DDA3 – EYE OF TRALDAR
9 THAUMONT OF 1005 AC
The adventurous story of the little hin is somewhat incredible. That there is bad blood between the Five Shires of the halfling people, bordering on the east to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and the Black Eagle Barony, this is common knowledge to most people. But to think that the gentle, plump and friendly little men, very often (and erroneously?) associated more with abundant eating and uncontrollable drinking than war or daring enterprises, were actually involved in weakening the grip of terror exerted by Von Hendriks, the cruel cousin of the Grand Duke Stephan, and his minions, in that part of the Known World, was a different matter entirely.
Jenn Lightfoot was in fact one of these saboteurs. A hin commando. We had saved him just in time by snatching him from the oppression and agony that Gebhard, one of the jailers and torturers of Fort Doom, was inflicting on him in an attempt to extort information about his mission and his possible accomplices. To remove the lackey of Von Hendriks had been easy. Much less, at least for me, to keep the gaze upon the battered and partially mutilated body of the halfling. Francisco had been there first, to help him. I had also prayed Petra the merciful, for him, to sustain him and alleviated his pain. Our prayers had been heard. Both Petra and Ixion, the Lord of Light that Francisco prays, must have thought too important that the hin lived.
“I do not know how to thank you” the ill concealed inflection of the hin’s Common unmistakably betrayed his race and origin. “If not for you now my heart would have succumbed, and I would have died, if I had been lucky! That being …” calling him a man would be offensive for most who have the right to be called men, “… was a master at knowing how to prolong the pain of a person .. without killing him, I mean!”
“Jenn, now that you have told us your story, what are you able to tell us about Fort Doom? Its defenses and its occupants?” I pressed him gently. I was aware of his situation. Of his sufferings and of his many wounds. For us, however, time was running short. We had not an infinite time on disposal to recover the Fire Opal, the Eye of Traldar.
“Above all we want to know how to move inside the fortress.” Immeral could not hide the anxiety which filled his words. The anxiety and worry that the idea of not being able to recover the ancient gem, caused him.
“There is a passage. ” the halfling began. “While I was in the last cell, down the hall, I am sure I saw two guards of the Black Eagle pass through.” While telling his story, he indicated an apparently blank wall, forming a right angle in the intersection of two passages, with small, plump hands. “The smell that came out, of manure, was the unmistakable smell of a stable.
“And once we arrive in this stable, how will we continue? How many “grooms” we will have to deal with?” Reed didn’t in any way tried to hide the sarcasm of his remark.” We cannot think of forcing our way in and claim the gem, as if there wasn’t an army between us and it!”
“Many men of course. And orcs too. That’s for sure. But Von Hendriks does not expect an attack from inside, for sure. Plus he and his entourage, his most loyal vassals and allies, is involved with the main army in some military exercises that will keep him busy for a few days more.” Jenn’s account, though lacking in information about the object of our research, was instead very detailed regarding that section of the Fort Doom castle.
“Out of the stables we will head straight to the Keep Tower.” The hin commando was not intimidated by the dismissive tone of their countryman.” If your information is correct, it is the only place where they would bring a magical item of that value in the absence of Bargle, the court wizard.”
With the help of Jenn, it was very simple to find the secret passage leading from the subterranean dungeons of the fortress to the stables. The stairway was narrow and dark. “Behind me.” Francisco began leading the group illuminating our path with his divine light.
The short spiral staircase ended in a trap door. This time Reed opened it, just leaving it ajar and looking warily into the surrounding environment. Turning to us and motioning to be quiet, he slipped past the opening. Jenn immediately followed. It was as if the two halflings instantly understood each other despite saying no words.
The sudden click of a crossbow mechanism broke the silence of the stable, a part for the buzz of some insects and the dull neigh of a bored horse. “What the fu..”
The sentence of the man remained suspended, interrupted by a muffled gurgle, ended in a matter of moments.
Reed threw open the trapdoor. “You can get out, quick!”
The barn was a narrow environment shape like a “L” with small stalls lined on the inside. On the far side of the longer arm of the corridor there was a small square room, no larger than 10 feet of side. In approaching we could not help but notice the bodies of the two men dragged and hidden under the straw by Jenn.
Returning to us, the commando threw a meaningful look and a crossbow dart to Reed. “This is yours.” He told him. Then throwing to Elarik and Undir some black jackets with the two-headed eagle effigy of Fort Doom “Quick, put them on. I have a plan!”