Nefarious

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Nefarious; extremely wicked or villainous.

Morgrim Redsbeard sat in the far corner of the Dragon’s Broken Claw inn, nursing his eighth pint of ale and believing it would cure his headache. Keeping low, Morgrim tried to blend in with the shadows, hoping no one recognised him. He wasn’t in the mood to tell tales of his victories tonight.

The Dragon’s Broken Claw was the most popular drinking hole in Eleria Town. It was just bad luck that Morgrim and his adventuring companions had decided to spend the night here. Morgrim glanced up, taking in the packed room with hooded eyes. The loud noise of voices wasn’t helping, but he didn’t feel like going to his shared bedroom just yet.

Taking a mouthful of ale, Morgrim wished he was drinking something more to his palette, like a nice golden dwarven beer. Also, instead of being in this man inn, he wanted to be in the great dwarf halls of his home, surrounded by kin.

Sighing into his tankard, Morgrim tugged at his long red beard which his ancestors had always been famous for. His finger caught in one of the knots and he was distracted for a few moments. Then out of the crowd, a voice caught his ears.

‘There’s always been outlandish rumors surrounding the Grey Tower. Only a few have ever be there though and many more have tried but The Dead Marshes have seen to ’em.’

Morgrim turned and scanned the over-crowded room for the speaker. There was  a tall man standing at other table close by on the left. At first glance, the man could be mistaken for a elf, but Morgrim’s eyes could tell he was just a fair skinned and haired man. There were other men seated or gathered around the table, they were all holding tankards and there was the remains of a meal on the table. The men looked eager to hear a tale.

‘They say an evil wizard rules the land there and he binds all creatures to do his bidding!’ the man continued.

Morgrim huffed into his ale. He had been to The Dead Marshes months ago and he had seen this so called evil wizard with his own eyes. For him, the fight hadn’t be worth it, but at least there was no more trouble for the surrounding villages.

‘Have you been there?’ a drunkard shouted.

A wave of voices followed demanding similar answers. A few other voices called for more drinks and someone else shouted for bread and cheese.

A ghost of smile appeared on the man’s face and he replied, ‘no, but a friend of a friend has! And he said it was the worse thing he every saw. There were armies of goblins and other such creatures working for this evil wizard. The whole land had been stripped bare and fires were burning everywhere. The smell was vile and chocking.’

‘Evil wizard my a-‘ a voice roared but was cut off by raucous laughter.

The man banged on the table and shouted above the noise, ‘This wizard is so wicked that soon everyone will be in danger! He is coming here and either he’ll bend you to his will or slay you all!’

Silence slowly began to fall over the inn. Heads turned and a few voices whispered.

‘It’s true! I tell ya. His name is becoming the most feared across the lands. He wields power no one has every seen before. He is blessed by dark Gods and he is friends with the giants and dragons. Right now, he is gathering his armies to invade. He’ll stop at nothing till he has complete rule!’

Morgrim slide his empty tankard away. His headache finally fading. He reached behind him and from the wall took his warhammer into his hand once more. The weight of the weapon give him great comfort and he always made sure it stand by his side.

‘How do you know this, Man?’ Morgrim spoke quietly in his deep voice.

Heads turned Morgrim’s way and a few elbows nudged each other as people recognised him. A full silence fell on the inn room and it seemed like breathes were being held.

‘It’s been circling for months. Travellers and messengers have been bringing word to the courts,’ the man explained, ‘though I’m sure a dwarf like you would know all about it.’

Morgrim stood up, the table pushed away by his broad and muscular body. He held his warhammer tightly but none threateningly. Casting his eyes, around the room to see that he had everyone’s attention, Morgrim turned back to the man.

‘I see you don’t know who I am, Man. I am Morgrim Redsbeard and I have been to that Grey Tower in The Dead Marshes which you speak of,’ Morgrim stated, ‘and I’m tell you now no such wizard ever lived in that tower.’

The man swallowed, looking deflated and started searching for words to make a come back with.

‘If you want a tale about an evil wizard, I could tell you one. Many have fallen to my warhammer,’ Morgrim declared, ‘innkeeper another pint of your finest ale. I’ve a tale that will chill your very ears off.’

(Characters originally from The Dead Marsh story. Which can be found here;  https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/the-dead-marshes-part-1/) 

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The Visitors

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The High Priestess had heard the crying at the temple door for some time now. She had been hoping that one of The Sisters Of Syreth,  her followers, servants or anybody else taking shelter in the temple tonight would have opened the door by now. Wondering why that was, the High Priestess swished down a connecting hallway in her large and heavy blue dress.

Going through a small door, she entered and passed through the huge nave down a side corridor. The air was heavily scented with hot wax, incense and winter flowers from the mountain sides. Flickering candle light glowed from clustered candle groups, but it was not enough to keep the shadows away. A handful of people were sitting in the large, cold wooden pews. Most were silent in prayer or sleep, but every now and then sobbing, moans and whispered voices could be heard.

The High Priestess stuck to the shadows and hurried past. It was late in the night and she had all ready given a long service this evening then spent time with a number of different people. She was tried and had been trying to fall asleep, but the crying had disturbed her.

Going through the large doors into the small welcoming area, she saw the door opposite which led to the porch was all ready open. Voices and light were drifting from the area. Not bothering to be quiet she walked on and came to a stop behind a small group of people. There were five of them; two Sisters of Syreth in there pale blue robes, a male servant and a tall man dressed in a travelling cloak.

‘I am telling you, do not let them in!’ the man was saying.

‘Everybody is welcome in this temple of Syreth. She is the Goddess of protection and guardians. It is our duty to offer whatever we can to anybody who comes to our door,’ the High Priestess broke in.

The two Sisters turned and did little bows. The male servant, who was holding a lantern bowed too, but his was a lot lower. The traveler did not move and the High Priestess saw the tiredness and worry on his face. But he was also trying to mask his fear. Behind them all and coming from the other side of the temple’s double front doors the loud crying continued.

‘What is it? Who is crying out there?’ the High Priestess demanded to know.

There was a pause then the traveler spoke out, ‘creatures. I saw them on my way here and I think they followed me. You must not let them in for surely they are demons.’

‘What do they look like?’ The High Priestess asked.

‘There is two of them,’ the traveler replied, ‘one small, the other tall. They look like ghosts to me. I heard them whispering and calling out to me. But I did not stop. I rushed here and closed the door upon them and since then they have been crying,’ the traveler explained.

The High Priestess fell into thought.

‘We want to open the door to see for ourselves,’ one of the Sisters spoke.

‘Perhaps in the darkness the gentleman was mistaken,’ the second Sister finished.

‘I am not blind! I know what I saw!’ the traveler snapped.

‘Of course,’ the High Priestess murmured, ‘please see to his needs,’ she said to the servant.

The servant give a nod and led the man away. The traveler began to mutter under his breath, but he followed the servant and the steady lantern light.

The High Priestess went to the door and opened it. She peered out then stepped aside.

A strong winter wind blew harsh snowflakes into the temple and set the candles flicking violently. Coldness seeped in and snatched what little warmth there was within the stone walls away. The sound of the river gargling and the rattling of bare tree branches echoed through the temple.

The crying stopped. A large white and light brown cat padded inside followed by a pure white young female deer. Snow dusted their coats, but they seemed unharmed.

‘Do you seek shelter here?’ asked the High Priestess.

‘Yes,’ the cat spoke in a clear voice that was not male or female.

The two Sisters gasped and backed away. They reached for each other, holding hands tightly. Fear passed across their faces, but they did not run away.

The High Priestess shut the door. Snowflakes were melting in her long loose blonde hair and the wind was tugging at the edges of her dress like a naughty child.

‘You are both welcome here,’ the High Priestess continued.

‘Thank you,’ the cat replied.

‘What are your names and how can we help you?’

‘I am known as Horven, the druid,’ the cat spoke, ‘and she is the Princess Graceuvial.’

The white deer nodded and seemed to give a little bow with her long neck.

‘A Princess?’ The High Priestess breathed.

‘We have become lost in the snowstorm,’ Horven added.

‘Yes. It is quite a bad one,’ the High Priestess responded, ‘please let me take you to some warm rooms. There you can rest and I shall see to it you have everything you need.

‘Thank you,’ the cat said.

The High Priestess held out her hand then led the way into the Temple.

 

(https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/microfiction-challenge-27-rescue/)

Inheritance Rights

Marul Gutenberg bent double, breathing hard, he squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth. Sweat bubbled on his forehead and he could feel it starting to run down his face. Pain throbbed through his arms and legs but mostly it was in his chest; where the blow had taken him by surprise.

He tried to grip the pommel of his long sword tighter but the sweat on his palms caused the smoothed ridges to slip from under his fingers.

There was a sudden burst of voices that rose in roars of approval. Hands clapped loudly, echoing though the stone courtyard.

The sound hurt his ears as Marul let it wash over him. He shook his head slightly as if trying to clear his ears of the noise but he already knew it was useless to try and block the noise out again. Swift footsteps tapped across the cobbled floor towards him and instinctively Marul ducked.

The wind whistled where his head had just been as the sword cut though the air.

“Stop!” he yelled.

Marul opened his eyes as the tip of the long sword was pushed against his throat.

“Do you surrender?” asked a light voice.

“Yes,” Marul gagged as the sword tip pushed harder.

The sword dropped away.

Marul put his hand to his throat as he stood up, he then pulled his hand back and looked at the wetness on the palm of his hand. Red blood droplets were smeared across his skin, the sword tip had draw blood.

Marul glanced up at his older brother, Wolf Gutenberg, who was standing only a few paces away from him and waving and bowing to the crowed of people that had gathered around them. The sound of their voices cheering and applauding was louder then before and mixed in with the clapping hands.

“Ha, little brother, I win again!” Wolf shouted and then stomped over to Marul and punched him on the shoulder.

Marul drew himself up and let his sword drop with a loud clatter to the floor of the courtyard as he clutched his now bruised shoulder.

The crowd of onlookers began to disperse. Some of them left in small groups, talking softly, whilst the men of the guard returned to their posts around the high walls of the courtyard. Above their heads the torn yellow flag bearing the black lion symbol of Averland flew in the wind. Marul watched a group of women carrying wicker baskets under their arms going back to their tasks in his father’s house.

“What do you fancy fighting with next? Short swords perhaps?”

Marul turned back to Wolf, who was busy tighten one of his ornamented breastplate’s leather straps.

“No,” Marul replied.

Wolf smiled widely, showing off his white teeth and large, pointy fangs.

“Not scared are you, little brother?” Wolf asked mockingly.

Marul brushed his brown hair back with his hand and bent to pick up his long sword.

“I have better things to do…..” Marul started.

“Better things…then preparing for war? The undead are baying outside the city walls, little brother.”

Wolf turned on his heels and started to walk away. His two servants followed behind him closely, they were carrying Wolf’s long black cloak, green feather plumed helmet and another long sword that was sheathed.

Marul stood up and took a deep breath, “….then play-fighting,” he finished.

Wolf spun to face him, a flash of anger across his red sweating face.

Marul tightened his grip on his sword in both hands and spread his feet in preparation for his brother to charge at him.

“Play-fighting? Is that what you think to our practicing?” Wolf snapped, “Well….” he ran a hand though his short black beard, “I’ll try harder to kill you next time then.”

Wolf flashed Marul a wolf like grin and then walked out of the courtyard.

Marul let go of the breath he had been holding and turned to leave. His own servant was standing to the left of him; he was holding a helmet with a yellow plume and short pale yellow cloak. The servant give Marul a nerves smile.

“Well done my lord!”

Marul shot him a look and then snatched the cloak out of the man’s hands.

“I was sure of your victory in that round but that last blow….”

“Stop,” Marul snapped and he drew a deep breath, “How bears my father?”

The servant to the young lord paused before saying gently, “He is worse my lord. There are doubts he will survive the night.”

Marul turned away and started to walk out of the courtyard with the servant trailing behind him.

*

“Only yesterday Kurt Wossoff had a run in with three skeleton warriors in the Heroes mounds, which means were have a Necromancer or something worse in our mists,” Joss Vaker, chief advisor to the Lord of Walberg spoke.

The other advisors and guards shifted nervously in the room. They eyes dart around the tapestry covered walls, avoiding meeting anyone else’s.

Joss stopped pacing before the dais and before he turned he glanced up at the empty throne like chair on the dais and allowed the heaviness to lay on his heart. He let out a deep breath and clutched the scroll tightly in his hand.  He turned away and faced the room once more.

“We must call for heroes and all sword-sellers to stand with us!”

Whispering voices echoed though the room.

Suddenly the wooden double doors banged open and Wolf Gutenberg, first son of the Lord of Walberg, walked into the room. He held his head high, his black hair loose over his shoulders and his high rounded cheeks glowing red. His sharp brown eyes scanned the room and then he crossed the floor swiftly in his large boots. His sheathed sword banged against his leg as he walked.

Silence had fallen in the room.

“What is going on here?” he demand as he beared down on his father’s chief advisor.

“Well…sir…you see…we’ve had a report of another attack.”

Wolf stepped up onto the dais and sank down into the chair.

“Wine,” he called and waved his hand at the nearest servant.

“But this one was different,” Joss finished.

“How so?”

“Well, skeleton warriors were involved.”

Wolf chocked on his mouthful of wine. He quickly covered this up by swallowing it and taking another mouthful.

“Where was this attack?” he asked.

“At the old Heroes mounds, in Avavest woods.”

Wolf gritted his teeth and stared into the goblet of wine.

“We must finish our preparations,” Joss added.

“Yes,” Wolf answered, “See it is done!”

Marul sink onto his bed and watched the wax dripping down from the candle that was on the table beside him. The tiny flame flickered in a small breeze and the wick cracked loudly. Marul signed and started to pull off his knee length leather boots.

“Your father has request you, sir,” Branen Uriah spoke, breaking the silence.

Marul glanced up at the voice of his servant. The small man was putting some clean clothes away in a chest at the foot of the bed.

“What for?” Marul snapped, he was tired of being called to his father’s sickbed.

“I don’t know, sir.”

Marul sighed, pulled his boot back up and stood up from the bed. He checked his sword was buckled around his waist and then he walked out of his room. He began to walk to the other side of the castle to his father’s rooms. The cold bare stone walls were lit by torches, the flames waved in the drifts that roamed though the castle. Soft voices floated to Marul’s ears though half opened doors. He past windows and though then he could see the coming darkness of night. He kept an eye out of the twin moons, Morrslib and Manslib as he did so.

At last he came to the staircase that led up to his father’s rooms.  As he walked up the spiral staircase he could hear soft voices and the scent of herbs coming from above him. He paused at the open wooden door, hiding in the shadow of the wall. He looked into the room.

The vast bed lay in the middle of the room, it was heaped with blankets and thick furs. A huge fire burnt brightly and fiercely in the wall opposite. The large window had also been covered up a thick drape.

“But father Wolf’s voice called out sharply.

Marul strained to hear the next voice but he could not make out the words.

“Please!” another voice whispered loudly.

Silence fell.

Marul gritted his teeth and walked into the room, his hand resting on the top of his sword.

“Here is Marul, my lord,” one of the advisers around his father’s bed whispered.

Marul walked up to the bed and stared into his fathers face.

The lord of Walberg was wasting away. His skin was a deathly white shade and his wrinkled face seemed to have sunken in. The eye lids were closed but under them Marul could see the eyeball moving. The pale blue tinted lips were partly open but the great, long black beard his father had worn with pride had been removed to stubble crossing his lower face.

Marul clutched his father’s icy cold hand in his own.

“I am here, Father,” he said quietly.

The dying man drew in a wheezing breath and struggled to open his eyes.

The men around the bed had moved back, they had stepped into the shadows of the dimly lit chamber. Wolf was the only one left by the bed and was at the foot of it, resting his back against one of the bed poles.

“M..Marul?” the voice croaked.

Marul lent his ear closer to his father’s mouth so he could hear better.

“I’m here,” he repeated and squeezed his father’s withered hand.

“I..I have de…decided…to…give you half…..”

The Lord Walberg started coughing and Marul quickly pulled his head back.

He turned to Wolf and then dropped his father’s hand and walked over to him.

“Half?” he questioned his father’s words to his brother.

Wolf nodded his head slowly, “Half of everything. He decided to spilt it down the middle.”

Marul cast a look back to his dying father. One of the servants had stepped forward with a damp rag of cloth which he wiped across the forehead of the dying lord.

“Even the town?” Marul spoke suddenly.

“Yes,” Wolf answered and then swore loudly.

This caused some of the advisers to shake their hands.

The Lord of Walberg suddenly took a large breath in which caused everyone else in the room to hold theirs. His eyes rolled backwards and then his last breath was forced from his lungs. There was a hushed silence in the room.

Joss Vaker, chief adviser, stepped forward to the bed and looked into the face of the lord.

“He is died,” Joss breathed, “Our noble lord has passed into the realms of Morr.”

The Dead Marshes (Part 3)

‘We can take ‘em,’ Grub hissed.

Morgrim and Cerseia quickly shushed him and he fell silent. Eagerly, they all watched from their hiding place as the group of enemies came closer. As the kobolds rounded the bend and came opposite them, Morgrim had to grab Grub to stop him storming forward. He pressed his hand over the other dwarf’s mouth as Grub went to argue.

‘Come on! Move! We’ve not got all day!’ the bullywug spit and cracked his whip over the heads of the kobolds, whom shrink away then hurried forward.

Morgrim shook his head and Grub growled. The bullywug and troll passed them and the whole group walked up to the stone doorway. Loudly threating the kobolds still, the bullywug yanked the troll to a stop and instructed it to open the door.

As the company watched though, a kobold rushed at the bullywug and began beating its small hands all over him. The large frog easily picked up the dragon lizard and laughing in its face, turned to the troll.

‘Kill him,’ the bullywug command.

The troll looked at him dumbly, twirling the wooden club it held in his right hand around.

‘Did you hear me? Kill!’ the bullywug yelled and threw the kobold at the troll’s feet.

The troll looked down still confused, ‘crush?’ a slow booming voice formed one of the only words the troll’s brain know how to say.

‘Yes, Yes! Crush!’

The troll shook himself, lifted his left foot and brought it down on the kobold. The creature screamed, calling out for mercy then fall silent as splattering and crunching noises echoed into the night. The troll moved his foot again and kicked the flattered body into the nearest stagnate pool, which claimed the victim hungrily.

‘Well done! Good boy, Grunter,’ the bullywug praised and turned back to the other kobolds, ‘you want some of that then? Get back to work!’

They scuttled around the door and began clawing at the stones.

‘Go on,’ the bullywug urged the troll and with lumbering steps the creature stomped over and began pulling at the door alongside the kobolds.

Now, guessing they were out of ear shot and preoccupied, Morgrim turned to Cerseia.

‘Can you cast that void again?’ he asked.

She shook her head, ‘I used it up back at the warehouse. I can create a fireball though.’

‘Let’s just charge ‘em,’ Grub argued.

‘No. We need to element of surprise right now,’ Morgrim explained, ‘Konniana, if Cerseia and I cast fire at the kobolds can you shoot arrows at the bullywug?’

‘Yes,’ Konniana’s voice whispered back from the tree top.

‘What shall we do? We have nothing long range,’ Katliana pointed out about herself and Grub, feeling the urge to fight growing.

‘After we have distracted the others, charge the troll and try to take him down. We’ll come and help you once we’ve killed the others,’ Morgrim commanded.

‘Don’t worry. I can take it on myself,’ Grub declared, hefting his warhammer.

‘Are you ready?’ Cerseia chimed in.

Morgrim nodded and at once they both casted their own fire. For Cerseia it was a bright burning orange fireball and for Morgrim a lighter flame of divine power. Cerseia went first and threw her fire towards the kobolds, however the bullywug stepped in front of them and the fireball clipped his shoulder and dropped sizzling out onto the floor. The large frog humanoid turned eyes straight to where they were hiding.

Morgrim quickly followed up Cerseia’s attack, but the bullywug was on guard and easily ducked the scared flame. It sailed over his head and into what should have been a least one kobold, but they had already scattered due to the fireball.

‘We are under attack!’ screamed the bullywug and cracked his whip across the air.

‘Forget this!’ Grub yelled and charged out of the trees straight for the troll.

Katliana chased after him, pulling her great sword out as she did so. She easily over took the short dwarf and parried the troll’s club blow that had been aimed at Grub’s head. An arrow shoot from her sister’s bow whistled past her and straight into the stomach of the Bullywug.

The frog let out a croaking scream, but still turned to command the kobolds into action. Only four were brave enough to come forward though. The other three remind behind, trying desperately to press themselves into any shadows, which seemed to be slowly disappearing in the coming dawn’s light. As the four kobolds assembled and clutched un-sharpened daggers, a fireball crashed down in-between them.

The smell of burnt scaly skin filled the air and dying screams tumbled across the marshland. One luckily kobold had escaped pretty much unharmed and he darted back to his friends. Of the others, two were dead and the third was too badly wounded to get up. On seeing this, the bullywug charged at Katliana. With a roar, he flicked the whip at her and she dodged and dived around Grub, who had become locked in battle with the troll.

An arrow whizzed passed them and buried itself deep into the bullywug’s head. Blood dropped down the creature’s frog face and the whip went loose in the webbed hand. The bullywug choked and fell backwards, landing dead and sprawled out along the pathway.

Catching her breath, Katliana turned to thank her sister, but could no longer see her in the tree. However, on the pathway, she saw Morgrim’s shield light up and he, Cerseia and Konniana rushing over to help them. She turned back to the troll and saw that Grub was struggling against the creature which was easily five times taller than he was. However, that did seem to be putting the dwarf off, only making him more determined.

The troll had no idea that his master was gone and was solely focused on crushing the figures gathering around his feet. With a mighty swing of his weapon, he knocked the dwarf over and flung the club back again to catch the dragonborn. Though, she was faster and ducked under via a roll, which caused her to stop close to the dwarf.

Grub had landed on his back and was groaning in pain. Katliana caught him as he tried to get up and dragged him backwards out of the way as the club parted the air above their heads. She slipped on top of him, causing him to cry out and start struggling to sit up as they both detangled themselves from each other.

By this time the others had reached the troll. Distracted by new things to crush, he turned his attention away and took a swipe at Cerseia. She nimbly dodged the blow and sliced her sword into the troll’s knee, whilst Konniana shot an arrow into his shoulder. He howled in pain as Morgrim stepped forward, leaving his shield and warhammer on the ground as he charged up a spell between his hands.

Enraged, the troll took a strike at Cerseia and missed again as she darted behind him. Unexpectedly, he then threw his club the other way and clipped Konniana on the shoulder. With a roar, she dropped her crossbow, drew her long sword and rushing forward stuck the blade between the troll’s legs. His eyes rolled down at her in shock and his whole body started shaking.

Cerseia sliced the backs of the troll’s knees and hurriedly moved out of the way. She darted back to Morgrim’s side, ready to protect the cleric if the troll came at them again and he no time to fire off his spell. Konniana whipped out her sword and shuffled backwards, her eyes darted across to her sister and she saw Katliana pulling Grub to his feet and them hurrying to join in again.

The troll let out a loud groan and dropped backwards. The air swooshed around him and he hit the ground hard, crushing the bullywug and the barely-alive third kobold under him. The chest heaved a last breath, then fell still.

Konniana climbed on top of him and poked his face with the tip of her sword just be sure he was really dead.

‘Are you injured? Morgrim’s voice called from behind her and she twisted to see him talking to Grub. The other dwarf shook his head and Morgrim’s eyes went to everyone else in turn, ‘is anyone hurt?’

More head shakes answered his question.

‘What are we going to do with them?’ Katliana called and pointed her sword at the remaining kobolds who were still trying to hide in the shadows cast by the wall.

‘Kill them!’ Grub half-shouted and began to stomp his way over.

The others quickly followed and Morgrim fought his way to the front. The kobolds half-turned to them before gathering to chatter amongst themselves. Cerseia conjured a fireball, but Morgrim caught her hand as a single unarmed kobold crept over to them.

‘N-n-no kills-s,’ the kobold stuttered with a forked lizard tongue.

‘Why should we let you live?’ Morgrim called over.

‘You-s kills-s bull-y-wug. He enslaved us-s, we does-s bidding-s. We nots harms you-s.’

‘I do not trust him,’ Cerseia said in a low voice.

Morgrim glanced at the others, but they seemed just as intrigued by the kobold as he was.

‘What do you want?’ he asked.

‘Our-r lands-s backs,’ the kobold lisped, ‘Marsh-y ours-s!’

‘What did the bullywug want with the stolen treasure?’ Konniana asked harshly.

The kobold put his head to one side then half looked back at his three friends and the doorway. He seemed not have understood the question.

‘Where are you taking the crates to?’ Morgrim re-put the questions.

‘Oh! The s-shin-y s-shin-y-s!’ the kobold squealed, ‘to the castle! To the castle they goes!’

‘Castle?’ Cerseia repeated slowly.

‘Why?’ Morgrim pressed.

‘The dark-s wiz-ard,’ the kobold shivered, ‘he make-s us-s alls. Enslave whole tribe. Take-s our-s marsh-y!’

‘So, you were right,’ Katliana cut in disappointedly and casting her head down, ‘someone else was been behind all of this the whole time.’

‘Can you take us to the castle?’ Morgrim asked the kobold, ignoring her for the moment.

The kobold’s eyes considered the dwarf as the kobold’s head slipped to the side once more. He seemed in thought for a few moments and then asked, ‘you-s goings to kill dark-s wiz-ard? Deads?’

Morgrim nodded, ‘yes, we are going to kill him. If you help us, we will set your tribe free and give you your land back, including the castle.’

‘No castle-s doesn’t wants-s,’ the kobold spit, ‘marsh-y only. Lands-s!’

‘Deal,’ Morgrim called over and he walked over to the kobold with his hand out. He thought he heard the females gasping and Grub ready his warhammer.

The kobold touched his hand with its own scaly clawed fingers and rushed back to jabber with his friends. Morgrim watched them, satisfied that the kobold was relaying the exchange between them. He was aware of Cerseia coming to side, but before she could voice her questions, Morgrim called over to the kobolds, turned around and set off walking down the crudely made log pathway. The chattering kobolds swarmed after him, then passed him and began to lead the way. Morgrim’s companions fell into place behind him, eyeing the kobolds warily and whispering amongst themselves. Morgrim smiled and felt his old friend victory creeping into his head. Soon they would fulfill their quest.

To Be Continued…

The Dead Marshes (Part 2)

Morgrim shuffled forward then stopped, ‘maybe the rogue should check for traps?’ he suggested, with a glance over his shoulder at Konniana.

‘Sure. I might need some more light though.’

Nodding, Morgrim made his shield glow brighter and sent four light balls over the un-light torches on the walls. The divine light hovered above them and the chamber became brightly lit. Konniana moved slowly across the floor casting her eyes everywhere. Cerseia watched for a few moments then moved to the edge of the floor and followed the wall around. Katliana and Grub joined Morgrim, they patiently waited.

‘It seems fine,’ Konniana called after a few moments.

‘They probably don’t have any reason to set up traps,’ Cerseia half-shouted, ‘what with that big creature they have,’ Cerseia had come to stand across from the others and was running her hands over the wall.

Konniana wondered over to her and inspect the wall too. There seemed to be nothing of interest nor anything unusual. It just looked like a big block of stone to her.

‘Dwarves are best for this kind of thing,’ Grub said in a low voice as he nudged Morgrim.

Grinning, they crossed the floor together and helped search for a hidden doorway or lever. Katliana stayed near the opening they had come through, her eyes darting into the darkness and watching for any movements.

‘I know this stone, Grub said after few moments in a whispery voice to himself.

Cerseia and Konniana had moved on to the other walls and Morgrim had been inspecting the floor which was also stone. He looked up as he heard Grubs words and moved over to stand beside him.

‘It shouldn’t be here,’ Grub added.

‘What is it?’ Morgrim asked.

‘It was mined very far and deep from here by dwarf hands who are kin to us.’

‘How did it end up here? Nothing else we’ve seen has been dwarven. What about the rest of this place?’

Grub cast his eyes around before studying a few of the stones next to the very large slab he had found. He shook his head, ‘it’s been carefully made to look like it. They must have got other dwarves to make the rest of stones and build it. This isn’t our work.’

Morgrim touched the slab then some of the other stones surrounding it. His fingers could easily tell the difference between them. Also, his eyes could now see where someone had cleverly made lines in the large slab to disguise it as just another part of the wall.

‘It’s a doorway that,’ Grub excitedly announced, ‘we just need to push it open.’

He put his shoulder against the slab and pressed against it. Morgrim joined him, but they seemed unable to move it together.

‘Everyone come and help,’ Grub called out.

Cerseia, Konniana and Katliana hurried over and pushed against the slab alongside the dwarfs. For a few moments nothing seemed to happen, but then the stone slowly began to give way. A whiff of fresh air squeezed through the newly made crack and that was enough for the adventurers to throw their whole weights against the slab door and push it to the side.

Standing in the openness, they all glanced around and realised at the same instant they were in a dreadful place. The still air was hot and stank of rotting vegetation and meat. In the light coming off Morgrim’s shield they could see stagnate pools of dark green water and tall dry reeds and grass.

‘We are in the Dead Marshes,’ Cerseia whispered, giving voice to what they had all been thinking.

‘What do we do now?’ Grub asked gruffly.

‘Not stay here!’ the dragonborn sisters said in unison.

‘We know they use this tunnel to remove the treasure,’ Morgrim respond, ‘we could ambush them here. They wouldn’t be expecting that and we would have more space to fight.’

‘And risk death by sinking in the mud or water?’ Cerseia shot back.

‘Look at this pathway,’ Grub cut in before anyone could respond to her, ‘Someone’s spent a lot of time and effort making it.’

They looked and saw that a crude pathway made out of large logs, some of which were tied together, stretched out before them. A mile or so head the path seemed to start curving and they could just make out some scrubby bushes. With a shrug, Grub stepped off the stone step and onto a log. It held his weight and more confidently he started walking off.

‘We should close the door,’ Cerseia pointed out.

Morgrim nodded, he stepped briefly into the chamber to call back his light. Then he and the sisters swung the door back to. The slab closed heavily with a shudder and a thud as it neatly slotted back into place. Grub came back over to them and looked at the outline of the door.

‘Good job I’ve got my crowbar or we wouldn’t be getting back through there,’ he uttered.

‘Did you see a safe place we can hide?’ Morgrim asked him.

Grub nodded, ‘there’s a clump ‘o trees on the bend there. That would hide us all.’

‘Good. Let’s make for there then.’

‘I’ll go ahead,’ Cerseia stated and drawing her sword walked off.

The others followed behind her, finding the pathway made the going easy across the marshland. A few minutes later, they stepped off one after the other and hide inside the clump of tall scrawny trees and bushes. Konniana climbed one the trees facing the pathway and nested herself on a thick branch. She felt safer having a full view of the tunnel entrance and the pathway.

‘How long do you think we’ll have to wait?’ Katliana asked softly.

Morgrim looked at the sky and tried to guess the time, but he could hardly make anything out on the other side of the tree branches other than blackness. He turned back to the dragonborn, ‘it can’t be much longer now. It must have taken us a good hour or so to get here. It’s hard to read the sky,’ he trailed off.

Cerseia eyed them and spoke, ‘do you not remember what that bard, the one we meet with the caravan company we were following, Jimmy, said? The Dead Marshes sky stays the same no matter if its day or night. Then he told is that tale about that maiden seeking her lost lover through the marsh and being lead to her watery grave by ghost lights,’ she ended in a shiver that made her shake violently.

Grub snorted, ‘folktales!’

‘Hush, I hear something,’ Konniana called down, ‘but out the light.’

Morgrim quickly put his hand over his shield and willed the light away. They were thrown into total darkness, but then the dwarf and elf eyes adjusted and they saw that Konniana had been right. Coming along the pathway they could hear a number of pattering and heavy footsteps. A few seconds later, a gruff voice yelled out, ‘get along there, you scum!’

Figures took shape in the darkness and the companions held their breaths as they saw about eight Kobolds, whom were small dragon lizard humanoids, matching before a Bullywug, a humanoid frog, with a whip in one hand and in the other a rope lead which was tied to the collar of the troll stomping behind him.

To Be Continued……

The Dead Marshes (Part 1)

Morgrim Redsbeard landed heavily on the well packed and dry earth of the hidden tunnel. The loud clanking of his movements down the ladder echoed then faded. His small dark eyes glanced around and he listened closely.  He heard nothing and saw only the two tall dirt walls on either side of him and the entrance ahead of him. Morgrim was surprised to see that the tunnel was about twenty foot tall and seemed deep enough to continue out of his sight reach.

His free hand tugged gently at his long dark red wiry beard, which his ancestors had been named after and so had become highly recognisable by other mountain dwarf clans, as he began to think. In his other hand, his fingers had loosened slightly on the leather bound grip of his large warhammer, which was resting on his amour plated shoulder. A soft padding and swishing sound from behind drew his attention and he glanced over his shoulder to see one companions coming down the wooden ladder.

Morgrim shuffled to the side and his right foot tapped against something. He looked down and saw at his feet a soft yellow light pulsing along the keen blade of an elf dagger. He picked it up and handed it back to the female half-elf, Cerseia, as she joined him. She quickly took it from him and studied the area.

‘This would explain it,’ Cerseia muttered.

Morgrim eyed her warily and watched her approach the entrance to the tunnel. She stopped short and held out the dagger to cast more light down the passage way. It didn’t reach very far, but the half-elf like the dwarf was able to see further with her eyes then the lit up dagger went. Upon wondering about this, Morgrim called the divine light back to his hand and cast them into darkness for a few moments. However, it didn’t make a difference and they couldn’t see much further down the tunnel then before.

‘What’s happening?’ a loud voice yelled from above.

Morgrim cast the light on his shield, illuminating the tunnel once again as he and Cerseia went to the bottom of the ladder and looked up into the three faces of their other companions, which were two dragonborn sisters, Katliana and Konniana, and a male mountain dwarf, Grubgubber, Grub to his friends, who was possibly a distant cousin of Morgrim’s on his mother’s side.

‘Nothing,’ Morgrim called back, ‘There’s a long tunnel down here.’

‘It must be how they are transporting the treasure,’ Cerseia added.

‘What do you want to do?’ the same voice asked and Morgrim saw that it belong to the female dragonborn paladin, Katliana.

‘We must find out where it leads,’ Cerseia answered, ‘and who is behind all of this.’

‘I really don’t like that idea!’ Grub yelled down, ‘have you ever fought in tunnel before elf? We should stay here and refortify this area for the coming attack.’

The smell of death trailed after his words and reminded Morgrim of the fight that had taken place in the warehouse above them mere minutes ago. He and some of the others had been suspicious of the innkeeper, a foul-mouthed and stinking half-orc, when they had first arrived and asked for rooms for the night. He had turned them away, but Cerseia had charmed him into letting them stay and sharing a single room. As soon as they had settled for the night, they had been disturbed by shouting voices and the sounds of a scuffle.

Morgrim recalled the heated debate amongst them upon hearing the noise. However, it had quickly been decided that someone should go and take a look. Cerseia and Konniana, the dragonborn rogue, had sneaked out and discovered that the innkeeper was having an argument with a group of humans. They as, Konniana had described, seemed to be guarding a dilapidated building far beyond the stables. She had tried to get a closely look and had spotted what seemed to be stacks of crates inside, but then the innkeeper had seen her and she and Cerseia had rushed back to get the others.

From there everything had happened too fast and they had had no choice but to kill the innkeeper and his human guards or else they would have been dead themselves. They had investigated the crates afterwards and found them full of treasures. Thus, confirming some of the information they had received in a letter upon accepting the quest.

‘What else did that note say?’ Morgrim grumbled to himself coming out of the memory.

‘Pardon?’ Cerseia asked in a low voice.

He shook his head and turned his face up towards the trap door, ‘come down. We need to go through the tunnel. It is big enough to fight in,’ he added.

He moved away and stepped towards the entrance was more. Cerseia came to his side and they set off at a normal pass. Behind them they heard first Katliana then Konniana come down the ladder. They landed just as heavily as Morgrim had done. Grub, growling and muttering, followed after them, having first shut the trapdoor. They quickly fell into line behind the others and made their way through the tunnel.

‘I still say we’d have been better staying up top,’ Grub spoke out a few moments later.

‘Perhaps, but we could have been waiting a long time,’ Morgrim responded.

Cerseia nodded, ‘it is still a good few hours before the hour of the wolf. That’s what the letter said, remember? Stay in your room at the hour of the wolf. They must remove the treasure and take it along here at that time so nobody will hear them. Look!’ she stopped and pointed to some footprints on the ground.

The group came to a halt and all eyes went to the floor. The footprints were not human as they looked too small and animal like. Beside them were some bigger and deeper footprints. Also, there were lines were the crates had dragged along.

‘What do you make of these? Morgrim asked Konniana and he shone the light from his shield further on the floor and followed the footprints along.

She shrugged her blue scaly shoulders, ‘They have a big creature doing most of the work? But, there’s no wheel tracks, so they must carry everything.’

‘At least we now know what’s been happening to all the treasure that’s being stolen from the nearby villages and towns,’ Cerseia cut in.

‘But where is it ending up and who is actually behind it,’ Morgrim added on.

‘Surely, the innkeeper’s be doing it!’ Katliana cried out, ‘And he’s had some goblins or something moving the treasure to a safer location so that he wouldn’t have been found out.’

‘I don’t know, this plan seems too good for a half-orc,’ Morgrim explained, ‘maybe he’s been working under someone else?’

‘Let’s go on and find out. This tunnel has to lead somewhere,’ Cerseia chimed in.

They started walking again with Morgrim leading the way. Cerseia was close behind him, the dragonborns stayed in the middle and Grub, still muttering to himself, was rear guard. The tunnel stretched tall and wide, like the throat of some chaotic beast, though it seemed to be a long way down to its stomach. They walked for a good amount of time without saying anything, the only sounds coming from their foot falls, rustling of clothes, clanking of amour and weapons. Each had fallen deep into their own thoughts and even Grub had stopped talking to himself.

From out of nowhere, Grub called out, ‘My donkey! I’ve left him behind!’

‘It doesn’t matter, you can get him later,’ Cerseia hissed back.

Morgrim slowed his steps, but didn’t stop, ‘she’s right. We all have to go back to get our things. Don’t worry about it for now.’

‘Is this tunnel ever going to end? Katliana questioned.

‘I have no idea,’ came Morgrim’s weighted reply.

Konniana sniffed the air, ‘I can’t tell.’

Morgrim picked up his pace again, though this time he hurried a little bit more. His shield still lit up the way, as if guiding them onwards. He became aware of Cerseia matching his strides and sticking close to his side. If pride hadn’t have got to him, Morgrim would have asked the half-elf to go ahead of him. She was much quieter and stealthier then he could ever be- full amour or not- and if there was anything coming towards them inside the tunnel or waiting at the exit, then she could warn them.

He opened his mouth to perhaps suggest something along the lines of this to Cerseia, but quickly closed it again as he saw what was up ahead. He and Cerseia entered the massive circler room together. Four iron brackets with un-light torches were spaced out along the now stone walls and there seemed to be no way out.

To Be Continued……