By Brian Flood
Chapter 45 - Velgardrin Reports to Jadale
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Late-Afternoon, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Velgardrin turns and sees Kerielle accompanying him. “I be goinern ter the Inner Gatehouse ter make an appointmernt. Itr be next ter the chapel where yer were already. Then I hope ter see Lootenernt Jadale ter surrender me axe fer breakern ther law."
"Your honesty does you credit, dwarf. Your wisdom? Perhaps not." Kerielle almost smiles. "Still, I can hardly fault you for doing as your honor bids you." The elf falls into step beside him.
"Be it honor er wisdom er neither er both, I must do thers. Drawing me axe in the One-Eyed Cat be breakern ther law and kern not be meself nor truly serve the Father O' Battles, Clangeddin Silverbeard, Hisself unless I be right with ther Keep. If I be goern inter battle without His blessings and favor I be not murch of His priest I be thinkern. If I dernt be what am then I be notherng."
He pauses for a moment then continues, "You, I think, be knowern honor."
Velgardrin reaches out and grasps Kerielle's arm after he finishes speaking. "Promise me that yer will let therm know that ner matter what happerns ter me I will always ask the Father O' Battles ter aid therm."
Kerielle nods slowly. "I do not think it will come to that - but aye, you have my word, Velgardrin."
Velgardrin and Kerielle continue on and come to the inner gatehouse. After a brief discussion and a few minutes' wait, the two adventurers are ushered through the sally port. Kerielle's visible appreciation of the well-maintained gardens that dominate the former drilling area of the inner bailey courtyard is soon erased as the archer gazes up with trepidation at the tall, stone, and imposing inner bailey.
A few minutes later, the two newfound companions find themselves in the torch-lit room that Velgardrin knows as the Hall of Justice. Again, Kerielle is noticeably uncomfortable and she fidgets slightly while she takes note of the neat, orderly appearance of the large wooden desk set against the northern wall. The elf has convinced herself that she can hear her own heart pounding loudly, when one of the room's doors open to admit Jadale.
The lady warrior is dressed in her customary chain mail armor, draped by a tabard that boldly proclaims the Keep's heraldic design. She smiles slightly in welcome before her face clouds in thought as she realizes that Kerielle is unknown to her.
"Greetings, Alaghar Velgardrin," the woman begins. "I was told of your return earlier this afternoon. I will admit that it came much earlier than I had expected -- and I have heard some talk that your company has suffered one or more tragic losses. For that, I am sorry. What is it that brings you here? Have you an update to your last report?"
In an unusual move for him, Velgardrin removes his helm before he answers. He holds it in his left hand and replies, "I wish ter set an appointmernt fer urs all. We have learned and dealt with part erv the problems. And I have a privert matter involvering only me."
Pointing to Kerielle, he continues. "This be Kerielle, who be added ter us and who be knowern some details erv what seemed ter be the bandits. An appointmernt fer all would be good. They could be here soon erv you wish."
Jadale listens carefully to the dwarf and is silent for a few heartbeats before replying. "Appointments may be set by the guards, master dwarf. Did you truly call me from my duties merely to tell me you wish to speak to me… but not now?"
"That be not ther reason. I have come ter surrender me axe fer I have brokern ther law," Velgardrin explains. "Thert be the reason I came now."
"What?" Jadale asks, the woman's face contorted in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
Velgardrin turns to Kerielle and asks, "Could yer bring the others while I explain?" Then he turns back to Jadale and continues.
"Salik and Tiron be dead, throats slasherd like a gutterd pig hanging fer butchering." A deep sadness crosses his face as he continues. "We slew two erv therm who did that. And I knew who they were but forgot."
Velgardrin's accent fades as his expression grows more anguished. "They called for Mendel and Sascia. I met them in the One-Eyed Cat and had forgotten. The one called Devdas we slew. Sascia, too. She tried to kill Alain. And she was the one who slashed the throats, I am certain. Evil! True Evil!
"Anyway, today at the One-Eyed Cat, Kerielle's comments brought it together. I realized that Mendel the Trader was really Mendel the bandit. In my anger at the evilness, I drew my axe without thinking. For that I was wrong and am here to surrender."
Velgardrin slowly unties his axe, draws it, and holds it out to her.
Kerielle, fascinated by what she is seeing, elects to disregard the dwarf's instructions about fetching the remaining members of the company. Instead, she remains in the room but stays silent, waiting for Velgardrin to conclude his business before she speaks.
Jadale shakes her head. "There is no need for this, master dwarf. I accept your admission of guilt and I am honored by your respect for our laws.
"But we have not the luxury of time to imprison or otherwise punish those who have come to help us over such transgression. Perhaps Father Abercrombie can proscribe some sort of punishment in lieu of your own deity -- but that is between those of the gods.
"Now then, this news of Mendel comes as some surprise. He has graced our Keep many times and has been nothing short of courteous and jovial with our people. Are you quite sure it was him?"
“I be thankern yer fer yer consideration.” Velgardrin turns to Kerielle and says, “Now would be the time ter be tellern what yer saw and heard that yer said at the 'Cat.” Then he sheathes his axe and reties the peacebond.
"The dwarf speaks truth, Lieutenant," Kerielle affirms. "Although it was Ohtar, not Devdas, whom the Silver Claws ended. But I should start at the beginning.
"I first met two of Mendel's hirelings - Chantel and Devdas - along the trade road east of here. I had not spoken with them long before Mendel burst out of the woods, running as if his life depended on it. The fat human claimed bandits had slain another of his company, who he named as Sascia, and that a fourth - Ohtar - was left behind fighting them off.
"Not liking the thought of one against many bandits, I followed Mendel's tracks, until I came to a clearing, wherin I first met this one," she indicates Velgardrin with a nod of her head, "and the bard, Malk. Seeing that these were not perhaps the large company of bloodthirsty brigands the merchant had described, I did not slay them, but instead chose to hear their story.
"The dwarf can no doubt describe the attack better than I could second-hand, so I shall leave that part of the tale to him. Suffice it to say that they were attacked, and fought in self-defense. I trust their word. Why the merchant should attack them, I do not yet know - but I am certain that he and his did indeed strike the first blow.
"The question is why? I believe he has a secret, something he wishes to protect at all costs - something he is willing to attack a party of well-armed warriors to keep hidden. What that may be, I do not know."
The elfwoman finishes her tale, wondering if she has left out anything of import, but assuming that Jadale will ask her any questions she may have. "Perhaps you should now tell the tale of the attack?" she suggests to Velgardrin, motivated not just by accurately recounting the story, but also by curiosity of her own - for this part is still a mystery to her.
"Ther storyteller be not here, but I be knowern this. We be camped while Tiron and Salik be our scoutern. Later, we be hearin shouts and thern ther sounds erv combat. We hurried to the source erv the sounds and this Ohtar was standing over two fallen.
"He reported ter someone that more came and was told ter wait fer Sascia. We approachered and I told him ter put ther sword away thert he had. He refused and attacked ther ever-eager bard, Malk, and woundered herm severe.
"Declan ther magicker ended herm with a one erv his spells. Then a wimmern in torn leathers burst out and attacked Alain ferm behind tryern ter slash his throat. Strangely it were Declan who slew her with his staff. All this while I be checkern the fallen who be Salik and Tiron."
A tear trickles down Velgardrin's cheek as he continues. "They de twice dead. Killed in combat thern throats slashed. Evil. Surch vile evil shourld not live.
"We saw the fat one leaving and did nert pursue. Then we gathered our dead and took therm ter our camp where we built pyres and burned therm. We thern did the same ter the evil ones. This be ter stop whatever be makern ther dead ter be walkern again. Livern dead be nert evil but whatever be makern them most surely is.
"We returned here ter care fer woundered. Er yes, Amiel was gravely woundered by skeleterns afore the combat. That be why we camped."
Velgardrin slips his helm back on and grasps his holy symbol close to his chest. He carefully unties his axe and pulls it flat against his holy symbol.
"On my honor and by Clangeddin's silver beard, I will fight this evil ter it be endered or I be." He sheathes his axe and re-ties the peace bonds again.
Jadale sits back in her chair and is quiet for several minutes as she digests all that the two have told her. She frowns finally and then leans forward.
"This is indeed disturbing, Velgardrin. I will inform Sabine to put the guard on watch for Mendel's return. Should he reappear, I promise you that we will at the least detain him and question him as to this information.
"And of the caravan attacks?" she asks. "Were you able to uncover any clues to their origin or purpose in your brief but tragic foray outside the walls?"
"Here be a most disturbing part ter me," Velgardrin responds. "Ther two Claws slain were scouts out ter see what was about, so mehaps they saw something. Mendel may be only part erv ther bandits er may be ther one who buys what were stolen. But thert would still make herm part."
"Or he may be no part at all," the elf cautions. "We know he attacked those two who were slain..." here, Velgardrin notices her usually somewhat archaic phrasing is particularly convoluted, as she refrains in Elven fashion from mentioning the names of the dead. "...but we do not know that he is involved with the bandits. There are many reasons, both foul and fair, that a man would seek to hide his activities - let us not leap to conclusions.
"He seemed genuinely afraid when I spoke with him, and claimed that he had been the victim of bandits. Perhaps this was not an attack at all, but a misunderstanding. Perhaps both he and the Silver Claws are the victims of a deception, perpetrated by some third party.
"However, my heart tells me that he meant ill. I did not trust him."
"They slashered ther throats," Velgardrin replies sternly. "If they be good, thern why not return ther prisoners ter the Keep fer a reward? They be evil ter me."
"I said not that he was good," the elfwoman sharply retorts, "merely that the bandits and he may not be one and the same. And can you say that never in the heat of battle have you used more force than was necessary? Have you never struck first in fear? I do not believe the 'merchant' is innocent, but neither will I condemn him when I do not know."
Velgardrin chooses to address Jadale rather than respond directly to his companion. "However it be with Mendel, we returned ter ther Keep fer it be more thern I could do ter heal all the woundered. And we go back after Amiel be well. Thert should be tonight, so termorrow we be headern out.
"Now I be havern another question. Der yer ever socialize at ther Cat? If so and yer stop by this evernin, the Claws will buy yer an ale." The dwarf's demeanor seems more relaxed as if a load has been shifted off him.
"Also, lieutenant," adds Kerielle, "whilst I am here I should make myself known to you. I am Kerielle, a friend to the Silver Claws - perhaps soon even a member - when I have earnt that right."
She looks questioningly at Velgardrin. "Although that is for them to say."
"Well met, then, Kerielle," says Jadale. "As for your invitation, master dwarf, I shall see what I can do. My duties to the castellan must come first, of course.
"I will consider all that you have told me. It would seem that there is much more investigation to be done; many more clues to be found and plots deduced. Is there anything else you need to relay to me?" asks the soldier. "If not, I will await your next report."
"Of course." Velgardrin glances to Kerielle to see if the elven archer wants to add anything.
"I believe that is all," Kerielle states firmly. "Let us return to the others," she suggests to Velgardrin, heading out the door.
"Until the next time." Velgardrin bows slightly to Jadale as he speaks and then turns to leave with Kerielle.
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