By Brian Flood
Chapter 64 - The Scouts Return
Hungry Halfling Inn
Corm Orp, The Sunset Vale
Early-Morning, 15th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The sun rises on a new morning. Ori again stays with the wagon while Dolak, Kjira and Tomar go inside the inn to grab break their fast.
Within a few minutes, Freda - the same halfling waitress from the previous evening - is at their table. She looks at the small group and her shoulders droop a bit.
"Good morning," she says in greeting. "Is this all of you that will be eating?" she asks.
"So far as we know," Kjira replies sleepily to the waitress' query. "Though knowing our unconventional companions, they may appear at any time. What do you have ready for eating this morning?"
"Eggs, biscuits, and some fried ham slices," the diminutive girl replies. "We also have some fruit, if you are looking for something lighter."
"I'll be havin' a plate o' eggs, biscuits and a slice o' ham or two," Dolak says to Freda. The dwarf contemplates the remainder of the day, thinking about the amount of bar stock and anthracite he has. He makes a note to procure some more anthracite in this town. Could be helpful later down the road, he thinks.
"I'll have the same," Tomar chimes in on the heels of Dolak's order.
Freda then turns to Kjira. "Shall I bring you the same, Lady?" she asks.
"I'll have the same," Kjira replies to the halfling waitress between yawns. "And some juice if you have it, as well." Freda nods and heads off to the kitchen to fill the table's order.
Kjira then turns her attention to the others at the table. "Any word from our foolhardy companions?"
Tomar shakes his head. "Not that I have heard. I slept through the night without anyone interrupting me. What of you Dolak - did anyone stop during the night and give a report?" he asks.
Dolak looks up at the merchants' question. "I didna see a soul last night," he mumbles through his yawns.
"I see," says Tomar thoughtfully. "I do hope that they are alright. When were they planning to return?"
"I dinna know," Dolak says as he patiently waits for his morning meal. "We shoulda heard a bit by now, I'm thinkin'."
"Well, from what I have seen, they are quite capable of handling themselves," Tomar pronounces. "I suppose we should wait here for them. I do not recall anyone giving directions to Cyzicus' homestead."
"This whole roadblock predicament is truly cause for concern," the book merchant continues. "How dare those Zhentarim demand tolls for passage along a well-established trade route! You would think that with the problems of late with Zhentil Keep itself, they would have better things to occupy their forces."
As Tomar finishes speaking, Freda returns with the party's breakfast order. She sets a fire-baked pottery plate in front of each traveler and the small group sees that their orders have been filled, as requested.
"That'll be three coppers for each of ya," the halfling waitress says. She then stands and awaits payment.
Kjira hands over the requested coinage to the waitress and looks back to her two companions.
"I haven't heard from any of the foolish either," says the lady mage. "They're probably stuck in the woods, sleeping in trees while they search for these bandits blockading the road."
"And what problems of late would Zhentil Keep be having, Master Tomar?" she then inquires of the party's employer.
Tomar glances askance at the mage. He blinks a few times, as if he is having trouble digesting the adventurer's question. After a few seconds, he clears his throat.
"Ahem," he begins. "It would seem that a brief history lesson would be appropriate. I would think that this knowledge is common, but perhaps your travels have taken you far from the Heartlands. No matter, let me explain."
"Two years ago, in the waning days of the Year of the Banner - or 1368 by Dale Reckoning - there appeared a schism in the Zhentarim ranks. This break was along religious lines, of all things. Lord Fzoul Chembryl - the ruler of Zhentil Keep and a former high priest of Bane - read from the Cyrinishad; this holy book of Cyric was supposed to be the ultimate story of the Mad Gods' rise to power. It was actually a factual account of that monster's betrayal of his former adventuring comrades and his subsequent rise to godhood as a result of his slaying of several serving dieties - Bane and Bhaal, among others.
"At any matter," the man continues, obviously now in his element, "Cyric heard of this heresy. He sent a summoned army of miscreants - dragons, giants and the like - to attack Zhentil Keep. The Keep was soon sacked and was then put under siege by Cyric's minions. Meanwhile, Fzoul - the instigator of this crisis - had fled.
"The Citadel of the Raven, ruled by the wizard Manshoon and the nearest Zhentarim stronghold to the Keep, then informed the Keep's defenders that it would not send any aid - thus widening the schism in the Zhentarim ranks. To add to the mix, Iyachtu Xvim, a demipower and godson of Bane, freed himself from his extra-dimensional prison beneath the Keep. Soon thereafter, Fzoul declared himself the high priest of Xvim.
"In the spring of Year of the Gauntlet - 1369, by Dale Reckoning - the frost giant contingent of the besiegers of Zhentil Keep abandoned their allies and left for cooler climes. Soon thereafter, in the month of Mirtul, the other humanoids also quit their siege and defenders of the Keep.
"But that was not the end of the hard times for Zhentil Keep," Tomar solemnly pronounces. "In Eleasias of last year, during the heat of the summer, the rotting bodies of the dead brought a wave of plague and illness to the Keep. Scores of survivors from the awful siege succumbed to the horrible, and ultimately fatal, sickness brought on by the plague.
"A few months later, Fzoul returned to the Keep and established the high church of Xvim within its ruined walls. He installed a new lord - a man named Orgauth - as the military commander of the Keep. At the end of last year, Orgauth sent the Keep's rebuilt navy against that of Mulmaster. In doing so, he destroyed one of the Keep's primary rivals for dominance of the Moonsea region.
"The Zhentarim splintered even further earlier this very year," Tomar continues. "At the year's start, Sememmon of Darkhold - of whom you are now very aware of - purged his own stronghold of Fzoul supporters. In doing so, he further defined the battle lines within the former Zhentarim hierarchy.
"Some six months or so, in the month of Ches of this year, a high-level meeting of the rival lords - to include Fzoul, Sememmon, Manshoon and even Orgauth - was conducted at the Citadel of the Raven. It resulted in a chaotic firestorm of a battle as the lords' fiery words apparently turned to direct action. Some reports say that Manshoon was killed; but there have been sightings of that wizard since - at several times and at widely varied locations throughout the Heartlands and even in other regions of Faerun! Some rumors even place him at war with a clone - or clones - of himself! Regardless of all of this, the endstate would appear that Fzoul and his allies now control both the ruins of Zhentil Keep and the Citadel of the Raven. Sememmon of Darkhold, himself a former pupil of Manshoon, apparently separated himself and is now at odds with the Keep and the Citadel. Add to this mix the fate of Manshoon - which is still not completely resolved - and you have a Zhentarim organization that is suffering from severe internal conflicts.
The bookdealer pauses as he lets this information sink in. "I apologize for the deluge of facts," he says, "but that is the best and easiest way I can sum up the internal Zhentarim conflict. As a dealer in information, I have managed to cull together several tales of recent events. Some of this may be simply fantasy, invented by an idle mind and related through a string of bards and travelers. I am not sure whether any of this interests you. I suppose you are more interested in why Darkhold's soldiers would block the roads north of Corm Orp!"
"I didna know too much o' the troubles o' the Zhents," says Dolak. "I hadna worked this trail a'fore, and the troubles and strife that catch me ear are those that affect me job as a smith. Workin' the trade caravans between Berdusk, Waterdeep and points north, I know somewhat more o' the problems along the coast. Even there though, I know not the names, just the troubles.
"'Tis a' interestin' tale you weave, loremaster," the dwarf continues. "Raisin' money to fuel a conflict is an age-old tradition. It seems most likely t' me, that these lads ahead o' us may be strapped fer coin and are raisin' it the old fashioned way - tradeway robbery."
"It's a sad day indeed if the Zhents have to raise money by sending bandits to charge tolls," agrees Kjira. "In such a case, it would be a wonder they could afford to hire an assassin to hunt down master Tomar. And why would they even bother if they were so embroiled in troubles of their own?"
The lady mage glances over at the innocent-looking book merchant. "Unless, of course, he was an extreme threat to them..."
"Somewhat t' keep in mind, then." Dolak re-appraises Tomar before finishing his breakfast.
Once done, the dwarf announces, "I'm headin' back t' the cart and wagon t' catch a few more winks. The rest o' the group should be comin' back anytime. If'n they've not shown by midday, we might need t' go look for them."
"I think a few hours of rest sounds like an excellent idea," Kjira yawns having been up most of the night poring over the slain assassin's spellbook. "I'll retire to my room for a nap."
She then looks over at Tomar. "You'll wake us if you hear from the others?"
"Of course," nods Tomar. With that, the two adventurers depart the taproom and head their separate ways.
* * * * *
Cyzicus' Family's Homestead
Corm Orp, The Sunset Vale
Mid-Morning, 15th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Lucas rises with the dawn and finds that Cy's parents have already prepared a meal of fresh bacon and eggs. After eating the home-cooked fair, he returns to his room to study his spellbook and to attempt to cast an identification incantation on the magical items that the party took from the slain Zhentarim sorceress. He soon loses track of time as his concentration turns to his magical studies.
The morning is more than half over when the band of scouts returns to Cy's homestead. They find an exhausted but apparently pleased Lucas waiting for them.
Red eyed from the all night scouting trip and the days' before travels, Alani wearily plops her body onto one of the vacant beds. "I hope you have better news than we do, Lucas. The way I see it is, unless Lord Hultel sends out some men, we could be staying here for sometime. We figure there are maybe fifteen to twenty men there and I wouldn't doubt that there isn't a mage or two." Letting out a sigh and bringing her arms over her eyes to block the light, she adds, "And I bet there is a Cyrist or two in the mix, also."
Corax also sits down heavily on one of the diminutive beds. "Indeed," he announces, "probably a score or so of them. Definitely military - tents all laid out in a row and the whole bit. One small picket near the road and a roving patrol around the encampment. We only saw a dozen or so, but I'd bet there were at least that many holed up in their tents sleeping."
Alani sits up, wanting to take her mind of the problem at hand. She wearily smiles at the black robed mage. "So what has you smiling this morning, Lucas?" she asks, hoping for a bit of bright news.
"As I was telling the others," Cy announces, preempting any response by Lucas to Alani's question, "the thing that bothers me the most is that we appear to be the targets. From the way the camp is set up, they are not concerned with things outside of town, so they are not simply trying to stop merchants as they would use the road both ways, and they sport the same flag as the witch who attacked us."
"I agree Cy," Alani says as she shuts her eyes and begins to rub her temples in an attempt to fight back the beginnings of a headache. "I have been asking myself over and over just why would the Zhents get all this worked up just because someone inquired about a caravan of farming equipment heading to a desert."
Alani pauses for a moment as she covers her mouth and stifles a yawn. Looking to the males gathered in the room, the girl blushes slightly then continues. "Excuse me, it seems the last day is catching up with me, but I digress. It seems to me Master Tomar isn't telling us everything, or even worse, we may be being manipulated into something we wouldn't normally do. I don't know, perhaps the lack of sleep is just making me paranoid, but I smell something funny and it isn't hog manure," Alani finishes as she takes off her boots and begins to rub her tired feet.
Regaining his senses after a brief pause for digesting the information concerning the 'Truffle Hunt', Lucas addresses the others present. "After employing my skilled arts of Silverymoon, I have discerned the following about the two formerly unknown potions we were carrying. The blue potion is a potion of healing and the lavender potion is a potion of polymorph which will allow the drinker to morph into the form of another for a short while. The spell I cast is a little taxing, so I was not able to yet discern the properties of the dagger. We shall have to procure another pearl before we can attempt to cast this spell again, and I will need to rest the most of today, as well, to recover."
"Is there any way we can perhaps go around this roadblock? Or is force going to be our only viable option?" asks Lucas of the 'Truffle-Hunter' members of the present company.
"I doubt we will be able to circumvent the road block," Alani sighs as she continues to massage her tired feet, "and unless the Corm Orp militia is willing to help, a show of force is definitely out of the question. One sorceress almost ended our careers, just imagine what would happen if we tried to fight."
Setting down her foot, the elven scout lets out a sigh, "Nay Lucas, I believe our best course action will be to some how disguise our little group. And, if the gods our willing, we can just walk right through the roadblock." Looking to the tired halfling, Alani continues, "Cy, do you think the church will help?" she asks, her voice shows the fatigue she is feeling.
"But how would you propose we disguise ourselves?" asks Corax. "Surely they have some basic description of our group - if indeed they are searching for us. With the wagon, the mules, Dolak's cart, and our own unique mix of races, it would be difficult to convince someone that our group is not us."
"Aye, Corax, but the key words there are 'basic description'," the elven lass says as a smile crosses her face. "But what if we changed our appearance and maybe divided into two separate groups?"
Seeing that the gathered men our not quite following her, Alani explains further. "Appearances can be changed, if they are looking for our little group, then why don't we split up 'til we cross the roadblock?"
Alani pauses as she brings her hands to her chin and thinks for a moment. Suddenly, the girl smiles brightly as she continues, "Lucas, Kjira, and Cy can travel as a family returning home from spending the Higharvestide with their family. I believe Cy can pass as their son if dressed right," Alani winks toward the priest, "and Corax, Darius, and Soft Fang should be able to pass overland and bypass the road block without too much difficulty, I would think."
The scout pauses moment, again rubbing her temples. "I can change to a human boy with my magic and travel with Tomar as his grandson or what not. And who would question a gnome and a dwarf traveling from town to town plying their trade as blacksmiths?" Alani again pauses, looking to the men for their suggestions.
Corax frowns as he considers the proposal. "I can see your suggestions, and most of them appear workable," the rogue begins. "But if they are looking for an overweight merchant with a wagon load of books, I'm not so sure they'd be fooled by an overweight grandfather with a wagon full of books - if they took the liberty of searching the wagon for stowaways. There is also another danger is splitting up into so many groups. If one of the groups gets into trouble, there is little that the others could do to intervene before fate takes its course."
Darius nods his assent. "I agree with Corax; this may leave Tomar too vulnerable. Plus, it would leave these soldiers in control of the road even after we have passed. If we did indeed bring this whole roadblock about, should we truly leave the problem in the hands of the Corm Orp militia? What of restoring the balance?" the druid asks.
"I agree Darius," Alani retorts, "but what are we to do? I mean, we are few and there are at least two dozen Zhents!" the scout exclaims, her headache growing and her need of sleep overwhelming. "We can attempt an overland trip, but Tomar won't like it and I fear it won't be easy to track the wagons overland."
Pausing for just a moment, the elf pushes the long bangs out of her eyes, "Ya know, I am tired of hiding from the Zhents and I am more tired of Tomar's game. We have one of two choices - either we bust through the block or we leave Tomar. Either way, I plan on visiting Darkhold!" Alani exclaims as she again lays back on the bed and stares the ceiling, fight the sleep that is so desperately trying to claim her body.
Corax stands up, obviously mortified. "Abandon our charge! I don't know what things are like in the Grey Hills, Alani, but Cormyrians do not walk out on their responsibilities! I signed on to escort this merchant safely to Hill's Edge, I intend to do so."
"And if you want to bring some ethical argument into this," the rogue continues, "such as some sort of sinister motive on Tomar's part, consider this. If we abandon him, he will spread our names to every merchant and coster that he knows. We'll have to travel to Skullport before we can find someone who'll overlook our well-deserved reputation! I don't know about you all, but I would rather not resort to other methods by which to earn a living. I have tried them - and this caravan guarding is indeed preferable!"
"Calm yourself, Corax," Darius says, his gentle voice trying to soothe the disturbed rogue. "There must be a way through this. We did this scouting mission for the militia, did we not? I imagine they might have some ideas if we go to report to them."
Alani is taken aback by the rouge's words. "Nay, Corax, it isn't the way of my people the abandoned a charge, but it is also not the way of the Tel' Quessarir to be lied to and manipulated. Tomar isn't telling us everything; and to do our job, we need to know everything. The Zhentarim wants us dead and I want to know why. I will know why from either Tomar, or this Sememmon. Either way, I will get my answer," Alani says, her voice full of fire.
Suddenly the elven scout sighs. "I am sorry my friend, the lack of sleep seems to has stolen my self control. But I fear we have been involved in something we neither want nor can control. I just want answers and telling me that Zhents are work up over farm equipment just seems like a farce," Alani says quietly, not wanting to argue with her companions.
After listening to the debate on what to do, Lucas addresses the others. "I agree with Alani on some points; Tomar is not telling us everything. But like Darius pointed out, your 'truffle-hunt' was just to be a scouting report for the militia and us. Has the militia come up with a plan to break this roadblock? Perhaps we can join forces with the militia to break-through and continue on. I also do not wish to break our contract," adds Lucas as he pauses to see if any of the others wish to voice their concerns to this suggestion.
"I for one will not stand idly by and allow the Zhentarim to control access to my town!" Cyzicus says in a determined tone of voice. "And I would also prefer to continue my mission of guarding Tomar until he reaches his destination."
"And as for your suggestion about going to Darkhold itself, Alani," the halfling warrior-priest says as he turns to the elf, "you obviously have no idea of the power of that place. I have lived in the shadow of Darkhold my entire life," Cy continues, "and I assure you that it would take an army - not a group of adventurers that was almost bested by a single sorceress - to force an answer from its wizardly ruler. And the church will not be an asset - they worship nature and the harvest; they are not martial in their ethos or skills. I am the only one here who gives his fealty to The Defender."
"Now," Cyzicus continues, "I agreed to this scouting mission because it was sanctioned by Lord Hultel. Let us go now and give our report to him. He will also likely ask for a sketch of the encampment - does anyone here have any writing materials?" the halfling asks.
"Aye Cyzicus, I have some writing materials," says Lucas to the halfling. The black robed mage briefly digs into his ruck and presents the materials needed to sketch a map.
"Please be careful as the paper is costly," adds Lucas as he hands over the paper. "Let us all go over to see the militia leader once you have finished the map sketch. Is that okay with everyone else?" asks Lucas.
"Aye Lucas that sounds good. We also need to tell Kjira and the others what is going on." Alani says wearily.
"Unless someone here is a mapmaker I'll see what I can do," announces Cyzicus as he sits down with the paper and quill. Cy soon suits deed to word and makes a crude freeform map, noting the general location of the camp, the number of tents, the location of outguards and patrols, as well as the length of time its takes to complete a circuit.
Covering her mouth as the urge to yawn suddenly overtakes her, Alani continues as the moment passes. "I don't know about Cy or Corax, but I will need to get some sleep soon, else the only thing I will be doing is sleepwalking through the roadblock!" The scout smiles as the words leave her mouth.
"Oh, I'll be needing some sleep alright," agrees Cyzicus. "How 'bout we all get a nap and then make our way into town?" suggests one very tired halfling.
Looking to the map, Alani strains to try to remember if there was any detail left out. "Nay Cy, it seems right to me," the scout says wearily, "but I suggest we take the map to Lord Hultel before we nap. We also need to report in to Tomar, and I am sure Kjira is chomping at the bit wondering just what is going on," the girl says as she once again stifles a yawn but is unable to stop the growl of her stomach.
Looking to the men in the room the elven girl's cheek flush slightly. "Besides, I sleep better on a full stomach," she finishes as she slips on her boots.
"I agree," announces Corax. "I am also feeling the pangs of hunger after our all-nighter. And if the local sword swingers want us to take part in any direct action, I would prefer to be well rested! I vote with Alani - let us take this map to Hultel and then go to the inn to find the others and get some food. After that, we can rest and prepare for our next actions."
Darius nods as well. "Soft Fang and I will go off into the hills to hunt. We will meet the rest of you at the inn at highsun." With that, the druid and his wolf companion take their leave of the party and depart the homestead.
"Very well then, to town it is," Cyzicus announces. "One other thing; do we wish to make a copy of the map for ourselves? I am sure from our dealing in the past, that Lord Hultel will keep this one once he receives it," Cy says to the group at large.
"If we plan on doing anything about the encampment ourselves," Corax replies, "it would probably be a good idea to make a spare map. And even if we decide to sneak by the roadblock, it would make briefing the others more convenient. Go ahead and make the copy, Cy, then we can go into town and get some breakfast and some sleep," the half-elven rogue concludes as he stifles a yawn.
"Aye, we need a copy for ourselves as well," agrees Lucas. "I think I have another piece of paper..." he says as he looks through his rucksack again.
The conjurrer finds the paper and presents it to the halfling with a bow. Then he gathers his belongings quickly to follow the others to the inn.
Cyzicus carefully copies his homemade map onto a second sheet of the valuable paper. Then, the four remaining adventurers - Cyzicus, Alani, Corax, and Lucas - set out for the militia headquarters.
* * * * *
Corm Orp Militia Headquarters
Mid-Morning, 15th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Once again, the adventurers find a man clad in the town militia garb posted outside the simple stone building that serves as the militia headquarters. He watches the small group approach but then brightens on seeing Cyzicus.
"Master Cyzicus!" the man exclaims. "You have returned so soon! Lord Hultel was expecting you later this day. Wait here, let me see if he will see you."
The man ducks inside and disappears. A few short minutes later, he emerges once more.
Holding the door open, he says, "Lord Hultel will see you now."
Cy replies to the militiaman with a hearty, "Thank you, soldier." Turning to his companions he asks, "Shall we?" The halfling then makes his way inside.
Inside the stone building, the quartet discovers a room that is about fifteen or twenty feet square. Lord Hultel is seated at a table in the center of the room, having a low-toned discussion with another human male. Both of the armed officers look up as the adventurers enter.
"Back so soon!" Hultel exclaims when he sees Cyzicus and Alani. "And these must be the two companions you spoke of. Well then, waste no time; tell us what you discovered," he orders the small band.
Cy bows to Lord Hultel and hands him the original map. "Well met, Lord Hultel," he replies.
Then Cyzicus goes on to explain, "They seem to be only interested in stopping egress from the south," as he points out the position of the bandits as well as giving an estimate of their numbers. He next points out the perimeter as well as the direction and frequency of the patrols. The halfling fighter-priest then waits for any input that his companions may have as well as a response from Lord Hultel.
Bowing to Lord Hultel the elven scout remains silent as Cy explains the map to the Lord. She nods her agreement to the halflings estimated count of the Zhentish force, but remembers that she isn't out on the trail.
Alani remains silent and waits for Cy to finish. Than she adds, "As Cyzicus said, our numbers are only estimations. But I feel twenty-five or thirty men is a fair guess. And I would say at the least a mage and a dark priest," the elf adds as she steps next to the halfling.
Hultel nods as the two adventurers provide their assessment. He frowns at Alani's last statement. "A mage or dark priest, you say? What makes you feel that is so?"
"It is just a hunch," Alani replies. "I haven't had dealings with the Black Network, but about a day's ride outside Hluthvar my companions and I were lucky enough to camp with a patrol from the House of Guardians. They warned us about Darkhold patrols, and according to them an average Darkhold patrol usually consists of either a mage or a cleric," the elf explains, somewhat surprised that Hultel would ask such a question.
"But this road block is manned by two, maybe three times a patrol, it would be foolish to think there isn't " the elven scout pauses as she remembers once again just where she is and to who she is talking. "Forgive me M'lord, it has been a long night and my manners have seem to fled," she says calmly. "We know not if there is a mage or a priest, but I would rather say there is. There are times when being over prepared is beneficial," the scout finishes as her eyes focus on the wall behind Hultel, instead of his eyes.
"Indeed," Hultel replies. "I agree with your assessment. I had thought the same myself - I was merely trying determine what amount of experience you have with such matters. Forgive my subterfuge."
The militia commander pauses as he ponders the map and considers all that he has been told. After a few long and silent minutes, he finally looks up at the four travelers.
"I thank you for your selfless efforts in obtaining this information. This will indeed aid us in formulating a plan of action to take against these brigands. I fear we are pretty well matched. I can muster two, maybe three ten-man patrols. And I must admit we have no equivalent to a dark mage or cleric." He sighs and then adds, "But do not worry - our militia will find some way to deal with this problem. And then you and the other travelers can be on your way. You all look tired. Unless there is something else, you may take your leave. Thank you once again for this information."
Alani cuts her eyes towards Lucas and Corax and the two men immediately know that the scout intends to help. Next, she quickly looking towards Cy as the priest stands silent, seemingly in control of his inner turmoils.
"M''ord," Alani then says as she pulls her eyes from the Cy and looks Hultel in the eye, "I would like to volunteer my services. I am not but a simple trail scout, but if I can help I will do what I can," she promises. Though her body is screaming for sleep, the fire in her eyes shows the readiness of the young elven lass.
Seeing that Alani has finished, Lucas steps up to speak. "M'Lord, since we also share a concern in wishing to depart via the road these brigands hold, perhaps we all can aid you in clearing the rabble from the road. We have had dealings with a dark mage not too long ago, so maybe we can be of assistance in dispatching this one as well while your men deal with the more common foe. I am sure my companions will support me in this offer, as they also share no love for these brigands." The conjurer then pauses to see if Cyzicus or Corax wish to add anything else.
"Lord Hultel," begins Cyzicus, "know that I will give all aid I can in defense of my home. Up to and including my life if need be!" At this, the others in the room can see that his eyes almost glow as if they were windows to the flames of hell or the forge of justice; they hope it is the latter.
Then with these flames still in his eyes, the halfling adds, "If that is all for now, Lord Hultel, I would speak with one who may shed some light on these dark matters."
Hultel nods solemnly. "Do as you wish," he says. "I thank you for your offer of assistance. I will now start to develop plans with my lieutenants. We should have something decided by late this afternoon, if you wish to return."
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