By Brian Flood
Chapter 70 - As the Dust Settles
Along the Dusk Road
Five Miles North of Corm Orp, The Sunset Vale
Mid-Morning, 16th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Panting and somewhat concerned over the condition of his smithing supplies, Dolak finally catches his panicked mule. "Now that's a fellah, nice 'n easy, there," the dwarf says softly to the animal as he gently calms the animal.
Lucas looks past the dwarf and finally recognizes that the approaching group of riders is Lord Hultel and his patrol. He starts when he sees the patrol suddenly veer to the north. Focusing in that direction, Lucas sees a distance cloud of dust -- someone or something else is also coming to the camp.
Meanwhile, the stocky smith unharnesses the mule from the cart and then, with Lucas' help, manages to right the cart. He carefully rehitches the animal to the conveyance. Glancing back at the trail of discarded items, the dwarf sighs and leads his mule to the Zhent encampment with Lucas at his side.
As the two adventurers arrive at the camp, they see that Corporal Rossum and four of his riders have apparently captured Alani -- or at least someone that looks like her. The elf kneels at the eastern edge of the camp, near the body of a fallen Zhentilar soldier, with her hands apparently bound behind her back. A female rider stands with her sword bared and ready near Alani's throat.
"This one is a witch," Corporal Rossum tells the two arriving newcomers. "She changed her form to match that of your companion. When we got here, she was dressed in black robes.
"She killed her own man, there," the militia junior leader says with a gesture to the slain enemy soldier. "Treacherous, this one is."
Alani looks to the commander. " I am not the woman you believe me to be," the elven girl responds, trying to keep a confident tone although a blade is held to her throat.
"I entered the camp in the wee hour of the morning as was planned and waited 'til," the elf only looks to the dead soldier then back to the corporal as she speaks, " 'til it was reported to them of the caravan coming up the road." Pausing for a moment, Alani glances towards the mage and dwarf with a weak smile before continuing her explanation.
"When they left, I entered that tent," again, she only uses her eyes to indicate the tent behind her, "and knocked out the one who should be on her knees. I took her face when I saw riders returning towards the camp, not knowing whom it was. If you would look in the tent, you will see I am telling the truth -- for I bound and gagged her 'til all was settled."
Alani pauses, hoping that the others will at the very least investigate the tent of which she speaks.
Rossum waves at the girl and grunts. "We were told nothing of shapechanging magic and disguises. How do we not know that whomever is in that tent is truly the elven girl who came with Master Cyzicus to Corm Orp under some illusion and you are not some imposter in yet another magical disguise?"
"What say you, Master Lucas, Master Dolak?" the militia rider asks. "Can you vouch for this one? Did you know of this plan of illusionary tricks?"
Alani says nothing more in her defense for the moment, knowing the circumstances support the corporal's hypothesis. Instead, she looks towards Lucas, hoping he remembers the planning in Lord Hutel's headquarters the day before.
Looking to the guard who holds Alani at bay, Lucas replies, "Aye, she is with us. Check the tent and you will see it is as she says."
The militia riders begin to search the camp. Within a few minutes, they drag the unconscious body of a raven-haired woman in a red-trimmed black robe into the area between the tents. The woman's hands and feet are bound with bed sheets and an undergarment has been stuffed into her mouth to acts as a gag. With the discovery of this prisoner, the soldiers reluctantly release Alani from her own bindings.
Alani slowly rises to her feet, smiling to the guard as she cuts the bindings free. "Thank you," the elven girl says pleasantly.
"It is good to see you made it through all this, Alani," says Lucas. "It seems like this day would never end," he adds a sly smile. "Are you injured?"
"Aye, Lucas 'tis was a long morning indeed, but a morning that has ended with success," Alani answers with a playful wink at the mage.
"As for my wounds," she says, "it's just a scratch and really doesn't need any tending to." The elf passes for a bit looking toward the tied woman lying between the tents with a large bruise forming around one eye.
"Now hers she will remember for quite some time I wager," Alani adds with a satisfied grin.
Lucas sees to his wounds as well as those of his companions as the militia soldiers continue to search the Zhentarim encampment. A candlemark later, the riders have assembled two stacks of equipment and items within the campsite. The first contains bedrolls, spare cloaks, and the like taken from the smaller tents. The second stack contains a small coffer and several map or scroll cases as well as a collection of papers. Alani mentions that she took two rings and a handful of documents from the woman, as well.
Then, Lord Hultel arrives at the camp with his squad of riders. The Corm Orp leader dismounts his war horse and smiles broadly.
"Hail! The dust cloud to the north was from a small band of Zhentarim cavalry, riding this way. There were only five of them; they saw our greater numbers and fled. They probably ride to tell their masters of the defeat, here."
Hultel walks over to the slain Zhentarim soldier that still lies in front of the large round tent that produced the bound and gagged woman. He kicks the body over and studies the bloodstained tabard that covers the corpse's armor.
"Darkhold," he says definatively. "It is as we were told. This is the work of Sememmon."
Hearing the name of the wizard of Darkhold brings a grimace to the delicate elven features of Alani. For now, she remains silent, holding back any words of disgust and follows Hultel as the lord of Corm Orp walks towards the bound woman.
"I suppose this one knows many of the answers that we seek. But this is not the place. We should return her to Corm Orp and allow the priests to assist us in questioning her and seeing through her lies."
"Aye, I agree," says Alani. "She should rove to be a valuable source of information, m'lord. And I would ask if I may be nearby during such an interrogation?" Alani asks the question with respect, wanting a few answers to her own questions.
Hultel turns to regard the piles of equipment and scavenged items. Then looks over to Lucas. "What of all this? Do you intend to take it with you? If not, I suggest we throw whatever can be spared into these fires. Let all who come near know that the Zhentarim campsite is no more."
"Aye," the group's mage responds. "We shall take what is usable and burn the rest. Good show with your troops, m'lord. And yes, it is probably best to question the prisoner in town where she can be watched carefully. She might still have arcane power at her call so be careful moving her."
Dolak inspects his cart for damage that may have been inflicted by the routing of his mule. While he does so, Lucas and Alani gather up what valuables they and the militia can find in the encampment and load them onto Dolak's cart.
The dwarf, mage, elf walk back to the road, backtracking the trail created by the mule and cart. They manage to find most of Dolak's discarded smithing wares and materials. Behind them, a plume of smoke rises into the air as Hultel's soldiers cast the Zhentarim unit's possessions into the fire.
The three companions arrive back at the road to find that Cyzicus and Sergeant Sheela have organized the scene. The unconscious body of Lieutentant Tamara is strapped to the back of one of the militia horses. Those of Kjira and one of the militia outriders from the mock caravan, as well the the body of the slain militia rider, have been secured to the backs of three of the four captured Zhentarim horses. The captured Zhentarim soldier rides the last captured horse, watched closely by a mounted militia rider who also has the leads of Kjira's mule strapped to his saddle. Lastly, one other mounted rider is stationed beside Sergeant Sheela at the front of the column. Cyzicus rides the same horse as Sergeant Sheela as his pony was slain in the battle.
Laid out beside the road in neat rows are the bodies of fourteen slain Zhentarim soldiers, two militia horses, and Cyzicus' pony. A substantial pile of arms and armor taken from the dead foe is stacked nearby, as well as a small saddlebag containing pillaged coinage.
Dolak briefly glances over the wares, especially the blades, to check their general quality as he helps Lucas load as much as will fit into his cart. He notes that one of the weapons, a long sword most likely taken from the body of the Zhentarim officer, has faint runes that glow faintly in the midday sun. The rest of the arms and armor, while of quality steel, are not otherwise remarkable.
During the loading, the dwarf quietly asks Lucas and Alani, "What know ye of this Sememenon? I remember somewhat o' what the Helmites were a tellin' us after we battled his witch. But what other manner o' nastiness is this mage as like t' throw at us as not? What d' ye know about him, his ways, and his friends?" The stout smith finishes loading the cart and cinches down the tarp over the top.
"I believe that is the high mage of Darkhold," Alani answers before Lucas can speak up. "I remember my father saying something before I left Everska…" Her voice is somewhat reminiscent as she places the last of the gathered valuables in the back of the smith's cart while remembering the few meetings she was able to eavesdrop on.
"It seems like we have had this conversation, but perhaps more light can be shined on the subject when we return to Corm Orp and get a chance to go over the papers and other documents that were found," the elf finishes with a shrug.
Then, looking to the unconscious form of Kijra, Alani's face grows concerned. "Is she going to be alright?" asks, looking to the dwarven smith.
Dolak gazes briefly at Kjira's limp form before turning back to Alani "She'll not be gettin' better out here. I suspect she'll be tradin' barbs with Lucas soon enough, though. Once we're sittin' back in Corm Orp, that is.
"As fer that shadowy mage, I remeber somewhat o' the talks we had before. I'm jes tryin' t' figure out what 'e may throw our way next. He leads wit' a wizard assassin, and now sends us his troops. The first t' kill us, the second t' slow us down…
Dolak looks back at the still form of Kjira. "But yer right, we be needin' t' move along to get Kjira the help she's needin'. And we be needin' t' have this discussion wit' Master Tomar around t' lend his two bits. Are ye needin' t' do anythin' else here?"
Alani nods at the dwarf's words. "I am sure the woman we captured will have a few answers also," the elven girl remarks, smiling somewhat proudly. "I heard her called 'mistress', so I think she was the one in charge of this whole operation.
"It looks like the militia is about done here." The elven scout pauses as her almond-shaped orbs drift across the area in search. "I will be ready to go as soon as I find Corax's horse. I am sure he won't be to happy if I just leave the equine out in the wilderness," the elven girl says in a playful tone as she starts to move away in search of the horse.
Dolak nods at Alani, "I'll be finishin' with me cart 'ere in a moment er two. As soon as ya find Corax's Doom, I'll ask the militia commander and his men t' lead out. Perhaps Lucas's bird friend kin help ya find ole Doom, as well."
The dwarf turns back to his cart to inspect all the lashings as well as the mule and its rigging. His backpack is in the cart while his axe is slung across his back using the leather cord.
A short while later, with the aid of a militia rider, Alani has found Corax's horse, Doom, and returned to the main body at the road. With a wave of his hand, Lord Hultel starts the column's triumphant movement back to Corm Orp.
The content of The Sunset Vale Saga are the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Next Chapter Coming Soon!
Return to The Sunset Vale Saga main page
Return to Campaign Logs