B10 – NIGHT’S DARK TERROR
16 FYRMONT OF 1005 AC
FOGOR ISLE. THRESHOLD.
“This should be the place.” declared Dan.
Titus looked at the old tavern, or how much of it was still standing, a real unstable hovel. The building had to be, once, sumptuous. It had a long and high roof which indicated a raised floor for the rooms reserved to a most refined clientele. Today that same roof had cracks everywhere and fissures and planks out of place. The windows were all boarded up by wooden planks nailed to the structure. Boards that today rotted under the weight of time, weather and moisture of the Windy River, a few meters away. “That’s the sign. The two crossed swords. Exactly as Mafka described it.” As Dan spoke, he moved a few steps forward, toward the back door of the inn.
“Oh..oh..oh .. The small and tender Mafka .. A maid with the eyes of a fawn .. she read his hand .. and she stole his heart!” Adrik teased using the honeyed tone and the most strident voice that a baritone could manage.
“Stolen heart .. yes .. yes” reiterated Glimreen chuckling. “A wagon invests her but Dan, the hero, saves her and ..”
“Stop it you two! You look like two jealous gossip girls” interrupted them Marjana that didn’t find nothing funny in that situation.
“Yet, if this is the place I do not see the link between this old dilapidated shack, Golthar and his gang ..”
“Titus, there! Your link ..” Thoragon had approached him and he had already a hand on the heavy maul he carried strapped to his
back. A dozen men, maybe more, had appeared almost out of nowhere. They had materialized in the square enclosed on three sides by buildings and on the fourth by the Windy River, overlooking the Tavern of Crossed Swords, from the numerous narrow and dark alleys.
“A trap!” shouted Marjana. She also held firmly the long staff with both hands, ready to fight.
“No! There are too many of them!” Titus knew that they could even beat a dozen of men but the risks were still too big. Their ranks seemed to grow at every passing moment. “Inside the inn, quick. Me and Thoragon will cover you.” Without waiting for an answer the cleric of Thor pulled out his warhammer too, ready for confrontation.
He had just smashed the jaw and skull of the second men died by his hand when he felt the scream coming from inside the house.
“Adrik !?” Thoragon was at his side and, swinging the weapon, he sought to keep at bay as many men as he could but the attackers, men disreputable of the most squalid ghettos of Fogor Isle, seemed to have no end. Making their way to the tavern, they pulled down half-dozen of these hit men and, eventually, they managed to arrive safely inside the tavern. Glimreen was at the door, he was waiting for them and helped them to close the door. “What happened?” Titus asked, just past the first room and getting into what had to be, once, a kitchen.
“The dwarf. Something came out of that hole on the floor, and brought down. It was too fast and ..” The words of Stephan fell on deaf ears.
“It looks like they are going away.” Thoragon had arrived in the company of the gnome from the first room. “It is all too clear that they wanted us in the Tavern of Cros
words”. All the looks ran on Dan, who blushed sheepishly.
“It is therefore likely that the whole scene of this morning, Gholtar appearing during the religious parade, means that he was aware that with all that crowd we will not be able to catch him and then the wagon that comes out of nowhere and nearly invests the girl, that Mafka! Dan’s save and all the rest, she that reads his hand and in it sees this place. All an act and trap to gather us there.” the tone of Marjana’s voice showed resentment, perhaps, for being so foolish.
“Trap or not, Adrik is down there and ..” the words of Titus died in his throat
“Easy.. easy .. I’m still alive. I have a tougher hide than that brute believed.” The dwarf was in front of them, soaked to the hair of mud and other smelly growths it would be best not to speculate about. He had a scratch that had torn the sleeve of his robe and that indelibly marked the skin. Three long red streaks from which dripped blood. “Let me heal you.” The young druidess was already beside him to perform the necessary magical cure through her healing staff. “What happened under there Adrik?” asked Dan. “How did you get back up?” “I have not the faintest idea of what’s down there, I just know that it is at least four times taller than me, with green, long and gnarled arms, like the roots of a tree. He attacked me, trying to grab me with claws and biting too: only good luck had me slip at the very last. Then, as soon as I could, I appealed to my magic and .. Well, I’m there.”
“What now?” Thoragon asked. “We go down the hatch and face that green thing or exit the tavern and tackle half the island’s population of Fogor?”
. . .
The day after their arrival in Rifflian they headed first to Lady Prestelle, the most important merchant of the elven village. She was a lovely and kind elf and led, alone, the most important emporium of the city. From her they learned important information about their companions, Vaeris and Stoik, and why they were not at the pre-established meeting, contrarily to what they agreed upon with Pyotr at their departure from Sukyskin. Taras, returning a few days before from the Radlebb Woods,had stopped at the store and informed Prestelle. In fact it seemed that the young elf of the Rhoddendron house had suddenly had problems and that his friend Vaeris, unaware of what was happening to the rest of his companions, had decided to accompany him. Knowing that time was vital for the success of their mission, they had decided not to wait any longer and had gone to Threshold. All day they had proceeded faster than they could, pausing as little as possible. During the afternoon they almost ran into an ambush by some river bandits. They later had found that this large group of scoundrels and murderers were called The Scange, thugs who robbed and killed, even for little money, unsuspecting travelers on the way to Threshold. They had proved to be numerous but poorly organized and it had not be difficult to overpower them. Once inspected their camp, Titus and his associates found evidence that the attack had been organized and paid for well in advance. The Iron Ring was on their trail and had put a bounty on their heads!
The next day Adrik noticed an unidentified flying object over the low hills to their right, going from the south-east to the north-west direction, from Kelvin to Threshold then. Once in Threshold, the day after, they learned that it was the flying carpet of an elf lady named Cardia, who had made a transport service up to Threshold, for a man dressed exactly in a yellow robe, and that, according to some witnesses, was really like the Iron Ring magician.
This series of events as well as the delay compared to their rival, had convinced Titus to resort to his noble rank and his family name, to leverage on local authorities and thus impress the Baron Sherlane so that he would provide them all the support at his disposal. Arrived to the Rock of Tarn, the residence of Sherlane, perched on the shores of Lake Ventoso, they had been told, though, that the Baron was in Specularum, on a visit to his niece and her husband, Lord Demetrius Sauros, the Baron of Marilenev. Finally entering the city and aware of the fact of having to rely solely on their own strength, they were directed to the Clerical Court, presided over by the knight of the Order of the Griffon Sir Desmond who, once collected their testimony, had reserved the right to judge them suitable or not to bear arms on behalf of the Baron, within the city too. On his advice they had taken up residence at “The Hook and Hatchet”, an inn frequented especially by the city guard soldiers. Here they had collected some testimonies of soldiers on guard to the South Gate in the hours and days before, which had confirmed the arrival in town of a woman with cold eyes and a dark complexion that matched the description given to them by Stubbs Platterman, the halfling owner of the Silver Swan in Rifflian. Sergeant Arthol , a grumpy bear without an eye, had then confirmed the link between the woman, named Jolente, Golthar himself and the local criminals who controlled the Fogor Island.
The morning after, again in the inn, they had been brought up their weapons and permissions to bring them into the city, in the name and on behalf of the Baron. With these they had gone to the religious parade through the city streets, crowded of people for the occasion. Men, women, children and old people filled every corner of the dirty and muddy streets of the small border town to celebrate, throwing petals and flowers, the passage of the religious procession. And at this moment the trap of Golthar sprung! They had seen him, in fact, in Jolente’s company across the street. It was a single moment, an exchange of glances, then the passage of the procession and the magician and his partner had disappeared into thin air. The pursuit through the crowded city streets was useless, even with Marjana taking the shape of a bloodhound to try to maximize the chances of success. When it was over, almost out of nowhere, a chariot has appeared and had nearly hit them and the pretty florist. The girl said she was Mafka and she pretended to be shy and grate to her savior Dan. She insisted to read him the hand at all costs. “In your future I see a man dressed in yellow and a place .. I see two crossed swords on the outside.” she described to him, as if seeing the tavern with her own eyes.
“There is no room for recriminations or for second thoughts.” Titus broke the stalemate within the Tavern. He gripped firmly with one hand the warhammer and with the other the handle to open the trapdoor. When he had opened there was a strong sewer smell. “After you.” he said, turning to Thoragon that seemed to be very eager. An exchange of glances of understanding between the two, then the man dragon jumped into the cesspool.