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    The Silver Wolf-For Crown Or Country: Total Party Kill
    Posted on Thu, November 21, 2019 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "The Crown of Arumdina was a magnificent piece, every part of it beautifully crafted and assembled with pride. Its cap was made of pure sable fur, its tailoring fit for a king. The Crown’s circlet was of gold and ringed with rubies, while its arches were of platinum, each lined with two rows of diamonds on either side of each half-arch. Each of the four spaces between the Crown’s half-arches bore the image of a separate burrowing mammal, a raccoon, a sable, a badger and a mole, wrought in gold to match the circlet, and bearing bright emeralds for eyes. The monde was of platinum like the arches, and atop it there stood a piece of mithril crafted to resemble a battleaxe. The mithril was said to be a piece of Arumdina, the sentient battleaxe wielded by Garl Glittergold himself. That mithril axe was the source of the Crown’s power, giving a powerful magical blessing to the gnomish king that wore it.

    Chapter Seventeen

    Total Party Kill

    Caradoc and several of the other conspirators smiled to one another as Theran brought his wagon into the keep through the tradesman’s entrance. The wagon appeared nondescript, carrying several barrels and several other large objects concealed under a large sackcloth, with two lanterns hanging on each side. Three passengers rode in the wagon behind Theran, each securely shackled. One was a halfling with long red hair, the second a woman with long brown hair and the third was a large man with black hair. They each wore hopeless, defeated expressions, realizing they had no escape.

    Marching up to the wagon as Theran climbed down from the driver’s seat, Caradoc shook the wizard’s hand.

    “You brought them all?” Caradoc said as Theran led him to the back of the wagon.

    “Of course, my lord,” Theran said as he and Caradoc pulled the sackcloth away to reveal the four corpses the wagon carried. Caradoc’s smile widened as he considered the bodies of the second large black-haired man, the blonde-haired man, the gnome with the blonde moustache and beard, and the strawberry blonde-haired woman.

    “Well, well, well…” Caradoc said, swaggering past the back of the wagon and towards the front again on the other side, as some of the other conspirators untethered the horses. “Is House Cranden that desperate to be acting as mercenaries for House Darmen now?” he said with a sneer to Luna. “You wanted that badly to avoid being betrothed to the Garasteths?”

    Luna tried to crawl away from him, passing by Amyalla. The halfling shuffled past her, and soon Luna was at the other side of the cart away from Caradoc. She looked up at the ceiling, her fingers twitching as she muttered something inaudible.

    “What, too ashamed to speak?” Caradoc said with a smile. “Or did working for Xavener leave you as mute as your pet Olman?” he said, gesturing with his thumb to Ma’non’go.

    Ma’non’go glared at Caradoc, and tried to crawl towards him, but Amyalla stopped him short. She held her hands up to his, shaking her head.

    “Go easy on them, Caradoc,” one of the other conspirators said with a smirk. “The poor lass has just lost a sister, after all!”

    All the conspirators burst out laughing, as Amyalla began breathing heavily. The conspirators laughed even louder, amused at her despair.

    “Please don’t kill us,” she said, her voice ending in a whimper.

    “You needn’t worry about that, pretty one,” another conspirator said, walking up to the wagon. “You and the Olman will each fetch a fine price in the slave markets. And as for the Cranden...I’m sure your new master will take you to her wedding. House Garasteth’s always been known for its grand ceremonies!”

    The conspirators all resumed laughing, now completely off their guard. None of them could react in time as Ma’non’go suddenly stood up, his shackles seeming to fall off him. Picking up his trident, which had been hidden under a second sackcloth, he drove it into the chest of the taunting conspirator in one swift move.

    As the conspirator fell dead, blood pouring from his chest, the seemingly dead companions in the back suddenly sprang to life. For a few moments, the nobles were too stunned to react. That was all the time Weimar, Revafour and Ma’non’go needed to fling the barrels the wagon contained against the far walls. As the barrels burst, spilling oil all over the walls, Airk picked up one of the lanterns on the side of the wagon and threw it into the walls and floors covered with the oil. Seline followed suit, as did Luna and Amyalla, the shackles seeming to fall off them.

    The lanterns shattered as they struck the walls and floors, igniting the oil into a blazing fire. The flames quickly spread, reaching the room’s support beams and ceiling, threatening to turn the entire place into a blazing inferno.

    The conspirators finally began to react, some of them shouting that they needed to stop the companions and others saying they needed to stop the fire. The companions grabbed their weapons and attacked the conspirators, who were still too confused to organize an effective defense.

    The companions’ plan was inspired by everything Theran told Seline about the keep. Although the keep was made of stone, its support pillars, ceiling beams and roof beams were made of wood. A hot enough fire also risked weakening the mortar that held the walls together, which risked shifting the walls’ stones and making them collapse.  

    Seline got Theran, still under the influence of her charming spell, to write a letter to his master saying he’d captured the companions. That got Caradoc and the other conspirators to lower their guard and have Theran bring the companions to the keep. Luna used some of her magic magic to make it seem as if Seline, Revafour, Airk and Weimar had been killed, while she, Ma’non’go and Amyalla were shackled. Amyalla had palmed the key to their shackles, however. When she’d passed by Luna and Ma’non’go she’d used her skills at sleight of hand to conceal her unlocking their shackles when she passed by them in the wagon. The companions’ fire was a fine way of keeping the nobles distracted, and incentive for them to save the false documents they needed for the conspiracy against Count Fedorik.

    The conspirators who saw the fire start soon became more interested in trying to put out the flames than fight the companions. They fled, yelling to warn their friends of the fire. Caradoc in particular cursed and shouted, running from the main hall to a nearby stone staircase. He was determined to save as much of his precious regalia collection as he could.

    Ma’non’go and Airk determinedly followed him. They caught up with Caradoc as he shoved open a heavy bronzewood door and dashed into a room filled with several elaborate glass-fronted cabinets and display cases. Royal sceptres, orbs and crowns sparkled in the torchlight, causing Airk and Ma’non’go to both catch their breath at the royal regalia’s exquisite craftsmanship.

    One piece stood out above all the others to them, though. Airk and Ma’non’go both recognized it from the description Kalrek Burunne’s researches gave. For Airk, the recognition ran even deeper, as he knew in his heart he was gazing at the symbol of Flinthold’s proud ancient heritage.

    The Crown of Arumdina was a magnificent piece, every part of it beautifully crafted and assembled with pride. Its cap was made of pure sable fur, its tailoring fit for a king. The Crown’s circlet was of gold and ringed with rubies, while its arches were of platinum, each lined with two rows of diamonds on either side of each half-arch. Each of the four spaces between the Crown’s half-arches bore the image of a separate burrowing mammal, a raccoon, a sable, a badger and a mole, wrought in gold to match the circlet, and bearing bright emeralds for eyes. The monde was of platinum like the arches, and atop it there stood a piece of mithril crafted to resemble a battleaxe. The mithril was said to be a piece of Arumdina, the sentient battleaxe wielded by Garl Glittergold himself. That mithril axe was the source of the Crown’s power, giving a powerful magical blessing to the gnomish king that wore it.

    Airk’s and Ma’non’go’s eyes turned away from the Crown back to Caradoc, who stared at them hatefully as he drew his sword. They briefly exchanged glances and nodded, before raising their weapons. Ma’non’go charged at Caradoc, forcing him back as Airk ran past them towards the case holding the Crown. Raising his morning star, Airk shattered the case’s glass and grabbed the Crown. Reaching into his pack, he pulled out a silk bag that he slipped the Crown into, before returning it to his pack.

    Caradoc shouted in anger at Airk, but he was forced to deflect Ma’non’go’s thrusting trident. Forced back on his heels, Caradoc managed to parry Ma’non’go’s first few stabs until he regained his balance. Livid with rage, he swung his sword in a horizontal slash that might have taken Ma’non’go’s head off, but the Olman warrior skilfully ducked underneath it. Caradoc tried to bring his sword back for an overhead strike, but Ma’non’go was faster. Lunging forward, he tore a long gash into Caradoc’s thigh, causing Caradoc’s trousers to turn a deep crimson as blood poured from his wound. Caradoc cried out in pain, suddenly falling off balance. Ma’non’go quickly followed up by slashing his arms, causing him to drop his sword. As Caradoc reeled from the blows, Ma’non’go brought the butt of his trident squarely into the side of Caradoc’s head, causing him to collapse senseless.

    Ma’non’go might have finished Caradoc, but he realized he probably didn’t have the time. He was lucky that Caradoc was upset and distracted by the keep’s flames and the theft of his precious regalia, and wasn’t wearing all the armor he normally would have, making him less effective than he’d normally be. The companions’ plan depended on speed, as they had to find the Crown and the conspiracy’s documents and escape before the conspirators could stop them.

    Ma’non’go only paused to wipe the blood off his trident before he ran out of the room after Airk.

    The other companions were grateful that Theran had described the layout of the keep to them, and told them where the conspiracy’s documents were kept. They ran up a second staircase further away from the main hall, running up to Caradoc’s study, where Theran told them the conspiracy’s documents were kept. A couple of the conspirators tried to stop them, but Revafour and Weimar easily cut them down.

    The companions emerged into an upstairs corridor lined with several doors. The corridor had three staircases, two of them at either end. The third staircase was in the middle of the hallway, which the companions had come up. Theran guided them along the corridor unerringly to their destination.

    “Just through there, my lady,” he said to Seline, pointing to the second-last door to the companions’ right. “Finally, you can-look out!” he said, stopping in surprise as Xeravho materialized between the companions and the door they sought. The serpentine mage stared coldly at Theran and the companions, the way a viper might eye a particularly juicy collection of mice, before he raised the wand in his hand and began to chant.

    A bitterly cold wave of ice shards and crystalline motes dancing in white light flew towards the companions from Xeravho’s wand. Chanting frantically, Theran cast a spell of his own, releasing a wave of gold and black light from his hands. Theran’s light wave collided with the wave of cold coming from Xeravho’s wand, dispelling it. The wave of ice and cold vanished, and Weimar and Revafour charged at Xeravho, their weapons raised.

    Xeravho hastily backed up as he thought of what to do. He hadn’t been expecting a battle this day, and most of the spells he’d prepared were for interrogation, not combat. He might have cast a spell on one or the other of the warriors advancing on him, but he wasn’t sure if he could finish it before they reached him. Realizing he was out of options, Xeravho chanted a quick spell and simply vanished, disappearing before Revafour or Weimar reached him.

    At that moment, Ma’non’go and Airk emerged from the room further down the hall that held Caradoc’s regalia. They ran to down the hall to join Theran and their friends as Amyalla walked up to the door Theran indicated to her. Amyalla inspected the door, and was surprised to see that it wasn’t locked or trapped. She pulled at the knob, but found that it wouldn’t turn.

    “A wizard’s lock,” she muttered in annoyance.

    Seline chanted a spell, and a magical sigil appeared on the door, colored a deep green. It suddenly shattered, and Amyalla looked back at Seline, who smiled and winked. Amyalla returned her smile as she opened the door and walked into the elaborate study behind it. A large, elaborate desk took point of pride in the room, with a locked cabinet on one side of it. It didn’t take Amyalla long to open the cabinet’s lock, or to disarm the poisoned needle trap that protected it. The cabinet contained a series of neatly organized papers, which Seline picked up and held out to Theran for confirmation.

    “Right, that’s all of them,” Theran said. He gave them to Luna, who stuffed the letters into her pack. “Now hurry, we need to get going!”

    Leaving the study behind them, the companions and Theran hurried down the staircase at the far end of the hallway.

    “Do you have the Crown?” Weimar asked Airk as the companions and Theran reached the bottom of the steps.

    “Safe and sound,” he said with a smile, gesturing towards his pack. “All we have to do now is head for Idee to warn them of the cabal’s plot. Once that’s done, we can finally return to Flinthold.”

    As the companions made their way out of the keep, they saw how much of it had been damaged by the flames. The surviving conspirators had managed to get it under control, but many of them were suffering from smoke inhalation and burns. The only conspirator who could have stopped them was Xeravho, and he’d mysteriously disappeared.

    “No time to waste, then,” Weimar said as he led his friends across the keep’s courtyard to the stables some distance away. “What are we going to do with…” he said, lowering his voice as he came up to Seline and gesturing towards Theran.

    “I’ll tell him-“ Seline said, before she and Weimar both looked up at their companions’ astonished cries. A bolt of livid blue-white lightning seemed to flash out of nowhere and struck Theran head-on, killing him instantly. His smoking corpse collapsed to the ground as the companions gathered back to back, raising their weapons in alarm.

    At first, the companions couldn’t anyone who could have attacked them, but then a single figure came into view. The man was dressed in black robes threaded with silver demonic runes, a thick purple cloak with symbols of protection woven into it, jeweled golden wristbands and an amulet with an opal the size of a goblin’s hand. He was tall and imposing, thickly built, with a surprisingly gaunt and narrow clean-shaven face framed by a man of thick black hair. What caught the companions’ attention was the man’s eyes, which blazed with rage one moment and smouldered with repressed hatred the next. Power seemed to be almost tangible around him, almost as intent as the stare he fixed the companions with.

    Luna, Ma’non’go and especially Seline paled in horror as they saw the man, and their friends realized just how much trouble they were in.

    Reydrich Faustin Del Naelax was one of the most powerful wizards in the entire Great Kingdom, perhaps second only to Xaene, the court archmage to Overking Ivid V himself. He was widely feared even among the murderous, manipulative Aerdi nobility. They feared him not only for his terrifying magical power, but his explosive temper that stood out even among the men of House Naelax. Rumors flew about the horrific fates who befell those who crossed him, rumors that Reydrich never denied. Even other Naelaxians such as Chelor and Ivid preferred not to cross him if at all possible.

    “Run…” Seline said to her friends, who glanced at her in surprise as Reydrich approached. “It’s all you can do…I’ll try to…”

    Seline wanted to say that she’d hold Reydrich off, but she knew she stood almost no chance against him. He had a good two and a half times her power as a wizard, and the best she could was likely delay him for a few minutes while her friends ran for their lives. It wouldn’t matter, though-Reydrich would just as easily track and kill them all too.

    Her companions understood it too, and she knew they’d never leave her to die. Luna and Seline each began a spell as their friends raised their weapons to charge at Reydrich.

    It never got that far. The companions expected Reydrich to cast a spell at them, but all he did was reach into a pocket and pull out a small stone. He almost casually tossed the stone at them before any of them could react. It easily bounced off Airk’s shield and fell to the ground. The companions were about to attack when the stone suddenly shone with a sickly green light. Glancing at it, the companions saw a magical symbol on the stone, glowing with a sickly green light.

    As he looked at the symbol, Revafour felt a crushing weight on his shoulders, even as a crippling tension began in his head and his chest. Dropping his sword, he sank to his knees, barely able to move. He realized it was futile to resist Reydrich, and that he was entirely at the archmage’s mercy.

    Glancing at his fallen sword, and then up at the slowly advancing archmage, he began to wonder what the point even was in living. Reydrich was so much more powerful, intelligent and determined than him.

    How could he possibly even try to compare?

    Glancing around, he saw that most of his friends came to the same realization. They knelt passively on the ground along with him, recognizing the same truth he did.

    Only Weimar and Amyalla were still standing. At first, Revafour thought they were too stupid to realize that they couldn’t defeat Reydrich, but then he realized they were smarter than he gave them credit for when they fled. Let them run-it wouldn’t matter in the end when Reydrich caught them.

    Revafour and the rest of his friends sat quietly as Reydrich cast a spell. Three large, stinking ogres, each seven feet of pure muscle and power, seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Reydrich cast another spell, bringing another three ogres into existence. At first, Revafour thought Reydrich would have the ogres kill the companions-it was no more than they deserved, after all-but instead the ogres forced the companions to their feet and placed them in shackles.

    Meekly, the companions let themselves be dragged along by the ogres as Reydrich led them towards a large, elaborate carriage drawn by four jet-black horses. The ogres forced the companions into a locked cell built into the carriage, taking their equipment, while Reydrich climbed into a plush, luxurious compartment containing a fine selection of chilled wines and food fit for the Overking himself. The ogres put the companions’ equipment in a large trunk at the back of the coach, and then vanished as Reydrich dismissed them. Finally, Reydrich rang a bell inside his compartment, signalling the driver to leave. The driver whipped up the horses, and they were soon on their way.

    Revafour knew the companions couldn’t hope to escape, but it didn’t matter.

    Everything was right with the world, as it should be.


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