Take 2

Duke Taveon at Last

The Duke is rescued, his motives revealed, a new mission

World Dates: 2010-07-21 to 2010-07-22

   Sin and Ser Issac looked around the wood close by to see if there was anything they could use. They realized that trying to carry the two bodies out was going to be exceedingly difficult if nothing happened, and near impossible if something arose. There wasn’t much at hand to use but trees and branches. It would take them a little while to hack through some limbs and branches and weave them into a pair of sleds; nothing pretty but probably ample enough to get the two out and they could drop them if need be. The two men started through the wood, carefully eying every step they made and they grunted forward. The sleds helped to lighten the loads a bit, but they dug into the soft ground.

   Sin noticed the large “N” burnt into a tree as they approached the giant spider’s lair and called a halt. He let Nessa down carefully and drew his blades while watching the chute the spider came down. There was no sign, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. Ser Issac made his way through first then turned, drew his blades after setting Duke Taveon down and waited for Sin to come through as well. Once both me were cleared, they resumed.
   A few steps past the spider’s chute, an odd smell assailed them and as they pushed forward a little further, they could tell it was something burning. A bit further and they found the clearing with the purple flowers was still ablaze, but the dampness had slowed the wild burn and it was only just now reaching the eastern side where they were at. The smoke was acrid and somewhat nauseating, but they pushed their way around the clearing, avoiding the smoke and making it to the other side.
   A few hundred more yards passed when the came to the rock at the fork. Ser Issac studied it longingly and then mentioned they might hurry from the wood if they were to head down the untracked path. It should only be a quarter mile or so to the edge of the wood and then they’d face a longer trek to the city, but they would get out faster. Both men thought about it and realized it might be better to stay their course and face the path they knew and so the shifted to the right and pushed on.
   Just shortly after pushing on they heard noises up ahead and their hearts sank. Both men cautiously laid down their charges and drew forth their blades. There wasn’t much room upon this little train and so they both edged into the wood slightly so they could fight near side-by-side. The noises grew closer; voices. They tensed until Sin recognized a few men from the Mystral’s Tryst and saw Sable just behind them. Rescue had arrived.
   It was a good sight to see Sable and a few of her crew and it would make the rest of their journey a might easier. Sin turned over Nessa to a couple crewmen, positioned three others in a triangular fashion around them and then picked up the left side of the other sled with Ser Issac since he would not trust his lord to another man while he was in such dire straights. There’d be money for nothing if the Duke passed on their way out.
   They pushed on a bit further and counted themselves lucky. Two of the crew noticed something to their right and while they argued about it being a will-o-the-wisp or not (one felt it was too large and looked aflame to be a will-o-the-wisp), the sight passed them by and soon they found themselves at the bodies they had left of the zombies. This was cause for a brief pause as they gathered a couple of their poisoned blades and placed them next to Nessa’s body to return with.
   The day crew colder and shorter as they pressed onward and the sun was setting when they finally exited the woods. The city had a few lights already lit about it and they trudged slowly toward it, the weight of the wood left behind and a newfound lightness in there step. The Blackwoods Inn was to be had just as the sun touched down on the horizon.
   The bulk of the sailors headed off toward the docks, only Sable and one other crew member staying behind to help get the bodies upstairs. The concierge looked upon them with some concern as they entered but didn’t know quite what to say and shied his eyes away as if he could make the fearsome sight go away by not acknowledging it.
   “We need a healer,” Sin bellowed at the man who had a sudden realization he had to face what was about to happen.
   “I’m sorry sir, but the night has fallen and not a healer I know would be available this time of night. Had you arrived a bit earlier I could have sent a runner, but I’m sure they’ll all be abed by now or soon.”
   “I don’t care if they’re sleeping or banging, wake someone up and get them over here!”
   “I’m sorry sir, I just really couldn’t do that. It would not be proper to disturb men of their status this time of the eve.”
   Ser Issac had let down Duke Taveon during the discourse and so reached into his pouch and pulled forth a small bar. He tossed the mark upon the counter and simply said, “make it happen.” There was no further argument as the concierge lifted the piece, nodded his head and disappeared.
   The four of them carried the bodies slowly up the stairs and to the room they had rented just yesterday. It seemed so odd that they had only arrived just yesterday with as hard fought as the day had been, but it was so. Road weary, they laid the bodies upon the bed of Ser Issac’s room and settled themselves down to the floor for a bit of rest, though sleep was near out of the question until the healers had come and gone.
   Sable sent her man to fetch food from the kitchen for all of them and became the encourager and ray of light for a bit. Both men were beaten down physically and mentally and neither was wholly happy with the choices that had to be made, but they made them and carried on even though it left friends with unknown fates. The hours started to drag by and as eleventh bell tolled, there finally came a knock at the door.
   Sin and Ser Issac had their weapons ready in a moment as Sable moved towards the door. She opened it but a crack and stared outside at the man that introduced himself as Renly the Asclepieion and he pushed forth an oaken staff carved with a serpent wrapped around it as proof of his profession. This staff was finer than some of the others Sable had seen and actually had gray gemstone eyes.
   She let the door open the rest of the way and invited Renly inside. He took quick notice of the apparently slumbering forms and moved toward Duke Taveon first. He examined him briefly, looking at his hands and neck and then doing a quick feel around his body. Everyone waited tensely and then he took his staff and touched it to the Duke’s head as he muttered a quick prayer to Asclepius. Nothing apparently happened but he continued to chant, the prayer repeating itself another verse and then he moved off.
   He did to Nessa as he had done to Duke Taveon, starting with her hands and neck and then examining her body. He gave an upturned eyebrow as he run his fingers under her back but he said nothing. He stood and level his staff toward her, touching the head of the snake to her brow as he started his prayer once again. He continued with it, the chant repeating twice this time and then his brow furrowed and he looked at Sin and Ser Issac.
   “She resists the healing of the gods and there is nothing I can do again for her till the morrow. Mayhap she would be better off in our care at the temple where she can be watched and ministered to by the acolytes with oils and droughts?”
   Sin nodded. “But, she can’t go like this.”
   The Asclepieion looked at him with a slight quirk of his head. “Then how can she go?”
   “We’ll get her changed into something less adventuresome first where she can be ministered to more adeptly.”
   The Asclepieion nodded in understanding and then backed away. Sin and Sable stripped her bare and then laid a fresh tunic and belt upon her body from her pack. The two of them gingerly carried her down the stairs and outside where the healer had the foresight to have brought a cart. They pondered quickly as to what foresight he might have had, but then let those thoughts slip away as Sin asked Sable if she would accompany Nessa to the temple and see she was well cared for.
   The cart slowly eased away as Sin returned upstairs to find Ser Issac sitting upon the floor once again, eying the bed with some measure of desire. Sin looked at him, looked at the bed and then smiled and motioned that he should take it as he sat lotus-like upon the floor, thinking he might meditate for a few so they could trade watches throughout the night. They had Duke Taveon now and he was damn sure they weren’t going to lose him again.

   Shane didn’t really hurt, but he was a little groggy and cold. He realized he was laying upon something hard, probably the ground and he felt as if he’d been stripped. He blinked his eyes open to see a strange landscape of darkness and twisting lines of magic before him. The lines wrapped around a large room, descending in some predefined pattern and two of the lines came down to him and wrapped around his wrists as cold metallic bracelets.
   He was sure he was captured and as sure he was locked up tight somewhere and he hoped he was still within the caverns he had been in. There was no way to know just how much time had passed, but he felt it couldn’t have been too long even though he was a bit hungry and thirsty and other bodily functions were needing to be handled in short order as well. Still, it was a horrible position to be in.
   He intoned a brief word as he pointed his finger generally down and a fire sprung from the rock. Another intonation and it danced up into his hand where he could hold and direct the flow of light a bit. He was in a large room, larger than could be illuminated by such a small fire, and saw bodies around the perimeter, each with a chain binding them and collecting at the top of the chamber as some type of magic device or system. He chanced a detection spell upon the chains but got nothing he didn’t know.
   He was naked except for his underclothes and the cold stone was very hard and chilled him through the thin fabric. With the light, the body next to him started to move a little and moan softly. He looked over at the backside of what appeared to be a ten or twelve year old girl who was a bit on the chubby side and who was completely naked. She moaned a bit more, seeming as if she were going to come around, but couldn’t quite make it to consciousness. He reached out his foot and nudged her a bit as he cried at her.
   After a few nudged and cries, she finally came to and she rolled around, bound as he was, and looked at him with fear in her eyes. He beamed at her as he realized she wasn’t the girl he thought she was, but was instead a young woman of the gnomish variety, who, while of average comeliness, was enough to stir his loins for a moment even here. “I’m Shane,” he said smiling at her.
   “What…where is this place? How did I get here? What’s going on?” She was scared, nervous and apparently had little to no recollection of what had happened to get her into this mess.
   Still, Shane wasn’t so concerned about her fears at the moment as he was about escape and other plans. “What’s your name?”
   She stammered a bit as she tried to cover her charms but found her two hands were lacking in range and count as she sheepishly said, “Ella….of Frell.”
   “Well Ella, we’re chained up here in a dark elf cave, somewhere underground in the Blackwoods. We seem to be the only two alive, or at least moving, and I plan to keep things that way and get us out of here in the short term.”
   He held out his hand to her as she tried to get to her feet. Once there, she found she had more play with the chains and a little more freedom, but it didn’t help her modesty at all. Shane got to his feet as well and held out his hand to her. “Let’s do this,” he offered.
   She took his hand hesitantly and he offered up the words of magic quickly. They only moved a short ways, but it was enough to get them half way across the room and free of their bonds. It also had the side-effect of leaving Shane as naked as she, and while she felt that was a bit more fair, he strode across the room to reacquire his small clothes and cover his manhood.
   ’ve not seen a man in your condition,” she blushed.
   “Well, there’s a first time for everything. Now, why don’t you come back here and make it look like we’re chained up a bit more. I need to rest if I’m going to do anything else.”
   She crossed the room to sit by him, unsure as to what else she might do. It was cold in here, colder so for her without any small clothes and then it was dark as he let the light lapse so he could recover his magics. They sat that way for a while in the darkness, neither saying a word nor able to see one another. Finally, after what seemed an eternity to her, the light came back and into his hand.
   They stood and started toward the exit at last with Shane in the lead and Ella behind him. They made their way into the passage and found it was short and “Y”ed almost immediately. To the left, they both heard voice, male voices with one saying “I don’t care about your wishes, I want that entrance sealed immediately and more troops brought down. Now obey me.”
   There was a moment of silence in which they thought something should happen but it didn’t. Finally Ella asked if it was safe and Shane erupted inside. He knew that if they were close enough to hear, then their enemy was close enough as well. He backed up just a step and prepared, the spell ready so he could lash out at anyone rounding the corner. They waited as seconds past, but nothing happened and nobody came.
   When nothing happened after nearly half a minute, Shane peaked slowly around the corner and saw the cavern beyond was lightly lit but he could see nobody within. He waited and then finally dropped the flame in his hand and stepped around the corner, motioning for Ella to stay close behind him.
   They stepped forward only four steps and then they were in the cavern. Ahead and to Shane’s left was an elf, sitting in an iron chair. The elf looked at him without worry, without emotion. “My snacks have gotten loose, I must bind them back up it seems.”
    started walking slowly toward the elf while the elf stood and withdrew his blade. The blade was apparently made of glass, long and nearly clear and he handled it as if it were an extension of himself. Shane took another step forward and then the elf shot a stream of fire from his fist. Shane deftly ducked out of the way, but Ella wasn’t well versed in combat it appeared and she took the blast square to her shoulder and screamed.
   Shane had little recourse left to him and realized the only way they were getting out was to teleport. He reached back and grabbed Ella as he incanted and they immediately found themselves queasy, disoriented and standing in the warmth of the grass just afore the Blackwood with the city of Hyrnan just a short distance away.
   Shane sat upon the ground as Ella tried her best to cover herself again. It was bad enough to be naked around a stranger in a cave, but to be naked around a stranger out in the open was another problem. Still, there wasn’t anything to do about it and as she eyed the woods thinking she might find some large branches or something, Shane bid her to stay lest dangers befall her. And so, she waited, shuffling her feet back and forth as Shane recovered.
   At last, Shane stood and stretched and started marching down the rutted wagon track toward the city. It took then half an hour or so to make the walk and then they entered the darkened city. While most of the lights were off, there were a few here and there and Ella felt very naked until she finally managed a hanging sheet and wrapped it around her. They were close to the Blackwoods Inn and she followed Shane into the Inn.
   Shane stopped at the front desk and asked the concierge where his room was and was told it was the same as it had been the night before. The concierge was somewhat taken aback at their attire, but said little more as they walked upstairs and to Ser Issac’s room. Shane opened the door, bursting in and was met with drawn swords before the door hit the wall.
   Sin smiled and bellowed as he slid his sword away. Ser Issac slipped his away too. Shane looked him square and said, “You owe me $300,000 for my armor and stones.”
   Ser Issac smiled at him then laughed out loud and said, “Put it on my tab.”
   “This the guy…Ferdinand?” Shane almost missed and used the Duke’s name, but managed to catch himself.
   “Aye, it’s him. We managed to get the four of us out by our short hairs,” answered Ser Issac.
   “Yes. We tried to get him healed, but the healers weren’t able to bring him all the way. They couldn’t do anything for Nessa either and so they took her to their temple where they could watch her and try again later.”
   Shane looked around the room and saw Nessa’s wand with the shrunken head atop it. He snatched it up, crossed the room and tapped it to Duke Taveon as he blasted out a healing spell and the Duke’s eyes fluttered and he finally awoke. Ser Issac laughed out loud again and moved quickly to his side.
   “Shane, who’s the girl,” Sin finally asked.
   “Oh her,” Shane said jerking his thumb in her direction. “She’s Ella from some frelling place in Caithness. I rescued her from the dark elves and she’s been following me ever since.”
   “It’s not like I have anywhere else to go just yet,” she retorted. “Not like I even have clothes,” she sobbed yanking at her sheet.
   Sin looked at her and offered up his room. “Why don’t you head across the hall and take your rest and we’ll see what we can do with you in the morning. Go on, it will be alright.”
   Ella looked around the room at the four men there and decided she really didn’t want to be there anyway and so she backed out of the room. Across the hall was another door as she’d been promised and it held a large, comfortable bed that she was able to curl up in, warm herself and feel safe and comfortable for a bit before falling asleep. She hadn’t been up long, but she was still hurt from the fire, tired from the walk and worn from her shame.
   Meanwhile, in the other room, Shane was ranting and very angry about the loss of his gear and wanted to storm back into the dark elf caves and kill them all. Sin was trying to calm him and placate him just a bit and forestall any more demands that Ser Issac or the Duke reimburse him for his gear and tried to tell him he should be happy just to be alive and then they heard the Duke and Ser Issac speaking, but only caught the last line as Ser Issac assured the Duke, “they are men of honor and you can trust them.”
   Both Shane and Sin turned back toward them and approached. “Your Grace,” Sin started, “We are glad we could be of service. It is our duty to fulfill your journey to Tredroy but we may be more effective if we know what is happening here and why. Why are you here in a dark elf cave riding alone from city to city?”
   “It is a sad story I assure you and the tale is worsened by words of war. My son Kel and his wet nurse were kidnapped a while back when it became apparent I might side with the Southron Lords and send troops to Tredroy instead of westward. They have given me a chance, but the chance will take me away from dealing with the politics of Tredroy.
   “Ser Issac tells me though that you are men of honor and men I could trust to see my son returned whilst I travel south and deal with the governors of your fair city. If you will take that mantle, I shall leave my man to take my place and become Ferdinand. What say you?”
   Sin thought about it for only a moment. It was imperative the Duke get to Tredroy and get there soon if there was any chance they might repel the Cardien forces. The only way that was going to happen was if they took up his mission. It might give them an in with a powerful noble as well, especially since they were still in the volunteer portion of their jobs and hadn’t seen coin for anything in the past month. “We’ll do it.”
   “That is good. We should make haste for Bannock in the morning where I’ll find passage south through al-Wazif.” The last bit he said with more contempt than he probably wanted to show, but it fell through nonetheless. “I might even owe you a favor should you manage this process.
   “But I should put a warning to you. If you fail me in this, I shall withdraw whatever negotiations I have with your fair city and turn my forces toward those men that have my son. There will be only one chance for all of this and my son must come home safely. Do you understand?”
   Both men nodded their heads and then Shane turned and stormed out yelling something about catching Nessa and getting her back on her feet and then he was gone. Finally, Sin and Ser Issac bedded down as well, but they were wary of anything else happening and so would sleep with one eye open.
   Shane made his way into the city. He’d had a chance to get himself dressed once again, but he still felt naked without his armor and arms. He was glad Sin had recovered his swords at least but he wanted the rest of his things. He was tempted by the wand in his hand to return to the cave and take on the elf by himself to get back his gear. It was seriously tempting, but he didn’t know how much power was left in her wand and he wanted her healed anyway.
   He marched around the city, looking for the temple of Asclepius as there were few people on the street and he didn’t wish to speak with anyone as well. It took his quite some time and he was tired or walking, tired or this city and tired of this mission, but he finally found the place and stomped his way inside. There were a few acolytes around and they pointed him toward Nessa when he yelled at them and then he forced his way to her, stomped up and laid the wand on her and tried a full healing and her eyes fluttered.
   “He’s awake and we’re leaving in the morning,” Shane stated flatly and then he dropped the wand on Nessa, turned and left.
   Sable and Nessa hurried to their feet and followed Shane who marched straight back to the Blackwoods Inn and roused the concierge who roused one of the cooks to aid Shane in his pickling. Both women got the full story from Shane about what went on, even about the the girl sleeping in Sin’s room. The night passed on as they drank and eventually they managed their rooms and a brief respite of sleep.

   The next morning came and everyone prepared. The rooms were paid for, the cart and horses loaded and sent to the ship with Ser Issac and the Duke.
   Sin entered his room and found the girl still asleep in his bed. She had wriggled and twisted so that she was no longer covered. She was short, chubby and marginally attractive. He sneaked forward and pulled the sheet up over her and then shook her awake. She came awake relatively easily and pulled the sheet close to her as she looked Sin up and down.
   “So there…Ella. What are we going to do with you.”
    “I don’t know. I don’t really know what I’m doing right now, don’t know why I’m even here.”
   “What is it you do. There’s not much you can do right now, but if you’re useful….”
   “I’m an engineer. I like to build things primarily from metal.”
   “An engineer huh? We could really use someone like that right now and I know Sable could probably use the help on her ship as well. What say we get you clothed and see how you do and go from there?”
   “That sounds good I suppose.”
   “Good then. I’ll get you one of Nessa’s tunics and then we need to be moving. We need to be in Bannock by nightfall.”
   To his word, Sin brought one of Nessa’s tunics and brought Nessa with him as well and left the two girls to help each other. Nessa saw her wound and was able to heal her as they tried to get a tunic that fitted a little better than another. With that done, Nessa helped her out and the two made their way to everyone else and eventually down to the docks and aboard the ship.
   They had Ferdinand Antigua and Roberts of Craine stowed in a cabin of their own and then found a room for Ella from Frell as well. Once they were underway, Sin gathered Shane, Nessa and Sable together to make sure they were all aware of what was going on and what their new mission was going to be. Everyone understood and they went their own way for a few hours until they arrived in Bannock just after supper time.
   Roberts took Sin, Shane, Nessa and Ella into the city and back to the Sprinklin Inn. He paid for their lodging with individual rooms for all and paid for their horses and cart to be tended as well. Meanwhile, Ferdinand made his way to the Inn as well so he could meet with the next leg of his journey so that he could then easily pass it onto the rest of the group afterward.
   Once everyone was settled, Roberts took Shane and Ella shopping. For Shane, he would purchase him new armor with the best enchantments he could afford on a budget and then he managed to find a few Powerstones, the largest ones they could find, and purchased them as well. Ella would have some basic clothes and gear purchased for her so she could give back Nessa’s tunic and then they would return to the inn for the night and wait till morning..



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