Weimar, Luna, Ma’non’go and Seline had little
difficulty docking in Hardby, or in traveling north along the main roads. The
four travelers often found themselves enjoying the company of everyone from
merchant caravans to traveling performers to other adventurers, many of whom
were also on their way to the magnificent Free City. For all that, they traveled
at their own pace, discussing what they would do when they arrived in Greyhawk
and telling each other more about their pasts and homelands. Eventually, they
were less than a day away from Greyhawk as the sun began to set. While they
might have reached the city if they traveled through the night, they were
already exhausted from the long journey they’d taken that day.
“Where are we going to stop for the night?” Luna
asked, shielding her eyes as she looked further down the road.
“I told you we should have stopped at the last inn!”
Seline reproached Weimar.
“With those prices?” Weimar asked incredulously. “The
owners of that place were highway robbers! Besides, we don’t need an inn,” he
said, gesturing to the walled manor that stood to the right of the road. “Who’s
to say we can’t spend a night in their hayloft?”
Seline looked at Luna and Ma’non’go, who all
shrugged, before they directed their horses to follow Weimar as he approached
As they approached the manor, they could see that it
was a fine place indeed. Stone walls surrounded a lovingly maintained estate,
speckled with copses of trees, flower gardens and ponds arranged in a beautiful
pattern. Guards stood at the main gate, gazing at the travelers with intensity
but not hostility as they approached.
“Greetings!” Seline said brightly to the guards as
she and her friends reached the gate, leaping off their horses and leading the
creatures by the reins. “Do you, perhaps, have a place for a group of weary
travelers who would be willing to pay handsomely for your hospitality? A rest in
your hayloft would be all that we require…”
The guards looked at one another, and then back at
“You four seem to be adventurers, are you not?” the
leader of the guards asked calmly.
“Yes, we are,” Weimar replied. “Is that a problem?
Because if it is, we can be on our way-“
“No, you may in fact be the people our lord is
searching for,” the leader of the guards shook his head. “He could use the help
of talents such as yours…”
Seline and her friends had expected to be eating
their own plain fare in Count Morin Listell’s hayloft. Instead, they had been
brought into the presence of Count Morin himself, accompanied by his wife
Jacquileene. The Count’s sitting room was tastefully decorated with art objects,
ancestral portraits and sumptuous furniture, much like the drawing-rooms Luna
and Seline had experienced as younger members of House Cranden in Aerdy. Count
Morin and Jacquileene would have been equally as distinguished in their finely
tailored attire, were it not for the haggard and worn expressions on their
faces. They looked as if they had not slept in at least two days, and it seemed
as if they had barely eaten in that same amount of time as well. When Count
Morin spoke, it was with a hoarse croak, as if the very act wearied him.
“Thank you for coming,” the count nodded slowly. He
couldn’t have been more than thirty-five years old, but his demeanor was that of
someone twice his age.
“What’s the matter?” Luna asked quietly, her soft
voice seeming to put the Listells at ease. “Is there some manner in which we can
be of assistance?”
“Our…our…” the count began, before he fell silent.
“Teddyrun, my boy…what if they…” Countess Jacquileene
started, before tears filled her eyes and she began to cough and sob.
“Teddyrun is my son and heir,” Count Morin forced
himself to speak again, “was kidnapped not two days ago. Taken from his own
bedroom, in the middle of the night!”
The adventurers looked at one another
sympathetically, all of them frowning heavily.
“How did this happen?” Seline asked in a gentle tone.
“Have you been able to determine how your son was abducted?”
“…No,” Jacquileene shook her head. Luna’s and
Seline’s tones had calmed her somewhat, and made her more able to speak. “All
our guards mentioned was the sight of torches at one of the gates, and the
sounds of people shouting and trying to force the gates, but no one was there.”
“No tracks, or anything?” Weimar asked in surprise.
“No,” Count Morin shook his head. “We searched the
entire grounds, and there were no tracks at all, anywhere!”
Weimar fell into puzzlement at this, wondering how
that was even possible, but Luna and Seline looked at each other, realizing what
this probably meant. Luna thought on this for several moments, before she spoke
“The monster who abducted your son, whoever it was,
no doubt used magic to get into and out of your estate,” Luna explained. “I
believe that I will be able to track them down,” she continued, as the Listells’
faces rose in hope, “but I will need to prepare the correct spells first. I’ll
only be able to do that at sunrise tomorrow.”
“Of course, of course!” Count Morin smiled widely,
his hopes now raised by the adventurers’ presence. “Please, enjoy my hospitality
in the meantime! If you can bring Teddyrun home, it will be the least of what I
Weimar, Ma’non’go, Luna and Seline looked at each
other determinedly, as they nodded.
Airk and Revafour were astonished by how well Amyalla
seemed to know her way around Greyhawk. She’d easily led them into the city
through the Duke’s Gate and the wealthier districts of the city, before turning
south and then making their way through the Garden Gate into one of the lower
districts of the city. The gnome and his Flan companion would probably have been
utterly lost in the city’s crowded streets, and it didn’t take them long to
understand why the halfling race called Greyhawk the Gateway to Everywhere.
People of all kinds crowded the streets, from rich human merchants to burly
dwarves, from street ruffians to lumberjacks and foresters who’d come into the
city on business. Revafour and Airk had never seen so many different peoples and
cultures in one place, although Amyalla didn’t seem the least bit fazed by it.
“A lot of first-time visitors react this way,”
Amyalla smiled, her lips turned up in amusement as she noticed their reactions.
“Matters of race and culture don’t matter much to most Greyhawkers. The only
thing they care about is money.”
“So it’s a city of thieves,” Revafour muttered.
“Some are thieves,” Amyalla corrected him, “but most
are just rather greedy merchants and craftspeople. You’ve both heard tales of
the Wild Coast, I take it?”
The ugly looks on Airk’s and Revafour’s faces
confirmed that they had, and also confirmed what they thought of the place.
“Now that’s a place of scoundrels and rapscallions,”
Amyalla laughed. “But here,” she said as they stopped in front of a large
building, “is an example of the better side of Greyhawk,” she grinned as she
pushed the door open and gestured for her friends to follow her in.
Despite the raucous activity going on outside, the
Wizard’s Hat Inn was comparatively calm and peaceful, an island of tranquility
in the chaos of Greyhawk. Airk and Revafour glanced around at the clientele, who
seemed as diverse as the population of Greyhawk in general, for all that they
were uniformly well-mannered and calm. A trim middle-aged woman was tending the
bar at the far end, and her eyes lit up as she saw Amyalla leading Airk and
Revafour into the inn.
“Hello, Dwaven,” Amyalla greeted her old friend
Dwaven May, hopping up on one of the barrels that served as bar stools to hug
her old friend. “How long has it been?”
“Too long,” Dwaven smiled back, before turning her
attention to Airk and Revafour. “Your companions, I take it?” she asked.
“Just so,” Amyalla nodded, as she hopped off the bar
“Welcome to Greyhawk,” Dwaven greeted them with a
bow. “Is this your first time in the city?”
“Just so,” Airk nodded. “It’s certainly...vibrant,”
he finished, searching for the right word.
“And noisy,” Revafour added with a half-smile. “Tell
me,” he said, glancing up at the menu written out on stone slates set above the
bar, “might we have something to eat? I don’t know about you, but I could use a
good meal,” he sighed, somewhat weary after all the walking they’d done.
“You make it sound as if it would a chore,” Dwarven
tittered. “Now then, what would it be?”
Before Airk or Revafour could answer, Amyalla reached
into a pouch at her belt and tossed a pile of coins on the bar.
“We’ll be needing two rooms,” Amyalla said in a
businesslike tone, “and whatever these fine gentlemen will want. This should
cover whatever they’d like,” she continued, as Dwaven gathered up the coins and
“Where are you going?” Airk asked in confusion.
“I’m going to visit some old friends,” Amyalla
replied airily, as she headed for the door. “It’s been too long since I’ve been
in Greyhawk, and I do so want to catch up with them?”
Revafour and Airk looked at one another, and then at
Dwaven, who only laughed.
“She’s always been like that,” Dwaven informed them.
“Come now, what would you like?”
The venison and potatoes Dwaven`s cooks produced were
exactly what Revafour and Airk had been looking for after the long day of
walking through the city. The stout Airk asked for provided the perfect end to
the meal, although Revafour, predictably, requested only water.
Amyalla knew that Airk and Revafour would be in good
hands at the Wizard`s Hat Inn. Dwaven May was always a dear, although it had
taken Amyalla a while before she’d befriended her. After she’d fled the Duchy of
Urnst, Amyalla had migrated here, to Greyhawk, honing her skills among the
lower-born rogues of the city. Many of her old friends would never come to the
Wizard’s Hat, and so she knew she would have to visit them in their element to
see them again, as she so wanted to do.
The Green Dragon Inn, however, was where many of her
other friends tended to congregate. While the Wizard’s Hat was one of the
best-kept secrets in the River Quarter, the Green Dragon Inn was one of the
River Quarter’s most notorious hangouts. Thieves, mercenaries, riverfolk,
dockworkers, lower-class tradesmen, and others both honest and dishonest came in
on a regular basis, making it an excellent place to pick up on the latest
gossip. Nothing had changed since Amyalla had last come here-the old rogue
Ricard Damaris was tending the bar, the air was filled with the sound of drunken
songs, curses and threats, and the clientele was made up of the usual collection
of thieves, rakes and knaves.
Glancing around, Amyalla didn’t see anyone she
recognized, but didn’t particularly mind. It was early in the evening yet, and
many of the regulars did not come until it was time for them to have their
The beer and roast fowl Amyalla ordered was not fine
cuisine, but it was serviceable, at least. She was fortunate to get in early, as
the inn soon started to fill with even more clients, all of whom were demanding
food and drink. Sitting back and observing the crowd, Amyalla wondered if she
would see anyone she knew from the old days, but then she heard the call.
Looking up in surprise, she saw a burly, huskily-built woman coming towards her.
Louella was perhaps the only female dockworker in all the city, having taken the
job to support her family after her husband had lost his arm in an accident.
Now, Louella’s husband took care of the children during the day while Louella
earned the family a living. Louella came into the Green Dragon on a regular
basis, as she enjoyed the rough atmosphere she could share with her
“Saint Cuthbert be praised, it really is you!”
Louella said brightly as she sat down to join Amyalla. “Where have you been?”
“Out and about,” Amyalla replied with a smile. “I
wanted to see what the rest of the world was like.”
“And what brought you back home?” Louella asked.
“I’ve been seeking some new challenges,” Amyalla
replied, “and some new work. I’ve made a few friends who I think can help me
“The gods know I could use your help right now,”
Louella said, an edge of sadness in her voice, “as could several other people.”
“Why is that?” Amyalla asked, now slightly alarmed.
“Sienna’s disappeared,” Louella explained, referring
to one of her daughters. “She went to the market to buy some food and
just…disappeared a few days ago. I don’t know what happened to her!”
“Have you told the city watch?” Amyalla asked.
“They couldn’t find anything,” Louella frowned. “And
I’m not the only one who’s suffered this, either-a number of children have
disappeared in the River Quarter. We’re at our wit’s end as to what to do,
Amyalla-what if…what if they…”
“If they’re still alive, I’ll find them,” Amyalla
replied determinedly, her small hand wrapping around Louella’s larger one. “And
my friends will help too,” she added.
Amyalla had no doubt that Airk and Revafour would
agree to help her.
If they refused for whatever reason, however, she
would have no compunctions about abandoning them then and there.
Luna sat alone in the midst of the Listell estate,
her eyes closed as she faced due east. It was still the dark of night, but she
knew the dawn was approaching, reaching out with her mind to the approaching
sunrise. As she waited, she cleared her mind, thinking only of the approaching
sun and its god, the god she had devoted her life to.
Finally, the first rays of the sun began to emerge on
the horizon. Luna felt rather than saw them, felt them caress her as she began
to pray. She reached out to Pelor, the god the sun represented, and prayed to
him, asking him to bestow on her the blessings she would need to help those who
had come to her for aid. Pelor had always taught her to believe in the light, to
believe in the blessings that were meant for all those the light shone on, and
she prayed for them now. She needed Pelor’s help to find little Teddyrun, and
she knew without Pelor’s help the child might well be lost forever. Although
Luna had not yet attained that level of grace that would enable her to commune
with Pelor directly, she had gained the power to commune with Pelor’s divine
She asked them for Pelor’s favour, and Pelor’s divine
servants, knowing the reasons for her request, granted her desires.
Opening her eyes, Luna saw that the sunrise was
shining brightly, bathing her in its warmth as if to confirm Pelor’s approval of
what she intended to do.
Nodding in thanks, Luna adjusted her seat and began
chanting. She was sitting at the bank of one of the ponds on the estate, a small
pool about ten feet in diameter. Taking a vial out of her pocket, she opened it
up and poured three drops of the walnut oil into the pool. Putting the vial back
in her pocket, Luna began chanting, waving her hands back and forth in the water
as she chanted. The reflections of Luna and the surrounding wildlife were
distorted by the ripples her hands were making, until they were blurred beyond
recognition by the constant motion of Luna’s hands. She continued in this way
for more than two hours, and new images began to appear in the pond, images that
were very different from anything it might have previously reflected.
Gazing into the pond, Luna breathed a prayer of
thanks to Pelor that the spell had functioned correctly. The Listells had told
her all about Teddyrun, which would help her find him with her magical scrying,
but even then there was no guarantee of success. However, succeed it did, and
now Luna gazed upon Teddyrun.
The pond reflected an image of a little boy, eight
years old perhaps, wearing fine but dirty clothes, which he’d probably been
wearing when he’d been kidnapped. Tears were pouring down his eyes as he lay
slumped in the corner of what looked like a cell in an underground cavern. Luna
could make out the bars of a cell, the rough walls of a cave, and faint,
flickering torchlight. Other screams and cries played at the edge of Luna’s
hearing, and she thought she could see other shapes moving vaguely in the
background, but she could not be sure.
Teddyrun was clearly being held underground
somewhere, but where, exactly?
Nodding once, Luna waved her hands through the pond
once more, ending her scrying spell. The images in the pond faded, scattered by
the ripples her hands were making, and they were soon replaced by the normal
reflections of the pond’s surroundings.
From there, Luna began casting her second spell. From
her backpack, she pulled out a candle of incense and a tinderbox, using it to
light the candle. Putting the tinderbox back in her bag, she then retrieved a
bright yellow sunstone, holding it one hand. With her other hand, she took up
the pendant she wore around her neck, which was decorated with the image of a
stylized sun, within which was the carefully worked face of a benevolent,
fatherly man, the holy symbol of Pelor.
Holding the gemstone in one hand and her holy symbol
in the other, Luna raised them to the sky, chanting even as the incense
continued burning. In her mind, she saw an image of Teddyrun and his
surroundings, seeking to find where they might be located. She prayed to Pelor
to guide her so she and her friends would know where to go to find him, so they
could bring him home from the hell he was trapped in.
The sunstone in one of Luna’s hands crumbled into
dust, consumed by the power of the spell as Luna kept chanting. Her holy symbol
grew warm in her other hand, telling Luna that the spell was working.
Once again, the spell functioned correctly, and a
voice echoed in Luna’s mind as Pelor gave her a sign.
North by north east…
In the hills, built stone on stone like
The innocent plead for
At the giant’s cloven beard…
Luna’s eyes popped open as she repeated the words
over and over, hastening to commit it to memory. For good measure, she wrote the
words down on a piece of parchment before extinguishing her incense candle,
putting her holy symbol back around her neck and gathering up all of her
She marched back towards the Listells’ estate,
knowing now where they needed to go.
It was time to leave.
“Of course we’ll help,” Revafour answered Amyalla
once she’d told them Louella’s story, as Airk nodded in agreement, sitting in
the room Amyalla had rented for them at the Wizard’s Hat Inn. “But how are we
going to find whoever’s kidnapping these children?”
“Leave that to me,” Amyalla smiled as she adjusted
the hat on her head. To Airk’s and Revafour’s amazement, Amyalla seemed to grow
in size to just under five feet in height, as her red hair turned chestnut
brown. Her traveling attire became something rather more revealing, the dress of
a harlot or a streetwalker, tattered and revealing in all the right places.
Gaudy but cheap jewellery hung from her necklace and ears, and her face was
decorated with just the right amount of makeup.
Airk and Revafour just stared askance at Amyalla, who
had somehow changed into a human prostitute of the kind so often seen on the
streets of Greyhawk, particularly in the lower-class parts of the city. The
prostitute simply winked and kissed at them, before adjusting her necklace. She
immediately resumed her natural halfling form, laughing at the embarrassment of
her male friends.
“It’s amazing what some men will tell the women
they’re with, once they get enough liquor or drugs into them,” Amyalla
explained. “And of course, my hat proves its value once again,” she finished
with a smile, doffing the enchanted hat she was wearing and taking a mock bow.
“…So you have a magical hat,” Airk said suspiciously
as Revafour only blinked. “What else don’t we know about you?”
“Never you mind,” Amyalla smiled, as she headed for
The Hanged Man Inn was one of the lowest dives in
Greyhawk, inhabited by brigands, murderers, thieves and other scum. It was a
gathering place for much of the city’s criminal element, many of whom came to
conduct business as well as pleasure. It was also a regular stopping point for
many of the city’s prostitutes, who visited the place in search of eager
clients. The air was thick with pipe smoke and the smell of alcohol and vomit,
the crudely repaired furniture was scavenged from a hundred different places,
the carpets were threadbare and what passed for food and drink was decidedly
unpleasant at best, but none of this mattered to Amyalla.
In her human disguise, it did not take her long to
get the attention of many of the male clientele, who were flush with cash from a
hard day’s thieving and eager to share their treasure. Glancing over them with a
practiced eye, it did not take Amyalla long to find her mark, a suave thief
whose demeanour was that of a gentleman vagabond, who got female attention as
much for his rakish charm as for the length of his purse. The man insisted on
buying her a drink, and she immediately complied, as they sat down at a table.
“Are you new in town?” the thief, who had introduced
himself as Larroch, asked Amyalla as they sat down.
“New to the profession, but not the town,” Amyalla
replied. “There have been…difficulties,” she explained.
“Many who’ve fallen land in these environs,” Larroch
replied, sipping his drink. “They usually find their way before long, however.”
Amyalla made sure to flinch at that, temporarily
dropping her defences so that she appeared vulnerable. The wan, despairing look
was only on her face for a moment, and when the strap of her gown briefly fell
off one shoulder, she was quick to replace it, but those brief moments made all
“I’ve always gotten by on my own,” Amyalla replied,
hesitantly sipping at her drink, “until now, I hope.”
“Of course,” Larroch assured her, taking care to look
the gallant rescuer even though the look in his eyes betrayed his intentions. “I
know these streets all too well, my dear-well enough to know the dangers they
“Dangers?” Amyalla asked in her best
maiden-in-distress voice, although she made sure not to overdo it.
“Nothing you need to worry about,” Larroch replied,
“not with me by your side.”
Amyalla smiled at that, once again making herself
“Might I buy you another drink?” Amyalla asked. “The
nights are cold, and I could use the warmth.”
“Of course,” Larroch smiled. Amyalla had noted the
smell of cheap wine on his breath when she’d approached him, and judging by the
number of empty flagons in front of him, he’d already had a fair amount of drink
to begin with.
Larroch was falling victim to his own charms now,
convinced that he was winning Amyalla over. He didn’t notice how little Amyalla
was drinking, paying attention only to how vulnerable and desperate she seemed.
The conversation continued as Larroch had more to drink, as Amyalla drew him
further and further in.
“I could use a room for the night,” Amyalla finally
said. “Not alone, of course-I hate to ask you, but…”
“No sooner said than done, my lady,” he smiled.
Leading her up to the bar, Larroch paid the coins for a room and they headed
upstairs, Larroch smiling widely at the thought of what was to come.
“I feel safer here, with you,” Amyalla said once she
and Larroch were in the room. “I’ve heard stories about what happens out there
at night. People…children disappearing…”
“Ah, yes,” Larroch said sadly. “Pieden’s the one
behind that. He won’t go after you, though.”
“Pieden?” Amyalla asked in surprise.
“Pieden Ronard, the superior boss in this part of
town,” Larroch explained, by now too drunk to fully realize what he was doing.
“He’s ‘disappeared’ a number of children,” Larroch continued, “and getting good
coin for it. Part of the slaving business, or something like that. No one around
here, though-only in the River Quarter. He won’t hurt his own.”
“Indeed?” Amyalla asked in surprise. “And where might
we find Pieden?” she wondered.
“No sooner easier said than done,” Larroch slurred,
giving Amyalla the directions. “But why do you want to know?”
“I was just scared, and curious,” Amyalla replied,
lying down on the bed next to Larroch. “But now, I feel safe. I know nothing
will hurt me.”
“You’re always safe in my arms,” Larroch grinned, as
he leaned forward to embrace Amyalla. His reflexes slowed by drink, he couldn’t
react in time as Amyalla reached onto the table next to the bed and picked up
the empty flagon there. Bringing it around, she smashed the flagon over
Larroch’s head, knocking him senseless.
Opening the window, Amyalla looked at it and wondered
whether she should climb out the window. No, that was probably a bad idea-the
Hanged Man Inn was probably watched.
Instead, she took Larroch’s purse and added it to her
own, and splashed some of his cheap wine on herself, before opening the door and
peeking out into the corridor.
No one was there.
Amyalla immediately changed her disguise into that of
a rough-looking street thug, just another one of the scores of lowlifes who
passed through the Hanged Man on a regular basis. She locked the door with
Larroch inside, and placed the key in her pocket. Calmly walking down the
stairs, she passed through the common room and left the Inn without a second
glance. While the night was full, Amyalla knew that she likely wouldn’t be
bothered. She looked dishevelled and poor, and the wine she’d splashed herself
with only heightened her disguise as an impoverished, drunken thug. Changing
disguises, too, was a good way of keeping anyone from ever identifying her.
After she’d returned to the Wizard’s Hat Inn and had
a proper bath, Amyalla was able to count the money in Larroch’s purse, and
realized he’d had a very good night indeed.
So much the better for her, Airk and Revafour, she
thought with a smile.
The time’s growing shorter,
Pieden realized grimly, reviewing his arrangements one more
time. How many do those sons of whores want this time? Ten? Twelve?
His men were waiting in the outer room of the
warehouse Pieden had rented, where they kept the youths they kidnapped until
they could be taken to the meeting place in the Cairn Hills. From there it was
often a simple matter to disguise their prisoners as foreign slaves, before
taking them out of the city as part of what looked like a legitimate slave
caravan. The thugs Pieden had recruited for the job were good, loyal Thieves’
Guild men who would do what they were told without asking too many questions,
and whose consciences were untroubled by the abductions they carried out. The
arrangements were set for tomorrow evening, and everything appeared ready.
There was silence as Pieden came into the outer room
and his men snapped to attention. Pieden opened his mouth to say something, but
then all of the sharp-eared kidnappers froze at the sound of the lock on the
warehouse’s front door being picked. The person doing the picking was mumbling
under her breath, trying to be silent, but the seasoned thieves easily picked it
up nonetheless. Readying their clubs and daggers, Pieden’s thugs gathered near
the warehouse door, eager to give their own special brand of welcome to whoever
was stupid enough to try to rob a warehouse of the Greyhawk Guild of Thieves.
Pieden and his men were so preoccupied by the
warehouse door being opened that they were caught completely off guard by the
morning star that shattered the dirty window at the far end of the warehouse,
and by the heavily armoured man and gnome that jumped in through it. They only
managed to react when Airk and Revafour had already closed the distance between
Airk lashed out with his morning star, hitting one of
the thugs hard in the knee and causing him to collapse, howling in pain. One of
the other thugs struck at him with his club, but Airk easily deflected it with
his shield and then used his shield to strike back, hitting the thug in the face
and knocking him senseless. The two thugs advancing on Revafour were forced back
by the vicious slash the armoured man made with his sword, and before they could
react Revafour brought the blade back and struck one of the thugs in the head
with the flat of it. He collapsed on the ground, out cold, and as the other man
ducked under the blade, Revafour lashed out with his foot, kicking the thug
viciously in the ribs. The thug collapsed, the wind completely knocked out of
The last two of Pieden’s thugs had had the presence
of mind to keep their attention focused on the door, pulling it open before
whoever was outside could finish picking the lock. One of the thugs immediately
stepped out, preparing to strike with his club, but all he got for his trouble
was a vicious cut on his stomach from the dagger in Amyalla’s hand. The last
thug lashed out with his own dagger, but Amyalla easily ducked the blow and
lashed out with her dagger, slashing the man’s legs just below the knees.
Howling in pain, he collapsed as Amyalla pushed her way into the warehouse,
retrieving her lockpick from the door and shutting it behind her.
Pieden looked like a trapped rat, glancing from side
to side as if searching for a way to escape, as Airk and Revafour gathered up
his thugs and set about tying them up. Amyalla advanced on him, her dagger still
dripping blood, using to gesture first at Pieden and then at his office.
Swallowing hard, now sweating nervously, Pieden slowly advanced into the office,
Amyalla following him in and shutting the door behind him.
“W-what do you want?” Pieden demanded. “Who sent you?
Which faction are you from?” he babbled, unnerved by how easily the halfling and
her friends had subdued his men.
“I know all about you, Pieden,” Amyalla accused him,
her voice icily calm as Pieden cowered against the wall. “Kidnapping children to
sell as slaves, lining your own pockets for their suffering. You’re so brave and
strong, intimidating those who can’t fight back. How do you deal with someone
who is capable of dealing with you on your own terms?” she demanded, her voice
rising angrily as she brandished her dagger.
She expected Pieden to beg for mercy, or to angrily
try and fight back. Instead, the man sank to a sitting position, tears forming
in his eyes as he put his head in his hands.
“Norebo forgive me…” he began to weep. “What else can
“There are better ways of earning a living, I’d
think,” Amyalla replied, her eyes narrowing.
“I’m not doing this for money!” Pieden shouted back
angrily, his red-rimmed eyes flashing. “They have my son!”
“Your son?” Amyalla asked in surprise. “Who has your
“The people who I’m doing these kidnappings for,”
Pieden muttered. “They took my son, and they’ve shown me, with their magic, what
they’ll do to him unless I do what they say.”
“And the way to do that is by depriving other parents
of their children?” Amyalla asked, more calmly this time.
“If it’s the only way, then yes,” Pieden spat. “Yes,
“…And if we were to rescue your son?” Amyalla said
after a moment’s thought. “Then you would have no other reason to commit these
crimes, would you?”
“Certainly not,” Pieden replied, now calmer himself.
“All I would want then would be vengeance on those who crossed my family!”
“I could kill you right now,” Amyalla warned him, “or
turn you over to those whose children you have abducted. And yet…I have another
idea as to what to do with you.”
Pieden only stared warily back at her, and his
eyebrows rose as she explained her plan.
“…Very well,” he finally agreed. “But what am I to
say when my men ask me about your attack on our warehouse?”
“Simply that we were enforcers sent by a noble who
believed you had stolen something that belonged to him. When we realized that we
were mistaken, we let you be. That explains why you’re still alive,” Amyalla
Pieden sighed and rubbed his face. He didn’t know
what else he could do, and realized that this halfling held all the cards. If
she betrayed him to the people whose children he’d abducted, his life would be
forfeit, and most likely Elian’s as well. If he informed the people who’d
abducted his son, they would of course kill Elian without a second thought.
“…Alright,” Pieden finally muttered. “But know
this-if Elian dies, I will seek revenge on anyone and everyone who had anything
to do with his passing, including you and your friends. I cannot stand against
you here and now, but if you do not return with Elian, you will pay…with…blood…”
he trailed off, anger smouldering in his eyes.
The next day, Airk and Revafour were at the Wizard’s
Hat Inn, preparing for their part in Amyalla’s plan. She’d explained why Pieden
was abducting the children, and what she intended to do about it. The Flan
warrior and his gnome friend had spent much of the day gathering the supplies
they’d need on the road, since Pieden apparently met the slavers in the Cairn
Hills when it came time to deliver his “cargo”.
Airk seethed with disgust as he double-checked the
supplies of food and water they’d bought.
“Disgusting, isn’t it?” the gnome finally spoke
“What do you mean?” Revafour asked, looking up from
the pile of rope he was coiling.
“The way this wretch betrayed his community,” Airk
replied. “One would think he was a dwarf-the only thing missing is his beard!”
“And what’s wrong with dwarves?” Revafour blinked in
“You never fought alongside them in the Hateful
Wars,” Airk explained, referring to the bloody conflict that had ravaged the
Lortmil Mountains almost a century ago. The humans and demihumans of the
mountains had united to wage war on their humanoid neighbours and had largely
been victorious, although some of the humans and their allies were just as apt
to fight each other over the spoils of victory as they were to battle the
“So what did the dwarves do in the Hateful Wars?”
Revafour asked him.
“I was born in the Lortmil kingdom of Flinthold,”
Airk told him, “and I enlisted in the king’s armies as soon as I matured. Many
of my siblings joined the army as well, and we fought alongside each other. I
saw two of my brothers perish, one to goblins and another to aurumvoraxes. I
served as a lieutenant in the armies, I escorted Flinthold’s diplomats when they
traveled to other realms, things like that.”
“And when the Hateful Wars began, you were called to
serve, I take it,” Revafour pointed out.
“Just so,” Airk replied. “Flinthold joined with the
other gnomish kingdoms and their dwarven and human allies in fighting the
humanoids. We lost many of our own, but their sacrifices were not in vain, as we
were ready to crush the humanoids once and for all. Many of the allies,
including Flinthold, had gained valuable new territory and resources. Flinthold,
in particular, had claimed an orc-hold with some of the most valuable silver
deposits in all the Lortmils.”
“Of course, that was when the allies began to turn on
one another,” Airk continued bitterly. “Many of our dwarven allies, the same
ones who had pledged their oaths to gods like Moradin and Clanggedon
Silverbeard, turned on their allies and began attacking them in hopes of
claiming the riches they’d won. Dwarf turned against dwarf, against human,
“In Flinthold’s case, we fell into a heated dispute
with the Steelheart dwarven clan, who also lay claim to our orc-hold and the
silver riches it contained. We sent an expeditionary force to claim the hold for
ourselves, but we were betrayed-betrayed by one of our own!-who told the
Steelhearts what we were planning. That traitor was our lead scout, who led our
expeditionary force into a Steelheart ambush. We were massacred by their clever
traps-they didn’t want to face us in honest combat yet, you see-and then they
attacked us when we were outnumbered.”
“I was one of only three survivors of that little
massacre. The Steelhearts seized the orc-hold that we’d paid for with our lives,
and prospered from the silver, while Flinthold had paid dearly in blood and
treasure, with little to show for it in the end. Perhaps, after having faced
death at the hands of dwarven axes, you can see why I’m somewhat cynical about
the bearded race?” Airk finished, an icy gleam in his eyes.
“Perhaps, but the gnome who betrayed your people did
so out of greed, not necessity,” Revafour pointed out. “Indeed, Pieden reminds
me of myself, in a certain way.”
“What?” Airk blinked, his anger dissipated into
confusion by Revafour’s own admission. “How is that even possible?”
“You know how I came from the Duchy of Tenh, do you
not?” Revafour explained. “Well,” he continued as Airk nodded, “when I came of
age, I fell in love with a beautiful woman, Kathleena Nightoak. Unfortunately, I
also had a rival for her hand, a warrior by the name of Tuomad Wolf-Slayer. He
undermined my family by spreading rumours that we planned to betray our hometown
of Atherstone to the Nyrondese, planting false evidence and using lies to
enhance his own stature. Our families came to blows, and Tuomad and I were made
to duel to settle the matter. Predictably, the coward drugged me, and I lost the
duel. I was made to accept the responsibility of my family’s supposed crimes. I
was banished from the Duchy, from my home, and I was captured by slavers not
Sickened by what he heard, Airk only stood in silence
as Revafour continued his story.
“I was taken and sold in the Archbarony of Blackmoor,
fortunate enough to be bought by Quendamak, a Flan elder who had treated with
the Archbaron to allow his tribe to live among them. Of course, if you knew
Archbaron Bestmo, you would know it did not take long for him to see us as a
threat to his authority. We could not stand against the Archbaron’s
forces-Quendamak was murdered and most of us were massacred. I managed to lead a
small group of survivors south to Highfolk, though it was a harrowing journey.
We did things to survive that we would never have done were we not fighting for
“…And so you see Pieden in the same situation as you
once were,” Airk realized. “He does these things because the slavers have his
Man and gnome fell into silence at that, each
contemplating what the other had just told him.