The small quarters were cramped, damp and had an unpleasant odour. Nevertheless, the heroes felt they at least provided safety from anything else lurking in the catacombs beneath Radigast City.
Tyrion was taking his turn on guard. He kept his head slightly inclined against the secret door, but allowed his gaze to fall on his companions. An odd grouping, but no odder than the previous group he had been with, the ones who failed to solve the mystery of the Keep on the Shadowfell. He had wanted very much to deal with that evil up close and personal but a lucky (so he told himself) shot by Ninaran had crippled his leg…and with only Sister Lenore’s helpful but non-magical treatments, it had taken Tyrion a great long time to heal. By the time he had, another group had dealt with the priest of Orcus, Kalarel… and killed Niniran in the process. How he had wanted revenge upon her… too late now.
Bahl was sleeping in a sitting position, back straight up against the wall. Perfect posture…even when he sleeps! thought the ranger. The invoker even maintained his classic stern expression; if it weren’t for the rhythmic breathing, Tyrion would not be sure he was even sleeping. How much rest can one get when one is THAT intense? he wondered.
Fynn was curled up in the corner and did not seem to be sleeping comfortably either. In his case, it was because both hands were clutching his gold-purse, so he was awkwardly placed, to say the least. Tyrion thought the priest also had one eye open, but when he looked closer they were closed…until he looked away, then he could swear his peripheral vision caught the eye open again. He chuckled at the cleric’s idiosyncrasies and instead looked over the remaining two companions.
Michael was propped up in the other corner with his arm draped protectively over Chaedi. The warlord had taken a real liking to the elf, an affection Tyrion had misread as lust at first; Michael‘s predilections were well-known in the mercenary circles both travelled in. It soon became obvious, however, that he had adopted a more brotherly type of affection for her, and she clearly felt it was safe to be in his arms like she was… or maybe it was just her wide-eyed innocence. Tyrion didn’t buy that act for a second. He knew Chaedi was a ranger in the Brothers of the Bronze and heard she had more humanoid kills than most of her peers, numbering in the hundreds. That part, I believe he thought, remembering how she had rained death on anyone that caught her attention in the last fight before they rested. Does anyone become that good at killing and maintain the level of innocence Chaedi liked to show, what with her phrasing everything as a question and such? He doubted it. He would have entertained those doubts more, but he heard footsteps near the door. Armored footsteps. He pressed his ear to the door and when he was sure the footsteps had passed by, he stealthily opened the door to ambush the intruders from behind.
Damn Stromm and his machinations, he thought, not for the first time, as he silently slid the door open. Made all sorts of enemies for us; drow, duergar, githyanki and gods know what else! He was determined this time to get the drop on whichever of them had nearly discovered their hiding place.
A few paces ahead, he saw his quarry. A strong-looking woman in plate armor wielding shield and mace led her companion away from Tyrion‘s position. He could have sworn he saw tiny electrical sparks coming from her mace when it brushed against the stone wall. Her companion was an eladrin who sported a faraway look as though he were lost in thought. Tyrion spied the rod he held in his left hand; the ranger knew he was a spellcaster at that point, and therefore the first target to take out.
Creeping as silently as he could, the ranger took both blades in his hands and when he was certain he could reach the eladrin, charged forward. His massive bastard sword scrapped the stone however, and the eladrin turned around, startled out of his reverie. Tyrion rushed him, bringing both heavy blades in a downward slice, knowing that even if the eladrin brought up the rod to block, he’d cut right through.
It was no rod that met the ranger’s strike, however. All of a sudden, the eladrin was wielding a huge sword that seemed to be made of flickering starlight! He met the ranger’s attack and then vanished, reappearing behind the woman who by now had rushed to meet them. While she was in a defensive stance and seemed ready to fight, she did not initiate any attack. Instead, she sternly asked “Who are you?”
Tyrion was about to resume his attack when he saw the Nyrond coat of arms on her shield. He paused; his mind considering the possibilities…an eladrin accompanying a soldier of Nyrond? Intrigued, he answered her. “I am Tyrion Brax. Now identify yourselves intruders, because believe me your lives depend upon your answers.”
The woman dropped out of her stance and relaxed. Putting her mace at her belt, she extended her hand. “Well met. I am Sir Olivia, knight of Nyrond. My companion is Norraddin, arcanist of the Feygrove. We come on behalf of Lord Padraig of Winterhaven and Gardmore Abbey.” The eladrin’s blade had disappeared and he had his hands crossed in front of him as he bowed in greeting.
Tyrion did not relax. “How did you come to look for us here?”
Olivia smiled. “After a discussion with one Lorencin Krueger. We found that one thanks to the spirits my eladrin companion commands, along with some ‘official’ documentation provided by my father.”
“And who is that?”
Tyrion hoped he had successfully hidden the surprise on his face at the knight’s words but could tell from her smirk that he had failed to do so. He lowered his weapons, looked them over, had an internal struggle, then said in a low voice “Follow me.”
The rest of the group were awake when Tyrion brought the strangers in. After some initial hesitancy, they all introduced themselves. Bahl, with another stern look on his face (How many variations does the man have? thought Tyrion), asked the obvious question: “Why are you here, exactly?”
Olivia nodded her head. “Excellent question. We’re here because what is happening here now concerns Gardmore Abbey. That being the case, my father and Lord Padraig felt it might be important to have ‘official’ representation for Gardmore’s interests: myself to represent the northern Nyrondese military under the command of my father and Norraddin to represent the eladrin within Gardmore. Had we known things were foing to work out this way, you all would have been knighted or something before leaving, but… I guess we’ll take care of that later.”
Bahl was not satisfied. “But how do you know what’s going on here?” he asked, still with a stern expression.
Olivia hesitated, then shrugged her shoulders. “The ambassador for Nyrond here specializes in divination magic, like most ambassadors do. She also has a decent network of spies, though they are rarely used; this is the capital city of one of our country’s only reliable allies. When the ruckus your group caused stirred things up, she began investigating and sending reports via magic back home… but not to Rel Mord. To her husband, who serves with my father. That’s why we were able to do this without the king knowing. The less he interferes with us up north, the less likely a revolt happens. Sometimes I doubt the Throne knows just how close the northern lands are to full revolution.”
“So you’ll be journeying with us, then?” asked Chaedi, hopefully.
Olivia smiled. “Not exactly. Mordekai has asked me to tell you that the Brothers of the Bronze are holding an important meeting to which he may not be able to attend… and he wonders if you might go in his stead.”
“We’ll be fine, lass,” reassured Fynn. “These two seem like they might be good in a pinch, even if we’ll be missing your bow.”
“You’ll be missing my sword-arm as well,” said Michael has he got up to go with Chaedi. “No offense to the ambassador’s magical talents, but someone should give a first-hand account of what’s transpired here…and begin fortification of the Abbey in case this mission fails.”
Olivia nodded seriously. “I had hoped one of you was going to offer something like this. I totally agree…it’s the path of caution.”
“It seems so, little sister,” he responded with a smile.
” ‘Little sister?’ ” she asked. “What am I, about eighty years older than you?”
“May I suggest going back the way you came, waiting for nightfall, then setting out in due haste,” said Olivia. “No need to let our enemies know our movements.”
Behind her, Norraddin nodded seriously.
Michael nodded, then he and the elf said their goodbyes and headed down the corridor.
The rest of the group filled in their new colleagues about the goings-on, some of which they were familiar with.
“What we do know for sure… Stromm is somewhere in these tunnels,” finished Fynn.
“What do you intend to do when we find him?” asked Norraddin.
Noraddin arched an eyebrow and turned to Olivia.
She sighed. “Ok, let’s just play that one by ear, ok?”
They got ready to head back out into the catacombs… each wondering just what was waiting for them out there.
They had no idea…