After what had seemed like the longest walk of her life, the group had made it back through the tunnel and back into Greenest Keep. Governor Nighthill had met with the group & asked for a recounting of the events at the mill. Reezka, leaning heavily against the wall had listened to Verina tell him what little they had learned while reassuring him that all the cultists and guards at the mill had been dealt with. Nighthill seemed relieved that there was no immediate danger to the town’s grain stores and had given each of the party a healing potion as a small token of thanks. He told them that not much had changed while they had been away, the dragon was still circling the town whilst making the occasional sweep down towards the top of the keep.There had been sightings of a potential leader though; a woman in a large headdress and vivid purple robes. She seemed to be in charge but she was surrounded by a large group of heavily armed guards. Nighthill’s frustration was clearly visible - his town was under siege from a host of creatures and he wanted answers. Pacing distractedly back & forth he had asked the group if they could bring in a cultist alive - perhaps then they could get an idea of why this group was here and what their purpose was.
Suddenly there was a shout from the floor below where they were standing and a cultist darted across the floor from a side door. Before Reezka could even react, Nighthill’s hand moved like lightning & the cultist fell dead, a gleaming silver knife embedded in his skull. The Governor had whirled around to face the group and snapped out an order to go and find Escobert and capture a prisoner they could get answers from.
The group made their way towards the side door where the cultist had come from. Pausing just beyond the now closed door they could hear the sounds of battle; shouts, inhuman cries and the ring of steel on steel. Quick as a flash, Reezka, with Stei close on her heels, wrenched the door open and leapt forward into the room. Inside was a scene of carnage; Escobert was standing in the middle of the room surrounded by several dead kobolds and cultists. Even as they watched he dispatched the last one with a sweep of his handaxe.
“The bastards forced open the sally door!” he grunted. “Stay here and make sure no more get in, I’m going to find someone to repair the entrance. With that Escobert the Red rushed back through the door they had come in by, slamming it behind him. A quick glance around the room revealed that the walls were lined with barrels and crates which gave Reezka the idea to build a low barricade in the open doorway, perhaps to provide them a bit of cover and stop them from being overwhelmed. All at once there was a scramble of movement and a blue drake climbed over the makeshift barricade and leapt, jaws open and hissing, at Reezka, followed closely behind by a cultist wearing the robes of an acolyte and 4 kobolds. Before she could even raise her shield the drake was on her, biting deeply into her flesh. Stei and Verina were the swiftest to react; Stei had stabbed it with his spear and followed that up with a savage kick to the drake’s head whilst Verina blasted the creature with a bolt of magic. Before the drake could turn and rush towards the warlock, Reezka, who had been struggling to raise her axe with her injuries, managed one lacklustre swing, scoring the creature across it’s scales. The drake gave a loud hissing growl and leapt at her again, biting and tearing at her once more. With a bellow of agony she went down, struggling and fighting to get the drake off of her. But the world was gradually turning black and cold and soon Reezka knew nothing more…..
When Reezka next opened her eyes, Stei was kneeling over her, binding her wounds as best he could with supplies from his medicine kit. Glancing around she realised that all their attackers were dead, except for the acolyte who Stei had managed to knock out so they could take him to Nighthill for questioning. There was also a young fellow standing over her, someone Reezka didn;t recognise. Even as she looked at him, he mumbled a few words asn Reezka felt her pain diminish. “Be calm.” came the voice of Escobert from somewhere near the barricaded door. “He’s an apprentice wizard and he’s come to fix the broken door. But he knows a few healing spells so I asked him to fix you folks up first.”
Staggering slightly, Reezka got to her feet, with a nod of thanks to both Stei and the young wizard. As she flexed and stretched her limbs, assessing the damage the drake had inflicted, out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of movement beyond the open sally door where the wizard had begun to repair the broken door. Stepping forward, axe at the ready, Reezka peered out into the darkness. Her eyes adjusted quickly to the scene in front of her and she saw a small, rotund boy running as hard as he possibly could towards the keep, being pursued by a group of howling kobolds, cultists and a guard. Hesh wanted to slam the door shut as soon as it was repaired, to keep out any more intruders, but Reezka couldn’t bring herself to abandon the boy to his fate. Quickly she positioned herself, Verina and Hesh at the open door and fired off a crossbow shot at the kobold nearest the boy. Verina swiftly followed suit and 2 kobolds fell dead, causing the rest of the group to trip or stumble over their prone bodies. With a last huge effort the boy flung himself through the door and fell gasping to the floor as the sally door slammed shut and locked firmly behind him.
Stepping over to the boy Reezka could see that he was a younger child, maybe 11 or 12 and dressed in the robes and sandals of an apprentice priest. He was also quite a chubby, round faced boy and his recent exertions had left his sweating, out of breath and smelling as strongly as a pigsty in summer. Hesh wrinkled his snout and stepped away from the boy, clearly bothered by the smell. Despite her keen sense of smell Reezka was unfazed by the boy’s stink, she’d spent enough time around farms to not let things like that bother her. Suddenly there was a muttering behind her and the heavy smell of sweat was replaced with the scent of wildflowers. Puzzled, Reezka looked around and caught sight of Verina lowering her hands. Clearly the dragonborn wasn’t the only one put off by the boy’s pungent odour.
Looking just as puzzled as Reekza, the now fragrant boy pushed himself to a sitting position and began to talk, in a great long babbling stream of words. From what Reezka could make out, his name was Billy and he had come from the sanctuary down in the main town. There was a group of about 40 villagers who had rushed there when the fighting had broken out. They had managed to hide there safely for a while but now the place was under siege. Escobert listened in growing alarm and then led the boy out of the room so he could let Nighthill know what was going on down at the sanctuary. Left alone with the unconscious acolyte the group decided that they needed to first wake him up and then bring him to Governor Nighthill for interrogation. Verina used the same spell to create a strong odour in the nostrils of the acolyte which caused him to cough and splutter himself awake. Before he could fully comprehend where he was, Reezka grabbed him none too gently by the throat and dragged him back into the keep to find Governor Nighthill. They came upon the Governor on the ground floor of the keep and the moment he laid eyes on the acolyte, who had clearly decided that trying to escape the grip of a half orc was not something he was going to succeed at, he clenched his jaw and launched himself forward to give the man a hefty shot to the face. The acolyte staggered backwards and Reezka was hard out to keep him from collapsing to the floor, such was the force of the punch. “Bring him this way.” Nighthill growled out and stamped off towards a small door set into the opposite wall of the keep. Dragging the acolyte with her, Reekza found herself in a types of dungeon with a number of small cells, all of which were empty. Nighthill motioned her to being the acolyte over to a nearby cell where a metal chair sat in the middle of the room, thick leather straps attached to the arms and legs. It was the work of moments to strap the man in tightly, he offered no resistance but Reekza wasn’t sure how easily he would talk. Positioning herself behind the chair she watched and listened as Nighthill, Hesh and Verina took turns in trying different methods to get the man to talk. They had little success until Verina used another spell to change her appearance into that of a hideous demon. Even Reezka was alarmed and stepped back from the warlock slightly. The acolyte was terrified out of his mind and began to answer their questions eagerly. The group learned that he was part of the Cult of the Dragon, sent to the town by the Dragon Queen to accumulate gold, jewels and other treasure for her hoard, as well as food for the new dragons. The woman that Nighthill had glimpsed in the headdress and purple robes was Wyrmspeaker Mondath and she had been placed in charge of the raid on Greenest, but there were many other bands up and down the land, pillaging and looting different places. Once it became clear that the acolyte had nothing more to tell them, Nighthill’s blade appeared again in his hand and before any one of them could react he had stabbed the acolyte right through the eye. Verina gasped and turned away from the scene, looking slightly ill, but Reezka was unmoved. It was fitting, she thought, that the acolyte had been killed. He was of no further use to them and they certainly couldn’t let him loose! She understood Nighthill too, he was helpless in the face of the dragon and the cult that was preying on his town and people.
Making their way out of the dungeon, Reekza and the others pondered their next move. Nighthill, still clearly overwhelmed and with his arm in a sling, had disappeared into the reaches of the keep, leaving them at a loss for what to do next. After some discussion they decided to find Billy and see if there was anything more he could tell them about the attack on the sanctuary. After following her nose, Reekza and the others found Billy, sitting alone on the stairs of the keep, crying and eating a piece of dried meat. Once Verina had calmed him down a little he was able to tell them what was going on with a bit more precision. They had barricaded themselves in the sanctuary with Priestess Falconmoon but soon enough the building had come under attack from a large group of enemies. Billy agreed to take the group and show them the way to the sanctuary but he adamantly refused to get close to the building where the attack was taking place.
After a quick consultation with Governor Nighthill a few things were decided on. Firstly, Nighthill informed them that he could not spare any soldiers, every available man was focused on trying to bring down the dragon. He also pointed out that the majority of the enemy were now camped within sight of the front of the keep so if they went back down the tunnel and around the edge of the town, they should be able to keep out of trouble.
With Billy trotting at their heels, the group made it down the tunnel without incident and then began to trot slowly but quietly on the direction that Billy pointed. As they went along the chubby boy munched happily on an apple, despite the disgusted looks from Hesh. At one point in their journey the rogue swiped the apple right from under the boy’s nose; whether to amuse him with the sleight of hand or just to bully him, Reezka didn’t know. Regardless of the intention, the outcome was that Billy began to sob loudly, forcing Reekza to snatch the apple back from Hesh and hand it back to the child. Thus placated, Billy’s sobs quickly ceased.
They stopped in a small grove of trees close by the sanctuary, Billy quickly took advantage of the break to grab a pear from an overhanging branch. After a little time watching and waiting, they saw that the attackers were split into 2 groups. At the front of the sanctuary, an important looking guard was directing kobolds and cultists to create a battering ram from a tree trunk. At the same time another group of kobolds, cultists and 2 drakes were noisily patrolling around the perimeter of the building.
A plan was swiftly concocted; Reezka and Verina would slip across the stream to wait opposite the building whilst Stei and Hesh found a way in to talk to the villagers. Once they were ready, they would signal to Reekza & Verina to create a distraction that would hopefully draw the attention of the attackers to allow the people trapped inside a chance to escape. Reezka hauled Billy to his feet and told him to head back to the tunnel and then into the keep. The boy’s response to this command was unexpected; he once again burst into tears and clung to Reezka’s leg, blubbering something about being too scared to go back alone. With a sigh, Reezka detached him from her leg. “Fine.” she said shortly. “But you do exactly what we tell you. And if you can’t keep up when we run, you’ll be left behind.” Billy nodded happily and sat back down on the ground to continue eating his pear.
The group split up after this, Hesh and Stei were no more than dark shadows in the night, even to Reezka’s keen eyes. Along with Verina and Billy, she headed across the stream to wait for the signal. There wasn’t much to do and Reezka found her mind wandering slightly, until the smell of fish made her look round. From some unknown pocket in his robes, Billy had pulled a piece of dried fish & was scraping the burnt bits from it with a large key. “What’s that Billy?” asked Verina. “Fish!” came the prompt reply. Reezka growled slightly to herself and then asked him what they key was for. “The sanctuary door of course.” Billy replied, looking a little puzzled. “How else did you think I got out?” Reezka and Verina looked at each other in horror. Hesh & Stei had gone to try and find a way in! Reezka started to move towards the sanctuary building but then stopped. Hesh was a rogue! Surely he could pick the lock if anyone could? Billy, seemingly unconcerned by the exchange, reached once more into his robes and pulled out a strange yellow fruit which he proceeded to take large bites out of, skin and all. He didn’t seem to be enjoying it too much though.
All of a sudden the sanctuary bells rang out, making both Reezka and Verina jump. It had to be the signal. Reezka pulled Billy to his feet then whirled around and fired one shot from her crossbow towards the guard at the front of the sanctuary. It missed but certainly caught his attention. At the same time Verina muttered a few words and a shower of sparks flew from her hands, bursting like fireballs into the dark night sky. “That should do it!” Verina remarked. “Let’s go!” The two raced off into the night, heading back across the stream and towards the tunnel. They could hear the shrieking of kobolds behind them, as well as the sound of many running feet. Chancing a glance behind them, Reezka saw a small group of kobolds on their heels, but racing behind them, and indeed catching them up, was a large group of townsfolk, headed by Hesh. She couldn’t see Stei but she hoped he was there. Behind THAT group came the rest of the enemy, more kobolds, cultists and the 2 drakes,making a tremendous noise.
Stones and arrows whistled past her ears. There was a loud grunt from Billy and he staggered slightly as a stone from a kobold’s sling struck his head. But to Reezka’s surprise he shook it off and carried on, keeping pace remarkably well for such a small chubby boy. There was some commotion in the group behind her, it seemed like the townsfolk had caught up with the kobolds and were fighting them off as they ran on. With one last massive effort they reached the concealed tunnel entrance ahead of the howling mob. Reezka led the way up the tunnel and into the keep, the terrified townsfolk pushing and shoving behind her. She could hear a loud hissing noise but was unable to turn around to see what was making it.
As they burst out into the keep courtyard Reezka stopped to catch her breath. As she did so she saw Billy, Verina, Hesh and the townsfolk race past her and into the keep itself. Then out of the tunnel mouth she saw the welcome sight of Stei, closely followed by the less welcome sight of one of the drakes. Luckily nothing else appeared to have followed them up the tunnel so Reezka unstrapped her axe and raced forward. Stei also had his spear in hand and together they began to stab and hack at at the drake. Stei gave it a nasty thrust from his spear and then Reezka swung her axe with a roar, slicing a huge gash in the neck of the beast. At that moment, alerted by the noise from below, several archers from the top of the keep sent a volley of arrows into the drake, which slumped to the floor, dead.