3. A queer ensemble of individuals
23rd of Rova – Sunday, the day after the attack
The Rusty Dragon, Sandpoint
It soon became apparent that the attack had been simply a ruse to hide a more nefarious plot. Somebody had stolen or reincarnated the former high priest Ezakiel’s corpse and escaped while the battle raged across town. We had reached that conclusion the next morning, when town sheriff Hemlock and high priest Zantus had asked us to investigate Ezakiel’s crypt, which had been broken and entered in force. I didn’t expect to find his crypt guarded by walking skeletons. We promptly eliminated the resistance, found the corpse missing and followed, fruitlessly, some tracks from the boneyard to the edge of the city. Our inability to track a target successfully was particularly disappointing to me. My hunting skills required honing.
We circled the wall and near Northport we came across a goblin, who had been captured by the town guardsmen. A few silver coins to the guards paid us a minute with the goblin. I applied some pressure and it revealed that the attack had been well-prepared and planned by a mysterious half-elf or elf, who had also rallied the different goblin tribes together. An intervention by an outside influencer was logical, given that the town had not faced such an coordinated goblin attack in ages.
We. It still sounded weird. I didn’t know why we kept together. Sandpoint locals thought we were a group of some kind, after what we had done together to repel the goblins at the cathedral. But we were almost complete strangers to each others. We had already extracted a handsome sum from a wealthy noble called Aldern Foxglove whose life we saved during the battle, and I didn’t believe the town was in any position to compensate for our continued service. Interestingly, the blacksmiths were quite happy to offer us discounts on their wares, and the town folk showed us their overwhelming gratitude as we walked the streets. I guess they wanted an icon for victory, and we had provided that. I even had some red-headed town girl stalking me, wanting me to get “rid of some horrible rats in her cellar”, a sweetling sure, but an annoyance. The town officials however were reluctant to open their coffers. Sheriff Hemlock in particular aggravated me, digging his heels in the ground and being unwilling to take action. He came off more an administrator of labourers than a commander of soldiers.
Nonetheless we stayed together. Sandpoint wanted help, and we were willing to provide it, as a group. I had little reason to trust any of them. Above all the prospect of being paid well for finding out what is going on in this little frontier town maintained my interest in sticking with the rest of the ad hoc party. I had little interest in my original mission anymore – it had paid me next to nothing, and if I wanted to return to it later, I always could. Fact was that I had already earned the sum many times over by helping saving Foxglove. This hero work, with the noble, with Sandpoint, was good for my finances – and I could earn gold while looking for my brother here in South-western Varisia.
I realized leaving the others – Harsk, Vidarok, Frank and Ilori – the moment it was necessary would have best served my interests but my curiosity was piqued. I wondered what fate had brought us together in Sandpoint, and I was strangely keen to find out what it was. And I had to admit we were a queer ensemble of individuals.
Harsk, the dwarven cleric of goddess Iomedae, was preparing for war with a capital W. Some good versus evil thing which I did not understand nor care about. Also, he seemed to be driven by righteousness, some sense of honour that demanded justice for Sandpoint. I guessed the fate of the former high priest stunk of dark heresy to the good cleric. Only thing rivaling his sense of righteousness was his ability to consume beer. He seemed like a good man. Part of me enjoyed his camaraderie.
But at the same time I wondered what were to happen if there ever came a time when we would have to make the tough life-and-death decisions. My gray would not fit his black-and-white world. It would get ugly.
I felt the half-orc druid, Vidarok, and Harsk both were righteous souls, and had no issue with helping this little town. When I didn’t, they gave a damn. Vidarok had overcome his initial reservations and proved me we are not slaves to our blood heritage. I called him the smiling giant, thanks to his genuine love and compassion to the natural world and its various inhabitants. I would have found it admirable, if it wasn’t so naive and idealistic. He also appeared to be quite quick of thought. My former master Horryn would’ve considered Vidarok to possess leadership potential. Of course, he had despised half and pure-breed orcs, so he would have thrown the young druid to the beasts, or pitted him against his gladiators.
With the smiling giant, we had the angry brute, Frank the barbarian. He had revealed very little of his past. He lived in the present and only in the present. Life was simple for him. I considered him as my exact opposite: vocal, volatile, rash and blunt – all strength and no finesse, only forward momentum and no grace and stealth. But by gods he was courageous without any shred of self-preservation when the battle lust took over. The strikes of his earthbreaker were like the toll of the city bells in Canorate. Not once had I seen him back down from a melee. In the grave yards, me and Harsk had to order him to take a step backwards so we could fight more effectively. He was unpredictable, unstable even.
Still, his kill count was twice that of mine, so his effectiveness was undisputed. I wondered how long he’d stay alive.
Last, we had the carmine maiden, the fire sorceress Ilori. We knew very little of her and her past, and she was reluctant to tell. I didn’t blame her, as there we were very alike. She was a quiet, reserved beauty but well-spoken when needed. With people, she seemed careful, as if she was unconsciously afraid of hurting them. Hurting with her fire. What I had seen of her, I believed she is capable of so much more. She was holding back. Powered by her blazing magicks to the fullest, she might’ve very well been the most dangerous person among us.
And that is why I trusted her the least.