Like an idiot, I submitted Chapter Four of Behind The Mask without actually finishing the chapter. If I re-submit it with the full text of the finished chapter, could the site admins please just upload the second version with the full text?
It didn’t take long for the companions to find the duke’s chamber. While it was as wrecked as the rest of the castle, the companions could see how well-decorated and lavish it was before the Glimmering Hall’s fall. Finely crafted stone and bronzewood furniture filled the room, while defaced murals depicted everything from the Glimmering Hall’s coat of arms to scenes of iconic figures from the Hall’s history.
It was the work of a minute for Airk to determine which part of the room was southwest, and to pry the floorboard up with his pick. Once he’d confirmed there were no traps in the resulting hole, he reached into it. He pulled out a leatherbound book and started flipping through the pages.
“Aye, this is the duke’s journal,” he said. “Could you bring that lamp closer over here?” he asked Seline. As Airk sat down on a wide piece of bedframe with the journal, Seline sat down next to him, holding her lantern above his head. Airk read in silence for several minutes as his friends watched anxiously, before he shook his head sadly.
“The old story, over and over again,” he said. “It says here that the dwarves of the Glimmering Hall were ruled by House Rightoerth. I thought I recognized those arms,” he said, pointing to the defaced mural on the wall. “They were hard pressed by wave after wave of orc attacks during the Hateful Wars, so they called for aid from the humans of the independent County of Wearith.”
“The humans of Wearith fought in the Hateful Wars?” Weimar asked in surprise.
“They were one of the few human nations that did,” Airk said. “The County of Wearith was one of the few human domains in the Lortmils. They paid no fealty to Veluna, Bissel or any other major state. All they ever cared about were themselves and their own well-being.”
“Allies by necessity during the Wars, then,” Revafour said.
“Yes, in the same sense the Steelheart dwarves were allies,” Airk said. The companions exchanged glances, knowing what Airk meant by that. The Steelhearts pretended to be allies of Flinthold during the Wars, only to betray and then attempt to conquer their supposed allies when the gnomes were weakened. The incident cast a long shadow over Airk, and his friends, for a long time afterward.
“The humans of Wearwith didn’t come?” Amyalla said.
“Oh, they came,” Airk said, “but not in the way the dwarves expected. The orcs somehow found the river that provided the Hall’s water supply and managed to poison it. Most of the dwarves were able to survive the poison, but it left them sickened and unable to fight the orcs as well as they could. The orcs also seemed to know everything they needed to about the Hall’s defenses and how to counter them. I don’t think I need to tell you who told the orcs all that information?”
But you said the Wearwithians came to the Hall? Ma’non’go said, slightly confused.
“They did, they just came to help the orcs,” Airk said. “Then they got caught up in the bloodletting that came from the orcs trying to divide up the plunder. The orcs and Wearwithians tried to pursue the duke so they could make him open the vault door. He and some of his retainers boarded themselves up in the upper part of the castle while his family fled through a hidden escape route. He knew he was going to die, so he wrote this journal to describe what happened and give clues to be able to open the vault. Another case of the ‘allies’ in the Hateful Wars caring more about sticking their daggers’ in each others’ backs than their enemies’ hearts.”
“So what happened to his family?” Luna said, feeling slightly sick to her stomach.
“Garl only knows,” Airk said. “They were most likely slain in the Wars. Let’s just say the Wars didn’t create many refugees.”
Luna felt deflated at that, and she found herself sitting down before she knew what she was doing. She was exhausted, both physically and mentally, from everything she and her friends said and did today. They all needed a rest, and she and Seline needed to relearn several of their spells.
Despite their conditions, the bedrooms of the duke and his family were the most comfortable places the companions had found in the Hall. They bedded down as best they could, with Ma’non’go taking the first watch.
Luna normally slept easier knowing that Ma’non’go was looking out for her, but she noticed that his anger seemed worse than ever after hearing the dwarven duke’s story.
Sleep was difficult for her to find that night.
Please add the above text at the end of this chapter. Thanks so much!