Lizard folk in disguise
A Past Recollection - 12/18/2020
A Past Recollection - 12/18/2020
“Ah wonderful! Thank you for finding our wayward guest Debrika,” beamed Taryn as the old woman limped into the doorway followed by the dour Mror. Doxx surveyed the lot and saw a motley band. A full blooded Orc gnawing on a ham bone, a halfling drinking some mead, a shadow of an elf in the corner, with a glass of untouched wine in his hand, and a pair of Warforged, one a large Juggernaut, and the other one, with almost no plating on it in any way.
“And who might be this…ah…venerable, person?” the halfling drawled as she took a small sip of her mead, looking at the woman dubiously.
Taryn smiled and looked at the old woman, “Indeed, how should we address you?” and looked at her expectantly.
“Oh…old Doxx is fine,” the woman smiled and moved to the table and them she poured a glass of water from a pitcher on the table.
“She doesn’t seem to be the type for this endeavor,” the Juggernaut remarked.
“Any endeavor,” the other Warforged said, quietly.
“What’s the stupid job,” the Orc said bored with the entire exchange.
“Ah yes, well…in the interest of time, you are being hired as a group of…well…problem solvers. My Uncle is setting up a march to take back a mine known as the “Draktenflugen” or Drak’s Sieve in the southern Ironroots. And as part of this, we need able bodies and minds that can handle challenges an army cannot. All for a percentage of proceeds from the mine over the next five years with a guara—”
“—I don’t mean to be rude, but why are we negotiating in a ranch town, and not in Mror?” the halfling asked.
“A good question, Rosa. The fact of the matter is we have a problem that needs solving here. We need cattle to march the army, and the cattle are missing, and no messages returned as to why. Our best guess was Ogres but—”
“—Ogres? Not smart enough to ranch. I know this,” the Orc stated.
“Quite right Mobad, but the Ogres are hungry and are organized enough to raid and steal them. Why bother raising them, if there are others that do that for you?” Taryn held up both of his hands in a helpless gesture.
“Why?” the elf said, still holding a glass of untouched wine.
“Why what? Mr. Blade?” Taryn answered.
“The Blade,” the elf corrected. “Why us. Why a d’Jorasco, an Orc, an old woman, a late model scout, a Juggernaut and a hero such as myself?”
Taryn smiled again, “I hired a woman who has a reputation in finding the right people. And she believes all of you are it.”
“Melisandre,” The Blade said quietly.
“And I don’t suppose we could ask her?” Doxx asked, smiling.
Taryn frowned, “Well…I think that is a reasonable request. And I would…except she isn’t here. She was delayed in Cattbron and was to have arrived by now. However, if you all sign on, I will make her available when I can. If you have issues then, we can go our separate ways.”
“So, what exactly did you need doing?” the juggernaut Sage asked.
“Simple enough I hope now you are all here,” Taryn said. “There are two ranches to the north; the Tannock and the Keldran. We will head there, and confirm if there is an Ogre problem, and assist the ranchers with their problems, so they get the cattle down to Cattbron.”
“We?” the slender Warforged asked.
“Yes Bookshelf,” Taryn addressed him. “Debrika and I will take a small group of Blademarks to one, while the seven…sorry six of you go to the other. We then return to Denning, and by then Melisandre should have made her way here, or if not, we’ll find her in Cattbron.”
“You said seven first…why?” The Blade said.
“Ah well…yes. I had sent a member ahead to do some…reconnaissance. She had five Blademarks with her, and we were to meet here. But she hasn’t returned. So, I want you to look for her as well and find out what happened.”
“Where are these ranches?” Rosa asked. “I’m not familiar with the area after all.”
“Two days ride north; the trail is well marked I have been told. And yes, horse will be provided,” Taryn said cutting off Bookshelf’s question before he started.
“Well…all of this for a pile of gold from a mine. Why not? Although I still want to have words with Melisa—” started Sage when everyone else agreed. Even Mobad who was disinterested in the conversation before, was engaged now.
“I will make her available I promise,” Taryn said raising his hands defensively. “If that is all, Debrika can you please produce the contracts?”
Debrika opened a small bag at her side, and reached in down to her elbow, and one at a time, produce a set of thick tomes, each one alone, far larger than the bag itself. She went to each person in turn, handing them one, and then she set a seventh on the table, open to a page with two signatures.
Each of the others cradled their own tome, when Doxx voiced everyone’s’ thoughts.
“You have got to be kidding.”
The doors to the dining room were open, and the various members were drifting around the main bar. Taryn, Debrika and their Blademarks had already retreated upstairs for the evening. Mobad took his place at a table, chasing off the farmers who were sitting at it prior and settled his attention on one of the serving girls. Bookshelf moved to a corner and sat alone, while Sage moved his lumbering bulk upstairs. The Blade, Rosa and Doxx clustered near the bar.
“Well,” Rosa started, “I expected something, but not track down a herd of cattle.”
“Yes, my dear,” said Doxx in a tone resembling a doting grandmother. “But I do want to have a word with this Melisandre. She does seem to be in the know of…many things.”
“Too many,” The Blade grumbled. “But until we meet, questions will have to wait. And as for the other—”
“WHERE IS THAT WOMAN?!” a voice bellowed from the door. Turning, the trio saw a heavily armored man, flanked by a foursome of liveried men. His eyes swept over the suddenly hushed crowd. He strode inside, and threaded his way through the inn, searching.
“She isn’t here, and hasn’t been for weeks, Gard.” Flinsa said with a slightly raised voice in challenge.
Gard turned and strode to the bar, as his men scattered around the room looking at the patrons. “That’s convenient. You sure you haven’t seen her? She’s wanted back at Salenhold for questioning.”
“My! What in the Nations did this woman do?” Rosa asked aloud. Gard turned his attention to the halfling, and slowly strode forward towards her. Rosa glanced at her sides, and discovered that both the old woman, and the cowled elf had slipped away from her flanks, leaving her to face the bellicose warrior
“That woman…what was her name? Myrai…she is wanted for the illegal use of sorcery on the Warlord’s soldiers,” Gard said his eyes flashing anger as he answered Rosa’s question.
“I wasn’t aware of such a crime in the code of Gali—,” Rosa started with an innocent drawl when she was cut off with a snarl.
“Karnnath is under martial law, and here,” he snapped, “The Code of Kaius takes precedence.”
“I…I see. Well, we were told to…keep an eye out for her by…another party.” she said mildly.
“Really?” Gard straightened up looking at Rosa with interest. “Well then…its five hundred gold if you can bring her to Salenhold. She does need to be able to…answer questions.”
“I understand completely,” Rosa smiled sweetly. Gard narrowed his eyes in suspicion and nodded.
“I am glad you do. As I am willing to entertain…accomplices as well.”
“Well…is there anything else we can do for the Warlords’ fine men?” Flinsa said trying to cool down the agitated man.
“My men and I are riding out tonight and do not have time for frivolity,” he responded coldly.
“Of course not! But I can get you some fresh goods for this evening’s camp. If you and your men ride your horse to the back entrance, we can see you supplied and on your way. Just knock, and Box will see to your supplies.”
Gard’s face softened a little bit nodding, “That is…kind of you. Your inn certainly represents the best your license stands for.” He then turned to look at Rosa again, “Five hundred. Salenhold. And good night.” He said and turned, snapping his fingers. His men, looking around the room for a woman who wasn’t there, quickly responded, and fell in line behind the warrior, and the five departed slamming the door behind them.
“He sounds like a patriot of order,” Doxx said sardonically, suddenly appearing next to Rosa. She turned and was about to lecture the woman, when she heard the gravelly voice of The Blade on her other side. “Not a hero, just a man pretending.”
“Where in Khyber did the two—” Rosa started angrily at the pair when Flinsa came up to the three with drinks in hand.
“Thank you for distracting them. They have a tendency to cause a lot of…problems.” And she clapped her hands, and the two serving girls came out from the kitchen and resumed their duties. “I hope not to intrude, but you really should leave that woman—”
“—Myrai?” Rosa asked.
“Yes her,” Flinsa said. “Leave her out of anything Gard wants.”
“Do you know why he’s looking for her?” The Blade asked with interest.
Flinsa grimaced looking around to see who else might be listening. “It’s not much to tell, but like with most things, it isn’t what was said, it was what wasn’t”
“Wy…you told me that the pain would go away,” I said keenly feeling my muscles complaint as I sat at the bar.
Wy, a dark haired, tanned human man in his late thirties grinned, “You weren’t kidding Myrai, you really hadn’t much time in the saddle.” He took a quaff of his ale and turned to look at me with amusement.
“Like you couldn’t tell in Cattbron?” I retorted.
“I just wanted to confirm my suspicions were accurate,” Wy said mildly.
“I think you had a fine idea when you laughed your ass off at my poor attempts to ride that first morning. Flinsa, another please.”
Wy looked at me with concern, “Not for me to tell you how to handle your pain. It’s one thing to shame my men and drink them under the table. But you do have to get up in the morning.”
“As long as I don’t dream…I’ll take my lumps.” I said. I had discovered since leaving prison that my mind had decided to return to prior habits. Last night at the camp, I scared Wy and his blademarks with me screaming myself awake. I spent a good part of the watch apologizing to the others who I woke up and couldn’t return asleep.
The Blademarks, were an experienced team. I had learned from their leader Wyan or ‘Wy’ as he preferred, that they had worked together over the last ten years as a group. They served somewhere in Karnnath during the Last War, but had managed to create a name for themselves, and were in high demand when a team was needed. Of course, even as jaded as they were, I was something novel to them.
We had a brief introduction in Cattbron by Melisandre and Taryn, and I was ‘interrogated’ over dinner. Well…It was friendly, but I guessed that while I was nominally in charge, that a Deneith Blademark did have a responsibility to protect their patrons. And as such, they inquired to understand who they were protecting. On that first night, I kept them up until well after Anti-peak, telling them stories of pirate dens, lost tombs, and hobgoblin hordes. They found my story of me breaking out of a Soldorak jail hilarious and they were equally relieved that I had ‘spent time in the mud,’ camping and wasn’t some pretty city girl.
But over all the time in the last six or seven months, I never rode a horse. Carriages and wagons yes. But I never sat stride one before. Wy knew this from our conversation, and the next morning, he took me to the Valadis stable. There the master found me a gentle mare, who I swear was smarter than I was. It was strange, learning to guide her with the reins, and after a little practice my knees. The frosty cold wind in my hair was exhilarating. And bone chilling as the afternoons hot bath confirmed I needed warmer clothes.
Clothes and supplies were purchased, horses secured, and Melisandre introduced me to a Cannith worker that supplied me with access to some local magic that I could incorporate into The Apochrypha. I really wanted to try them before we left but it was quickly forgotten as we journeyed north. But all the prep did nothing to ready me for the pain.
My legs felt stretched in the wrong directions, my stomach and rear ached from trying to sit in the saddle properly. The first day I didn’t notice it. The next morning however, I was in a frightful amount of pain. So, when we saw the walls of Denning it was a sight for sore…well not my eyes.
“You’re the boss,” Wy said.
“Sure I am. Your men wouldn’t follow my instructions if their life depended on it,” I pointed out.
“Well…they might. But we don’t let it come down to that,” Wy finished his drink and stood down from his stool. “I’ll be back; the ale is seeking a new home.”
“You’re on your own for that,” I said smirking and feeling the warmth of the liquor soften my mind. I watched him walk off to the side entrance. He didn’t stagger; he was fully in control of himself and his faculties as he made his way to back where the public privys were found. Wy was a rugged man, and it had been a while since I spent time alone with any man that wasn’t…well…far off friends. I found myself watching his posterior with admiration as he left the bar, and I sighed contentedly.
“Here you are dear,” Flinsa said pushing me another whiskey in front of me. “You know five of these is a l—”
The door to the front of the bar, slammed open, and I heard booted feet enter. I didn’t turn but as I took a sip, I saw one of the two girls who waited the tables, practically drop her tray on the bar top, and rush into the back. I frowned wondering what that was about, when I heard a nasally voice speak.
“Ethena…come over here and get our order!”
I turned, and saw a quartet of men, in brigandine armor, taking a seat at a table. All had deposited their helms with a loud clunk on the wood. I glanced and saw Ethena, the second serving girl, gulp and looked at Flinsa with a look of desperation. Flinsa gritted her teeth and sighed, and closing her eyes, said nothing, but motioned with her head towards the men.
Ethena swallowed and straightened up and walked quickly to the men and was about to ask them a question, when the nasally voiced once, grabbed her by the arm and pulled her down to sit on his lap.
“Now then…you should look us all in the eye, when we ask for what we want,” he said with a sneer.
I clenched my glass in my hand as I watched. Ethena, her eyes closed simply asked,
“What can I get for you, good sirs?”
“Now now…you need to look at us,” and the man ran a finger under her chin, forcibly nudging her head to face in his direction. He then swatted her on the cheek, and I could see her open her eyes, meeting his gaze.
“Ethena; you know us better than that. A pitcher of ale for the lot of us, and you can come back to warm my lap.”
“I..I..have customers to serve!” she said looking for a way out.
“Nah…your mate can serve the rest. In fact, why don’t you stay here, and let her fetch the drinks.”
“I’d rather—” and she tried to stand, when the man jerked her back down to his lap.
“I think you do what the Warlord’s men command you do,” he said in a cold tone.
“I think you should let her go, and take your ale like good little berks,” I said finishing my whiskey and slamming the glass down.
The four men suddenly noticing me, stared uncomprehendingly. The one with the nasally voice stood up, almost dumping Ethena on the floor. His comrades in arms quickly followed in turn. I could hear Flinsa hiss, “Miss don’t…this will be trouble.” If they heard, they gave no indication, but the man addressed me.
“Well…what do we have here?” he said as I turned around and faced him, still sitting on the stool. “A golden-haired minx with…my word. I can see myself in those peepers!” he said as he drew close. In my left hand I removed a small circular glass mirror from my pouch. I spun it on the bartop casually, while touching my right hand to my symbol on my chest, all while whispering quietly to myself as I pulled on a single white strand.
“You’re clearly not from around here,” he said. “We probably should take you in for some…questioning. Never can be too safe.”
I straightened up and looked the man in the eye, gave a wan smile and said simply, “I don’t think so. And I think you will leave the women here alone.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Wy had reentered the inn, and had a hand on his sword as he looked at the nasally voiced man with contempt.
“I think its best you come with US,” and he reached for my arm. He was perhaps a hand width away when he stopped, his hand outstretched. He looked it his own limb with confusion, and he started to lean into his hand, trying to force it to touch me. He instead found himself pushing against some unmovable object. His face grew redder and redder as he strained harder and harder to secure me in his grasp.
“Flinsa another please,” I said calmly, and I heard the halfling move off and uncork a bottle and pour. All the while the man tried to get closer to me. Finally, he barked an order at his men, “Don’t just stand there!”
The three others came up to me and they too found them constrained. A half circle of men reaching out with their hands trying to close the gap in futility. Their faces contorted with effort, frustration, and in the nasally man’s case growing anger. Flinsa slipped the glass to me and I took it in hand and calmly took a sip. Just then the nasally man vented his frustrations aloud.
“What enchantment is this? What have you done to us?”
“Nothing. But my god, has my back. Not yours,” I said calmly but my head swimming a bit. “And you do not challenge a loyal servant of Death, unless you have dug your own grave first.” I said feeling a bit of fire in me.
The nasally man’s face paled, “By the Dark Six…the Keeper?!? Here?” I tilted my head in confusion. But the men backed off and returned to the table and collected their helms.
“You best make yourself scarce. We’ll…we’ll be back.” And the four made for the door, each clamoring to be first. As the door slammed behind them, I realized that the inn was quiet and all the eyes were on me. Turning I looked at Flinsa and she too looked at me.
I didn’t understand, and I heard Wyn move next to me. “We should get you out of here.”
“No wait…I don’t understand. Who…who is ‘the Keeper?’” I asked.
Flinsa and Wy glanced at each other before Flinsa answered me. “He…he is one of the Dark Six. He steals the souls of the dead for himself and—”
“—He’s the god of death here?” I asked suddenly concerned.
“I…I…guess,” Flinsa said nervously.
“Flinsa. Wy. I apologize, and I swear…whoever this Keeper is…that is not my god! The god I worship…he doesn’t steal souls; he guides them to their final place. He wants us to live as long as we can, and not die before its time.” I saw in their eyes doubt as they glanced at each other.
I bowed my head and stood up unsteadily. “I…should probably lay down. I ‘ve caused enough excitement as it is.” I started to walk across the room to the stairs, feeling every eye follow me each step of the way. I was just heading up, when I heard behind me Flinsa call.
“Miss Myrai…thank you.”
“She then left the next morning with the Blademarks, and that’s what I know,” Flinsa said, pouring a water, a mead, and patently ignoring the untouched wine in The Blades hand. “The only trouble she is in, is showing up the Warlords men. But when they returned, she was already gone.”
“Lovely men,” Doxx said disapprovingly.
“Yes, well…not all of them, just a couple of the have caused problems for my girls. And Gard too…he’s the worst really. But Myrai is the only one who ever spoke up for them. So, I’d rather not have anything happen to her.”
“What about this god then she worships?”
“I only know she said that she didn’t worship the Keeper. She didn’t really tell me anything else.”
“She has a strong sense of faith. Interesting,” muttered The Blade, fingering something beneath his tunic, where a necklace might be.
“Well, I hope you find her before Gard does. Excuse me,” and Flinsa moved down the bar to fill a patron’s drink.
“Well…I suppose we should get some rest then. I will see you tomorra,” Rosa said, and she slipped off her stool to head upstairs.
The Blade and Doxx looked at each other, before The Blade spoke, “Justice doesn’t sleep, and nor do I. But I must prepare.” And whirling his cloak, the Blade made his way upstairs. Doxx looked around, and noticed that sometime during the story, Mobad and Bookshelf had also disappeared to the rooms above. Nodding to himself, and humming quietly, Doxx made her way over to a chair near the fire, and settled in. As she did so, she heard a noise, and she turned her head around before looking upwards into the rafters. There, a raven stretched out its wings and preened a bit before looking Doxx in the eye.
Doxx shook her head and stared into the fire letting her eyes droop. Her exhaustion finally won out, and soon Doxx was snoring softly.
All the while the Raven looked on. It ever took its black eyes away from the sleeping old woman. All the while it quietly, and ever so softly, laughed.
Everyone was starting to get a feel for the characters at this point; while the wealth of the gold mine was there, it was nothing compared to the desire to meet Melisandre. That really became a focal point for everyone really.