword and Sebastian’s arcane shield appears, deflecting the first but exploding into a shower of arcane sparks as the second slams through it and slashes him across the chest. “If I’m for the nine hells, I’m taking you peons with me!”

Tallisk strikes out at the sergeant with a wild blow from the side but he deflects the staff with his shield, smashing her weapon away hard enough that she stumbles backward, falling to catch herself awkwardly.  Even as she falls, her skirt flies in a fan shape as her slipper clad foot strikes out, narrowly missing the man’s chin.

Tuskor places his fingers on the earth, seeming to draw strength from it before rising to his feet. He pulls his tusk staff from his back whilst muttering his ancient words. As his staff begins to crack and splinter and become entwined with red veins so too does his face begin to become covered in red pulsating markings. He charges past Sebastian at the sergeant bringing the staff crashing towards the side of the man’s head with a mighty roar.

Tuskor’s mammoth staff crushes the sergeant’s nose knocking him down. His head splits open on the floor of the guard house and blood spills out into the dirty stone grooves. Rowan quickly moves to Villonah and frees her from the cage trying to calm her down. Once the Gnome girl realizes she’s safe, she swoons, her terror having been the only thing keeping her conscious.

A noise causes them to stop and look back where they came from.  An Elf stands before the door into the tunnel. She has an arrow drawn back to her ear, and trained on Rowan.

“Put the gnome down and leave. You will not take her anywhere and torture her more. There may be more of you, but some of you will not survive the fight if you try to take her.”

“Have ya no eyes in yer head fair Elf lass?” Tallisk says in a deceptively light tone, “We been doin a bit of rescuin sure an we have, an yer a bit late ta th party, though you’re much more welcome than this scum thenow.”

Rowan looks up in surprise. “We’ve just saved her from certain death, and are taking her back to her father. Join us if you will, but there will be no harm to her this night.”

Tallisk takes a pair of cigars from her belt pouch, lights then with a flick of flint and steel and passes one to Hajima. Blowing a perfect smoke ring, she grins at the elf. “If ya don’t believe us, just ask the gnome lass. If she is still… together enough to answer I’m certain she’ll tell ya of our good deeds.”

Lanaver looks at the Elf and speaks in the native tongue the Elves.  “Sister, I can promise you two things; we are leaving this forsaken place, my comrades and I, and the girl is coming with us. You can lower your weapon and leave too but if you keep pointing that thing at us I can’t guarantee your safety.  Just now we find ourselves a bit unwilling to trust strangers who threaten us.”

“Very well, I am satisfied.” she says, lowering her bow and loosening the string. “Let me take a look at her then we must be away. If only there was some way to destroy this fell place.” she spits.

“Oh… Well you should have said so in the first place,” Lanaver grins sheepishly.

“Forgive me, I did not think to find goodly folk here in this evil place.”  The Elf says, “My name is Ylivia, I’m a member of the Order of the Gauntlet and we’ve been fighting against the tyranny of the Starshield Guard.  We have been battling them for nearly a year now.”

“The reason they took me isn’t because I broke any laws.”  Villonah says weakly, “I stole a map purported to lead to the lair of a White Dragon in the mountains of the North.  I gave them a fake map, keeping the original in my boot.  We will use this to bring down the corrupt Guards and restore order to Starvale.”

Ylivia looks at them, offering a pouch of gold with a serious look of gratitude. “You have done a great service to the order and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for courageously rescuing my friend, Villonah.”

Sebastian’s brow furrows, “Would it be possible for us to have a copy of that map?”  He asks, “It could prove a vital asset in our own investigations of the Cult of the Dragon.  I would have a care as well, it seems that many folks are hunting for artifacts that are draconic in nature, The Silencers among them.  Simply possessing that map could lead to further trouble, especially if corrupt members of the Starshield Guard know that you have it.”

“I would willingly make a copy of the map for any member of the Order of the Gauntlet.”  Ylivia says, “However I cannot give such to an outsider without first consulting the people in my organization.  For now, I must see that it reaches my superior’s hands, I cannot transcribe it here and I would flee with Villonah,”

Lanaver purses his lips thoughtfully, “Villonah, your father is very worried about you. If you’ll not come back home with us, can you give us something to prove that you live and are away from these vile filth?”

The gnome pulls back her linen shift, showing a tattoo of a safflower on her upper right thigh and sings, “When windfalls way has wound the woods and willows weep their weary wails, I’ll whisk away your worries’ woe with Western winds to fill your sails.” Her smile is one of grief, but a small shimmer of a smile shines through. “He will know,” she says, staring out the tunnel.

Rowan steps forward, at first speaking hesitantly, but her voice strengthening as she finds her resolve. “I have studied the various factions and had not, until this moment, chosen one. I find myself approving of your methods.” She says, “Villonah’s capture and treatment made me pity her at first, but I find her courage and resolve to be a true inspiration. I will join your Order, and vow to aid in all ways that I can, if you will have me. Then, you may give me a copy of the map so that I and my friends may aid if needed.”

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