B10 – NIGHT’S DARK TERROR
26 FELMONT OF 1005 AC
TOWARD THE ANCIENT CITY OF XITAQA.
Marjana watched with a bit of sadness the two companions ride to the east. Something in her heart told her that she would not see them again for a long time. The sun had risen a few hours before and they had left the Petrified Forest at the first light of dawn. They had ridden to the north and then, arrived to the borders between the Dymrak forest and the Hills had greeted with a warm hug their friend Vaeris. The Wendar scouts with his shy and reserved character was probably the one more similar to her. His sensitivity and love that both shared for the forests, the trees, the creatures of Mother Nature, had contributed greatly to the development of a deep and sincere friendship. With Stoik instead, although he was an elf, there was never an idyll or a sympathy that in any way could be called friendship. Too sophisticated. Too little inclined to deal with creatures or races that basically, she sensed he considered inferior. They had in fact respected and supported each other, in the name of a higher and shared purpose. Nothing more.
She had heard them discuss all the previous night: Tiberius, Vaeris, Stoik too. She and Dan had just listen. The story of Babushka, an elderly traladaran woman, found in a cell within the tree-den of the Wolf-Skull Goblins had been clear and had immediately determined the decisions for the rest of their trip. She had been kidnapped, along with the young niece, following the onslaught of the globlins twenty days before to the community of Cherkass. The two women were taken into custody immediately by the Kloss-Lunk and bring in their tree-den. After a few days other goblins had arrived along with them some larger and more violent humanoids. They had a very light skin and a severed head as a symbol. Their leader was a ruthless humanoid and if possible, he seemed even crueler by the fact that he rode a huge wolf with a white mane as snow. Vlakk the Bloody the smaller goblins called him, full of terror. At that point she had been separated from her niece. She and other men, taken prisoner in the fighting and looting against other outposts, had been taken by the Lord of the hobgoblins in Xitaqa, the Ancient Hutaakan city . Babushka did not know the position. She was, however, able to provide many other valuable information to Marjana and her companions. Two in particular. The first was that the reason for the raids to the outposts was the result of a coordination between the humanoid clans and their lord Golthar and they were aimed to the search for the “Big Map”. The woman had not been able to grasp more but at least that was a clue which they had to consider. Second: Stephan Sukiskyn, Pyotr‘s brother, was among those kidnapped and then now, if still alive, he too was in Xitaqa!
“Vaeris had to stay with us.” Marjana broke the silence that had fallen on the company as she watched her teammates move away in the company of old Babushka. “I agree with her” grumbled Adrik. “Even more so now that his scouting skills would prove useful in searching for the lost city.”
“We have already discussed it at length last night and it seemed to me that in the end the decision was shared” urged Brannart. “To find Xitaqa we do not have to follow any track or trail. No enemy on the run. Yes, it’s true, Vaeris would be no doubt useful there, but we could certainly not take with us the woman, nor let Stoik go alone in the return trip to Sukiskyn” tried to calm the hot tempers Tiberius that, in the end, the evening earlier had taken the weight of that decision. “To find Xitaqa we need you Marjana and your empathy with animals. If Babushka‘s right and this lord of the horses, Loshad, really knows everything about the hills, then the only possibility to find the city are placed in you and in your ability to converse with him. “
“And when we arrive to the city, both Dan and Adrik, with their talents, will definitely be essential” concluded Brannart that, often and often, backed the decisions of Tiberius to whom, it was always evident to others, the Klantyre man recognized the leadership of the company.
“Ehm … Z …Zorry? … Ezcuze me?”
Only then Marjana remembered the joke-of-nature found in the prisons of the goblins in the petrified tree. The little man, a little less than a meter tall and with big brown eyes, watched them stunned and in the grip of curiosity, as he had
never seen humans in his life. Adrik had told everybody from the beginning that he was a gnome, but that this one had something different, of foreign respect to those he saw. Highforge, the headquarters of Adrik’s clan was in fact composed mainly of gnomes, the largest community of gnomes in the Known World according to him, and only in a small part of dwarves. This one, with tanned skin, short black hair, a lean body, probably also as a result of the long imprisonment, and a beard as a teenager, didn’t hail from Highforge. The dwarf also discovered that his knowledge of the gnomic language allowed him to barely understant and to communicate with difficulty with the gnome, who had only named himself Glimreen Lodestar.
At first they thought to join him to Vaeris and Stoik’s group and send him to Sukiskyn but then, suddenly and unexpectedly, that letter popped up . No one understood how it had happened. It just happened. It was there, just in plain sight, among the gnome personal belongings. It was white, immaculate, without the slightest crumpling. The seal, a stylized sailing embossed on red wax, still amazingly intact. An inscription that anybody could understand, read:
To the one called Rheddrian but which answers to the name of Benekander
 Bakushka heard the hobgoblins of Vlakk the Bloody call it like that but she and the members of the company, does not have the slightest idea of what that term means. At least not yet!