“I honed my craft in the Free City of Greyhawk, remember?” Amyalla said with a confident smirk. “Picking locks is Greyhawk’s national pastime.”
Hiding In Plain Sight
Two days of
travel led the companions back to Flinthold’s capital city, but they didn’t
approach the front gates. Instead, Airk led them to one of the city’s escape
tunnels, which the gnomes could use to secretly enter or exit the city as
needed. The tunnel was connected to the main underground passage by a secret door
crafted to resemble the raw, unworked stone around it. Seline and Amyalla were
utterly amazed at the skill the gnomes showed at building the secret door. Even
though the rest of Airk’s friends had seen the door already, they were still
impressed with the gnomes’ tunnelling skills.
In spite of his
anxiety, Airk felt a surge of pride as he led his friends through the tunnel.
The tunnel exit
in Flinthold emerged into a rocky hillside in an out of the way park, hidden
from sight by a secret door like the one in the underground passage. The moment
the companions left the tunnel, they heard bellowing laughter and shouts. The laughter
and shouts became louder as the companions walked into Flinthold’s streets, soon
they also heard the sounds of splitting wood and breaking glass.
The source of
the sounds was clear as the companions took in the destruction the Scarlet
Woman’s minions were causing to Flinthold. Hobgoblins chopped wooden furniture
into kindling that they piled up in preparation for bonfires. Bugbears and
goblins used broken pieces of stone in competitions to smash glassware and
crockery. Orcs and ogres gorged themselves on crops and herd animals abandoned
by gnome farmers. Hill giants and verbeeg got drunk on barrels of ale and mead
looted from Flinthold’s breweries. Humans and gnolls arm-wrestled for plundered
valuables. Norkers tore up gnomish books and tapestries.
walked through a sea of debauchery and chaos. They were horrified at the
devastation they saw, but they did well to keep calm. Most of the monsters ignored
the companions, being more interested in looting and wrecking the gnomes’
possessions and buildings, but soon a mixed group of humans and hobgoblins
approached them. They glared suspiciously at the companions, who stopped
walking and faced them intently.
the air before one of the humans spoke.
seeing your faces around here,” the human said, one hand on his sword as he
stroked his moustache. “How long have you all been part of my lady’s forces?”
said Weimar, one hand on his axe as he stepped ahead of his friends and
returned the human’s glare. He released his axe and held up the pendant around
his neck. It was set with a large garnet, cut in the same style as all the
other gems the Scarlet Woman’s forces wore.
Weimar, the moustached human could see that the rest of the companions were
wearing similar jewelry. He didn’t know was that the jewelry the companions
wore was some of the treasures they’d won in their previous battles against the
Scarlet Woman’s minions.
him, then?” the human asked, gesturing at Airk. “He’s one of the pointy-nosed
stumps we took this place from for my lady. Is he some kind of spy?”
all the gruesome fates he could inflict on the man with his morning star or his
military pick, though he remained outwardly calm.
“This isn’t any
home of mine,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m just a wanderer now, surviving
off my weapons and my skill at arms. Serving my lady is as fine a way as any to
was calm and his tone plain as he spoke. The humans and hobgoblins exchanged
glances and shrugged. The Scarlet Woman’s human minions were a motley
collection of people from all walks of life. The humans minions facing the
companions weren’t surprised to see a wizard like Seline or dark-skinned
warriors like Revafour and Ma’non’go in their lady’s service, and the
hobgoblins didn’t question their human fellows.
“Be off with
you, then,” the moustached man said, gesturing dismissively at the companions. He
led his group on its way, as the companions continued on theirs.
didn’t dare ask him if he was alright, but they were disturbed by how calmly he
said those words.
how many of his words were a lie.
Seline said after the companions passed through several more streets. “All
these monsters are more interested in carousing than keeping watch. There’s
hardly any discipline here. You’d think they’d be guarding against the
Flintholders’ trying to retake their homes, but they’re not.”
be as much a bad thing as a good one, Ma’non’go
said, shaking his head at the hopeful look on Seline’s face.
“What do you
mean?” Seline asked in astonishment.
Woman, whoever she is, is supremely confident, Ma’non’go pointed out. She might
overestimate her intelligence and the hold she has on her soldiers…but she
might also live up to her view of herself.
didn’t comfort any of the companions as they rounded the corner and came upon a
group of humans seated around a fire made from broken gnomish furniture. They
had the look of brigands about them, having likely joined the Scarlet Woman’s
forces simply for thrill and plunder. The companions briefly exchanged glances,
before Amyalla stepped forward a few paces.
she said to the humans, smiling brightly at their approving looks. “Is there
space among you for a few more of my lady’s servants?”
brigands exchanged glances, and several of them made no effort to hide the lewd
smiles they gave at the sight of Amyalla, Luna and Seline.
you, pretty one…but you’d best rid yourself of some of the company you’re
keeping,” one of the brigands said, gesturing at the rest of the companions.
“Oh, but I
wanted to show them the splendor my lady won for herself as the new queen of
this place,” Amyalla said with a pout. “I take it my lady is preparing for her
coronation? I heard of the gnome that challenged her wearing a crown fit for
one of her stature.”
“No, she’s put
it in a private hoard along with some of the other baubles we collected for
her,” another brigand said. “It’s for her and her alone to brood over. More’s
the pity-I think she’d look gorgeous in it.”
precisely?” Amyalla asked, a look of disappointment on her face.
“In the old
council palace,” one of the brigands said, gesturing to the manor where the
Regency Council met. “But you won’t find my lady there-she’s gone to inspect the
jeweler’s guildhall. The stumps have a gift for cutting gems, you know.”
“My thanks to
you, then,” Amyalla said, tipping her hat and hoping that Airk would remain
calm at the brigand’s insult to his race. “We’ll likely return soon enough…and
I can thank you all appropriately.”
returned her smile, not realizing how long he’d be waiting for Amyalla to thank
Council’s chambers can be guarded by a reinforced security door,” Airk told his
friends once they’d gotten away from the brigands. “You need both keys and
combination locks to get though it. This Scarlet Woman probably did it with
that magical bell of hers.”
probably a host of monsters guarding the place,” Revafour said, “too many for
us to fight our way past. And how long would it take us to get past the door?”
“Not as long as
you might think,” Airk said. “I’m a veteran of Flinthold’s military, and one
who frequently guarded the Council manor. I know the numbers to the combination
locks, and a secret way to get in. You’ll need to open the key lock, though,”
he finished, turning to Amyalla.
“I honed my
craft in the Free City of Greyhawk, remember?” Amyalla said with a confident smirk.
“Picking locks is Greyhawk’s national pastime.”
“I’ll need some
of you to distract as many of the guards as you can,” Airk said to the rest of
his friends. “The rest of us can sneak in and find the Crown, and then we can
get out of here.”
“And how long will
that last before the Scarlet Woman gets wind of it and comes back? Do you
seriously think we can fight her and all of her-“ Seline said.
“We won’t have
to,” Airk said, “not when I can get us out of here with this.” Reaching into
his pocket, Airk pulled out a plain gold ring, which he held out for his
friends to examine.
will that do? Ma’non’go
with the ability to grant wishes,” Airk said. “Once I have the Crown, I’ll use
it to get us all out of here. We don’t all need to be together for it.”
“Where did you
get that?” Luna asked in amazement. “How long-“
“Arthur gave it
to me,” Airk said. “He found it in his adventuring days and now it can only
grant one more wish.”
“Then why did
we have to risk our lives coming back here?” Weimar asked, scowling. “You could
have just wished to have the Crown back in your hands!”
“We needed to
see what kinds of defenses the Scarlet Woman’s forces have set up here,” Airk
said. “We passed by one of the doors to the underground passages when we first
arrived here. I noticed its locking mechanism was broken. Some of our soldiers
clearly did that once they knew the battle was lost. It’s been a standard
procedure for centuries.”
I see, Ma’non’go said with a rare smile. It’s
impossible for invaders who seize the city to block the Flintholders’ attempts
to retake it.
said. “The lock mechanisms are really complex. The Scarlet Woman’s forces
haven’t had enough time to repair them, if they even know how.”
Nodding to one
another, the companions set out for the Regency Council’s manor.
pleasurin’?” the verbeeg said, narrowing his eyes threateningly. “What’re ye
gettin’ at, human?”
“Just what I
said,” Revafour said with a shrug. “The humans guarding my lady’s treasures
boasted they were given the task because they could pleasure her better than
anyone else, including the verbeeg.”
scat if I ever heard it!” the verbeeg said, his face reddening in anger, as
several of the other verbeeg nodded in agreement. “No puny human be matchin’
us, no sir at all!”
“Hold up a
nonce,” one of the other verbeeg said. “Why in Hades would ye be betrayin’ yer
own to us?”
“What makes you
think they’re my own?” Revafour said, narrowing his eyes. “A bunch of Oerids?
Their kind have treated mine like dirt for centuries. Bragging about all
they’ve done, and now this!”
lads!” the first verbeeg said, turning to his friends. “We’ll show those humans
that no one in my lady’s forces can fight or pleasure as well as we can! Have
were all so insulted and spoiling for a fight that they completely forgot about
Revafour. Raising their weapons, they ran towards the Regency Council’s manor, not
noticing the fact that Revafour walked away in the opposite direction from
where they ran.
“That’s the one
there,” Weimar said, pointing at one particularly vicious-looking orc.
as she saw which orc Weimar indicated, and cast her charming spell. The orc
didn’t flinch or otherwise react, but Seline knew instinctively that her spell
She nodded, and
Weimar led her towards the large group of orcs. Several of them glared
threateningly at the humans, raising their weapons, but the orc Seline charmed
ordered them to stand down. Weimar’s years of experience battling the humanoids
threatening Keoland allowed him to identify orc leaders at a glance, and his
instincts served him well once again.
“Oh, but it’s
awful!” Seline exclaimed, as Weimar patted her shoulder sympathetically. “The
things they claimed they’d do!”
what?” the orc leader said, speaking in the Common tongue. “What are you getting
at?” Seline’s charming spell made him inclined to like and trust her, and he
was immediately concerned at her distress.
from the Bloody Claw clan,” Seline said. “They’re to plunder my lady’s private
hoard! All of my lady’s treasures…”
The orc leader’s
pig snout flared as his eyes widened in rage. His clan, the Burning Slime,
didn’t have the infamy of larger orc clans like the Vile Rune, Death Moon or
Dripping Blade, but they did have a seething hatred of their rival Bloody Claw clan.
The orcs of the Bloody Claw and Burning Slime clans only cooperated because
they believed that they shared a similar devotion to the Scarlet Woman.
Weimar knew all
that from his time in the Keoish military, and he passed that knowledge to
Seline before she cast her spell. It paid off as the orc leader screamed at his
fellows to follow him, and they ran towards the Regency Council’s manor while
brandishing their weapons.
Weimar and Seline
made a point of going in the opposite direction.
Amyalla felt a
sense of envy as she watched Airk open the combination lock on the door to the
Regency Council manor’s secret entrance. Combination locks were the bane of
many members of Greyhawk’s Thieves’ Guild. While she was better than most of
her peers at opening them, Amyalla always found it a slow, frustrating
challenge. Rationally, she knew Airk could open the locks because he already
knew the combination, but it still rankled her.
Airk, Luna, Ma’non’go
and Airk were silent as they stalked through the manor’s mostly trashed and abandoned
halls. Luna had cast silencing spells to mask the sound of her and Airk’s heavy
armor, although she placed the spells below the levels of their heads so that
they could still hear everything around them. When they heard the angry screams
and clashes of metal outside the manor, and many of the guards of the Scarlet
Woman’s hoard ran out to see what was happening, they knew they had to act
Some of the
guards remained on duty in front of the council chamber door that now housed
the Scarlet Woman’s hoard. The companions caught them completely by surprise,
and they were quickly slaughtered. In the two minutes it took the companions to
kill the guards, Amyalla picked the key lock on the vault door. Airk opened the
door’s combination lock, and then the companions all pulled it open.
chamber held a dazzling display of wealth. Everything from chalices of silver
and gold to spider-silk tapestries threaded with gems to jade and ivory
statuettes to high-class jewelry and gold and platinum bars filled the room, but
Airk only had eyes for the Crown of Arumdina. Seizing the Crown, which was kept
in a place of honor in the centre of the room, Airk stuffed it into his pack.
reaching into his pocket, Airk retrieved the ring Arthur gave him. Squeezing it
in his hand, he wished that he and the rest of the Company of the Silver Wolf
were outside Flinthold near its surface doors. He saw the ring crumble to dust,
its final wish granted, before everything faded to gold around him.
gold faded away and Airk’s vision returned to normal. Glancing around, he saw that
he was standing in the Lortmil Mountains, some two hundred feet from
Flinthold’s surface door. To his relief, he saw that his friends were all with
him alive and well.
Nodding to one
another, the companions set out to find the Kutunachke.