By Brian Flood
Chapter 60 - Proposals
Corm Orp, The Sunset Vale
Early Evening, 14th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The cool autumn breeze blows briskly across Alani and Cyzicus, causing their cloaks to billow around them as the two adventurers walk toward the militia headquarters. It is a relatively short walk, and in a few minutes, they find themselves outside of the simple stone building set at town's only trail intersection.
A man armed and clad in the manner of the town militia stands outside the closed door that marks the building's main entrance. Half a dozen horses are lashed to the simple hitching post in front of the structure. Over a dozen more are gathered in the northern portion of the caravan camping grounds, watched over by a handful of militia men.
The man standing guard at the entrance straightens slightly as the pair approaches. His face grows stern as he prepares to issue some sort of predetermined decree. Then he softens slightly as he recognizes Cyzicus. Cyzicus, in turn, recognizes the man as Rossum, a corporal and assistant patrol leader.
"It has been a few months since I last saw you, truesword," the man says. Seeing the elven woman next to the halfling, Rossum narrows his eyes slightly and turns back to Cyzicus. "Lord Hultel is meeting with the patrol leaders. He asked not to be disturbed."
Cy responds with, "Corporal, normally I would understand, but we came to offer our services in the problem he is discussing. I think he would like to know all the resources he has at his command."
Smiling as the guard regards her, Alani stands sightly behind Cy, allowing the halfling Truesword to handle matters.
Rossum looks from Cyzicus to Alani and then back to the halfling. "I am not sure I understand. Are you saying that the two of you hold the key to resolving this crisis?"
Cy says, "That is unknown at this time. What I do know is we offer our services as scouts, while the troops remain here to protect the town in case of attack. So if you would so kind as to inform Lord Hultel of our presence and our desire to help," the truesword finishes with a smile.
Wrapping her cloak tighter around her as a cold breeze blows through the elven scout fights the urge to shiver as she awaits the guard's response.
Rossum blinks as he considers Cy's response. "Alright then," he finally says, "stay here while I ask him." With that, the militiaman disappears into the headquarters building, shutting the door behind him.
A few minutes later, the door opens and Rossum emerges. "Lord Hultel has agreed to see you," he says simply.
Cy responds, "Thank you, Corporal," and goes inside.
The soldier backs up slightly to allow the two adventurers to enter the building. Stepping inside, Alani and Cy find themselves in a room that is about fifteen or twenty feet square. Gathered around a table in the center of the room are five human men and women, all dressed in the arms and armor of the Corm Orp militia. Also present is Honored Mother Alliya Macanester, the halfling matriarch.
"Ah, here are our two guests," Hultel announces to the others as the two adventurers arrive. "Please do us the courtesy of introducing yourselves before you inform us of how you propose to assist in this situation."
Upon hearing Lord Hultel's request, Cy says, "Lord Hultel, Honored Mother, and respected assemblage. I, as some of you know, am Cyzicus Truesword of Arvoreen, and this is my travelling companion Alani, a valued scout. Upon hearing your troubles and concerns at the tavern, we would like to offer our services to scout out the problem, leaving the troops free to defend the town, if necessary." The halfling Truesword then falls silent, waiting for a response.
As Cy introduces Alani, the young elf gracefully bows. "Well met Lord Hultel and Honored Mother Alliya Macanester. It is an honor to make your acquaintance," she says graciously.
Hultel studies the two for a few long seconds. Then he glances at the gathered militia leaders around the table and back to the two newcomers. "We appreciate your generosity and bravery, Truesword," he says, "but before we grant your request, please tell us how the two of you propose to embark on this mission."
Again looking to her companion, Alani waits for Cy's response. 'So much different than the elven court,' the elven girl thinks to herself.
Forcing her thoughts back to the matter at hand, the scout can't help but grin as she realizes that she and her halfling companion were in such a hurry to volunteer their services that they didn't bother to discuss a plan of action. 'Now I know what my father meant by, look before you leap,' she thinks to herself. Hoping that none at the council table saw her grin, Alani quickly composes herself as she stands next to the halfling Truesword.
"I plan on going looking like a native of the area," Cy explains with a grin. "Without armor and with only my dagger, and GrimHound, who Lord Hultel will know from previous hunts. Alani and two of my other companions, who didn't wish to crowd your doorstep, have the ability to disguise themselves."
"Now," he continues, "the general plan is ride out to my home. From there, we make our preparation and leave on foot, singly or in pairs, preferably off-road to the location of the roadblock by stealth. To remedy the situation, if discovered, I will simply say that GrimHound and I were searching for truffles and my companions will have similar excuses as to why they would be in the area. Two will need none, as they will not be recognized as what they are. After assessing the situation, we will stealthily make our way back here, and we can make additional plans with the new information.
Watching the halfling as he lays out his plan to Lord Hultel, Alani smiles to herself as the memory of the Truesword venting his frustration on the imprisoned form of Lucas after the mage had gotten himself caught in a trap on the Zhent witch's spellbook.
"Unless there are objections or suggestions, I need to get back to my companions so we can put the plan in motion," Cy says in conclusion.
Bringing her thoughts to the subject at hand as Cy finishes speaking, Alani speaks up. "The Truesword's plan is sound. I have trained in the Greycloaks Hills, near my home and used those skills the help keep the treasure seekers away from discovering the secrets of the Greycloaks," she says as she steps to stand beside Cy. "And our comrades are equally skilled, besides, if things happens to go astray, Gods forbid. There will be no link, save Cyzicus, to connect us to Corm Orp. Giving Darkhold no reason to seek further retaliation," she adds.
Hultel nods slowly and glances at his gathered lieutenants. He bends down so that the halfling matriarch at the table can speak into his ear. Then he straightens and speaks.
"Indeed, the priest's plan is feasible," he says. "I am curious as to this additional pair of companions of whom you speak. But, Mother Alliya speaks highly of you, Cyzicus of Arvoreen. You are granted one day to perform your reconnaissance. Return to us here before highmoon tomorrow eve and report to us."
Cy thanks the assemblage for their confidence and then says, "Come Alani, let us gather our companions and move on to my home." He then makes his way back to the inn to inform the others of Lord Hultel decision and to add Corax and Darius - with Soft Fang in tow - to the scouting expedition.
Bowing in respect to Lord Hultel and the Honored Mother, Alani turns and follows Cy out the door. As the two head towards the Inn, Alani ponders the mission to which they have just volunteered. Smiling to herself, the elven scout begins to formulate a plan of action, knowing that the night's venture will indeed be a welcome change from the tedious task of being a caravan scout.
* * * * *
The Hungry Halfling Inn
Corm Orp, The Sunset Vale
Early Evening, 14th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Meanwhile, back at the Inn, Freda - the halfling waitress - makes her way back around the room to the table occupied by the remaining caravan guards and Tomar. She frowns slightly when she notices that Cy's seat is empty.
"I hope everything's alright," she says. "Is there something more that I can get you?"
"Yes, everything is alright. Cyzicus just needed to see someone," Darius replies to the young woman.
Standing and stretching a bit, the druid says to the remaining members of the group, "It's been a long day, so Soft Fang and I will be going to Master Tomar's wagon for the evening. If Cyzicus comes back, you can find us relaxing there." He turns and makes his way to the door of the Inn and then across the street to the area where the wagon is set up.
"Well," Kjira says as she stands up from the table, "I think I'll try and find lodging here for the evening so I can study this spellbook. Perhaps Lucas can concentrate on identifying the other items we took from the witch."
"I believe we have two rooms remaining," Freda replies, seemingly forgotten by those still at the table. "One merchant's room and one traveler's room. It'll be two gold coins for the better room - but it has only one bed. The traveler's room will be five silver pieces and has two beds," the halfling waitress adds.
"I'll take the merchant's room, if you please," announces Tomar. The bookseller hands the waitress the appropriate coinage.
"Thank you, sir," Freda replies. Then she turns to Kjira, "Will you be paying for the traveler's room then, Lady?" she asks.
"Kjira," Lucas interjects, "remember that I gave you the pearl for the identify. I thought you were going to try and identify the rest of the items? If you want me to, I can try while you are studying the witch's spellbook."
Turning to the waitress, Lucas says, "I shall like to order a meal. What have you for your special today? I would also like to request a room for this evening." With that said, Lucas settles back into his chair at the table.
"I returned the pearl before we broke camp, remember?" Kjira replies to the conjurer. "The spell was too exhausting to attempt on the road right after battle. If you want to hand it back, I'll be happy to work on identifying the items - though I probably won't be able to start until the day after tomorrow."
"Hmmm, I guess you did," Lucas says to the lady mage. "I forgot that, Kjira. I shall identify them tomorrow then, giving we are not going to be scouting. I shall memorize identify in the morning in preparation to cast the spell."
Seeing that things are settling down with the remaining members of the group, Lucas proposes, "Let us retire to our rooms then for the evening and see if our services shall be needed on the morrow."
"Ahem!" the adventures at the table are startled by the monosyllabic outburst from the halfling waitress, Freda, who still stands at the table.
Indicating Tomar, she says, "No one besides that man there has PAID for any rooms, sir!" Starting to get rather irritated, she adds to Lucas, "I ASKED the lady if she wanted the last room. Then YOU asked for one, too. There's only one left to give. Who'se takin' it and who'se payin' for it?" As her irritation flares, her voice begins to lapse into a regional accent typical to those of her race.
Lucas turns to Kjira and says, "Kjira, you take the room as you will need the quiet in order to study the book. Dolak and I will try to find a dry spot in the barn if there is room there. Freda, can we procure a spot in the barn with our animals if no other room is to be had?"
"Barn?" Freda replies. "There's no barn here. You can find a spot on the ground over in the caravan camping grounds for the night, though."
The halfling then turns to Kjira. "If you'll be taking the room, I'll need five silver coins, Lady."
Kjira hands the irritable halfling a gold piece. "Perhaps you can bring something to eat as well..."
"I'd be glad to," the waitress replies as she pockets the coin. "I hope stew will be alright? With the crowd tonite, it's the only thing we could make enough of."
"Lucas," Dolak says, before anyone can respond, "shall we be eatin' here a'for movin' back t' the caravan park? I'm fer some warm grub now." The dwarf looks across to the irritable halfling, "What's d'ya recommend t'night?"
Turning to address Dolak, the black robed mage replies, "Aye Dolak. Let's have some stew before heading out. Freda, please bring two more bowls for myself and my friend Dolak here. What do I owe you for the meals?"
"What the lady gave me should cover the five of you," Freda replies, indicating the five travelers - Dolak, Lucas, Corax, Kjira and Tomar - who sit at the table.
"What about the others?" Corax then asks the group. "Should we order for them, now?"
Lucas nods at Corax as he says, "Aye those that we know will be here. Cy and Alani will have to fed for themselves for dinner."
"As I said," Freda replies, "what the lady gave me will cover all of those here. Five bowls of stew coming up." With that, the diminutive waitress heads off to the kitchen to fill the order.
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