More setting the scene for a new Dungeons and Dragons game I’m going to be running soon.
Hedveig stood at the ancient rusted doorway and tried to stay awake. The Great Gate hadn’t been opened in his lifetime or his father’s lifetime. The rust scale on it was so thick he doubted the iron portal would even swing on its hinges anymore, even if someone did try to open it. It was an important duty for the síðr vorðr; the Long Guard though; they had stood there for centuries, barring the way to any who would dare try and intrude on Einn Boer.
He stretched, feeling his joints crack and listening to the odd echo they made inside his armor. As the old warrior settled back into his parade rest stance, heard the echo again. It was coming from behind him, but was not coming from inside his armor. Hedveig removed his helmet and put his ear to the door and he could hear a tapping sound plain as if someone had been tapping on his helmeted head.
Something was out there. Something was trying to get in. Hedveig pulled his long copper and bone horn from his belt and blew three measured blasts followed by two quick ones. He continued the summons, watching for one of his fellow guardians to approach, the noise deafening him to the sounds coming from the great gate behind him. He never heard the intruder.
When the runner arrived breathless and wild eyed, he found Hedveig laughing and joking. Grudgingly, he admitted that his senior Guardsman had pulled one over on him and saw the humor in it.
“It’s not like you to pull something like this Hedveig.” Reklar grumbled, giving him a wry smile, “What’s the occasion for you developing a sense of humor?”
“It’s the anniversary isn’t it?” Hedveig said with another chuckle. “Seven hundred years. That’s long enough for even the memories of the less mortal races fade.
“Well, yes of course. The festival is tomorrow. Are you taking Bellia?”
“Probably.” Hedveig smoothed his moustache, “You had better get back to your post.”
“Yes sir, right you are sir.” Reklar said, snapping a smart salute. The junior Guardsman retreated, his thoughts troubled. Hedveig had not been acting like himself at all, and had in fact volunteered for guard duty during the festival. For him to joke, for him to even smile on duty was unheard of. Perhaps the old bastard had finally loosened up; but Reklar doubted it.
Lady Taryn Vaknair Torben the Third looked out over her city, feeling a glow of satisfaction despite the worry that gnawed at her. The magic was faltering and nothing she or the Elders had tried seemed to be working. All the symptoms pointed to the city’s Godheart dying and there didn’t seem to be any way of stopping it.
Below her balcony, the citizens gathered for the sesquicentennial, the seven hundredth anniversary of their retreat into Einn Boer. The lights of their magic twinkled merrily as they danced, laughed, ate and drank. They had no idea of what was truly happening, and it was imperative that they remain ignorant of it. Order was an illusion only barely maintained by the thoughts of the people and she was well aware of that fact.
“My Lady, will you be attending the opening ceremonies?” Londrak, her personal valet, lover, confidant and spymaster asked from the door.
“Of course I will. You wouldn’t allow otherwise.” She said, her voice distant. “I am troubled Lon. These developments and our lack of ability to remedy them frighten me.”
“The defenses are strong My Lady.” He was holding a stylish jacket for her. The newest fashion of ladies wearing jackets and trousers was a bit disconcerting to her at first, but sometimes it was most liberating. When she was feeling vulnerable though, she needed the familiarity of her corset and skirts.
“Not tonight Lon. I will wear my peach and cream gown, this being a formal occasion.” She waved him off, “Now go away and fetch Droga. Unless you wish to help me dress?”
Londrak grinned wolfishly, “I would be glad to help, but it seems putting these contraptions on is more difficult than removing them My Lady. I will send her in.”
Gray crouched on an intricately carved gargoyle three stories above a square crowded with revelers. He wasn’t so much looking for specific marks as he was watching for trends. If enough well-off individuals were present and if they were intoxicated sufficiently he would send in the Greylings to do their business. It was up to him to keep an eye on the ebb and flow of the crowd and choose the right time to strike.
The slightest scrape of boot on roof tile made him shift to the left. Not enough to betray that he’d heard the noise, but just enough to give him a good throwing angle for his blades if he needed it. Another sound identified the person attempting to sneak up on him. He relaxed; it was only Lithia. He could tell by the slight limp she had from a poorly healed broken ankle.
“I instructed you all to wait for my signal Lithia.” He said in a low voice that wouldn’t carry beyond a few paces.
“Gray, we have a problem.” She replied, not moving from the shadow of a nearby gable. “Someone has been poaching, and they’ve botched the job.”
He cursed silently to himself, “Show me.” The last thing they needed was the Long Guard thinking his Greylings had been responsible for a murder. They were thieves certainly and while they didn’t shrink from killing when necessary it was considered quite gauche, not to mention getting unwanted attention from Longshanks often led to someone having to be sacrificed. Someone expendable usually, but that didn’t lessen the blow to his pride.
They slipped silently from the rooftop, shimmying down one of the building’s many carved pillars. Homeowner’s vanity made these kinds of things easy. The corpse wasn’t far away and it was strange. A single circular hole in the back of the head was the only sign that any harm had come to the body. No blood even leaked from it to stain the crisply ironed Long Guard uniform.
While he was investigating it, the body dissolved into dust. Gray blinked in surprise, staring at the pile of dust that glowed with a slight greenish sheen. “Well, at least we need not worry about disposing of the corpse.” Gray muttered, “I don’t like it Greylings. We’re leaving. Someone get a sample of that for the Underman.”
When nobody moved, Gray spat to the side and pulled out a vial. Scraping up a bit of the dust, he stoppered the vial and carefully placed it into his padded pouch. “Come on you superstitious slugs, let’s get otta here before the shit starts flying.”
They slipped into the shadows, vanishing into the night, but not out of sight of a pair of glittering green eyes that watched from the windowsill.