A Day in Skrayhorn
The next morning we were awoken from our slumber by Remba coming down the hidden stairway that served as the only entrance to the hidden room under the Crimson Blonde.
“Come get it while it’s hot.” She said while setting two full trays of food down onto the table. “You want to finish it before the butter and grease start to congeal.” She took a strip of the bacon and threw it to her dog who had been waiting at her feet to drop a morsel or two. I nervously took a deep breath to sample Evets buttery breakfast feast that was laid out before us and I was pleased to find that the aroma of hot meal managed to overpower the smell of Remba and her dog completely. As we feasted I decided to bring up what I had learned from the town’s guard the day before.
“So yesterday I talked with some of the guards, and I asked them about where I could find any Paladins” the others continued to munch away at was left on their plates. “Apparently they all serve the Queen.” They all looked at me, knowing that finding the Paladins was my best chance of finding out who I was before I died “Paladins don’t accept bribes and you can’t use fear to blackmail them, yet they still serve her. I need to find out why. I need to know so I can liberate them so they can return to the way a Paladin is supposed to be.”
The Swordsmen replied with “I don’t think we are quite ready to go off and storm the capital to save a bunch of Brainwashed Paladins”. True as that maybe I have become consumed by the question how could she control them? We then finished up our meal Remba told us that it was time for us to work for our keep as they needed the bread for the week to be picked up from the bakery. The Swordsmen said he would rather stay and drink, so I volunteered to do the pick up myself. As I dressed in my clothes for the day and attaching my long sword to my belt I set out to the bakery. Upon exiting the alleyway behind The Crimson Blonde I headed for my goal. It was a short walk and there weren’t many people out and about at this hour leaving nothing to distract me. Once I entered the bakery I saw a young man, not much older than I standing behind the counter. He was covered in flour and he had splotches of egg yolk covering his apron. When he noticed me he very rudely greeted me “What do you want?” I explained that I was here for the Crimson Blondes bread order, to which he rebutted with “And how do I know your not just some kid from the slums looking for free food? Do you know how long it takes to remake an order this large, and how much trouble I’d get in if you’re making this up?” Now I believe that one should never be rude to anyone, and this boy had forgotten how to use his manners. Perhaps he needed a quick refresher on the subject.
“Well you see sir, I have this list here written by Remba and if you would kindly take a look at it you would probably notice that it indeed is her handwriting. Now if you could just finish the order for me I will continue on my way and you can go back on your merry way finishing whatever work I regretfully interrupted.” He grumped a few insults under his breath and filled the order after that. Before I left the store he made sure to remind me that Remba owed them the money for the order and she had till the end of the week. I thanked him for his services and began to exit the shop when I ran into a man outside the door. I greeted him and asked how he was to which he ignored me and walked behind the counter and started yelling that the boy about how he treated me and how messy everything was in the store. I decided it was a good time for me to leave until I heard cries of pain coming from the clerk and the man started beating him. I had to do something. I re-entered the shop and the man popped up from behind the counter as the boy ran into the back of the shop.
Anger had distorted the man’s face “What do you want now boy? Can’t you see I’m busy here?” I wanted to confront the man. He needed to pay for his cruelty. My arms being full with the bread for the Crimson Blonde I remembered that Ylloh said we shouldn’t make much of a scene in town. I had to think of something.
“I seem to have misplaced my coin purse, I was wondering if I left it here?” Saying the first thing that came to mind.
“Well do you see it? Because I don’t.” He said after a quick glance of the counter and floor. He no longer seemed to care about the boy his anger was focused on me. Just where I wanted it.
“Oh I guess it’s not here.” I said with cool confidence.
“Get the fuck out of my store then, and make sure those bitches know they still owe me for this week.” I then left, hoping I left the older boy to recompose himself. My walk back to the Blonde was uneventful and once I set the bread in the kitchen I could see that Alessisa was stuck helping Evets all day since she couldn’t be seen with her hair and face intact. Walking into the tavern I saw The Swordsmen a the bar talking with Ylloh and a patron of the bar. I decided to sit down with the Elf that had been renting one of the rooms of the Crimson Blonde. Him being an Elf means he might be a lot older than he looks, by chance he could know of how the Paladin came to be where they are now.
“Excuse me Raphiel, but may I ask you a few questions?” I proclaimed. He gave me a nod as he took a large gulp from his tankard. I sat down on the opposite side of the booth and asked him “Do you know when the Paladins joined the Queen’s service as a royal guard? He looked at me and finished his drink and as he poured himself another tankard full he said “You get right to the point don’t you?” After another swig of his drink “The Queen made sure that it was her first move and the new ruler to get the Paladins under her control. It’s been that way for a long time. They all stay in the north after the garrison was finished.” He paused to take yet another drink. He must have been burdened with a great thirst to want to drink so much so fast. I could see that there was more coming, but it was clear that his drink came before our conversation so I held my tongue while he quaffed his drink. “What’s it to you boy? Your sword is almost longer than your legs. Are you planning on freeing them all yourself?”
“Before Morgul left us he told us we should do whatever we could to find out who we were. Being a Paladin I am plagued with the curiosity of why they would serve her. It just doesn’t make any sense.” I explained as he finished his drink and poured yet another. “I have been brought back to this world for a reason and I can’t think of a better reason than that.”
“You’re rather ambitious for a youngster, but you should know you’re not the only one who wants to climb the ladder you’re on. You’re going to need friends in all the right places and luckily for you The Crimson Blonde is the right place.” Another drink finished as he poured his fourth drink, marking the end of his pitcher. “ I know a few of the less corrupt Paladin leaders, we could probably start with them, but there is much to do before then.”
“We don’t have time to waste then” I said is I got up from the table.
“Wait right there boy. It’s my turn now.” I sat back down as he finished the last of his ale. “Alessisa. The Female Elf that came her with you. What do you know about her? I thought for a brief second.
“I’ve known her my whole life, and she has been nothing but kind and very supportive. I mean we’ve only been alive for less than two weeks and we don’t even remember who we were. So I can’t say much more than that.” A dissatisfied look crossed his face, but I was unable to figure out if it was at my uninformative answer or the emptiness of his cup. He allowed me to leave the table as Ylloh came with more booze for the man, at this point the Crimson blonde was slowly starting to fill up. I saw the others at the bar and sat down with them. Ylloh came back and poured us all a shot of a dark liquid. “Morgul should be here tomorrow. He’s almost always on time when it comes to this kind of stuff.” She handed us our shots “ so tonight cut loose because you’ll be back on your way when he gets here.” We all toasted our shots and slammed them down. The pungent taste of fermented grape filled my mouth, followed by an intense burning sensation. I could feel the alcohol affect me almost instantly. The room got blurry and the rest of the night rushed by faster than I could comprehend. The next I knew I was waking up to a cat pawing at my face. I was stuck inside a barrel. My legs and torso hanging out of the open top, my hindquarters dipping into the rainwater that was collected in the barrel.
Where am I? How did I get here? I thought to myself. In the process of getting out of the barrel, I ended up tipping it over. Spilling the contents and myself into the alleyway. I’m behind the Blonde! As I tried to stand I felt that my body was sore as if I had been in a fight. I walked into the hidden basement and saw that the others were just waking up as well. My head was pounding. My body soaked and covered in bruises. Not to mention the swell of nausea burdening my stomach. I slunk into my bunk ready to sleep off my ailments. The others ate their meal as they felt the demon in the bottles striking back for all of his brothers that fell to our undying thirst. I laid there in my bunk the others began talking about our plans. From my bed, I could only hear them talking, but when I heard a new voice I peered down and scanned the people in the room. A newcomer was standing at the table. He was short, but what he lacked in height he made up for strength. I could see it in his stance that he was a capable fighter. From what I could gather he was sent by Morgul to take us south of Skrayhorn. We were to meet a dragon that lived in the mountains. At this point, Ylloh came downstairs. She had a bottle with a clear liquid in it bearing the same markings as the bottle from the night before. She gave us all a shot of it and after the same burning taste filled our mouths we were free from our hangovers.
“I’m glad you guys seem to be getting along fine after last night” as she turned to us. “Tahngrimmd It’s been a while, and I’m glad to see you, but we were expecting Morgul.”
“He told me that I need to take them in his place, he is off doing other things that he wasn’t clear on,” Tahngrimmd said. We discussed our headings and how long the journey would be. It would take two to three days to make it to the whalebone bridge that marked the halfway point of our trip to the southern mountain ranges. At this point, the Tahngrimmed produced a small satchel and took a small but very intricate blue needle. He held it out to Hayes. “Morgul said to give this to the Elven Cleric. It’s for your compass” As he set the needle into Hayes’ hand Remba seemed to be rather curious about Hayes compass.
“Where did you get that? She asked.
“I’ve always had it. Do you know anything about it? Replied Hayes.
“My father used to collect these things and other celestian artifacts. They come from the destroyed Elvish city.” Hayes gazed at his compass for a second or two longer and put it back in his pocket. “Oh and Cenredi, Caston is upstairs. He has your armor finished.”
Faster than anyone else could say anything I ran upstairs and found Caston waiting with a brand new set of full plate mail. Even in the dim interior of the Crimson Blonde, it’s sheen reflected the light making it appear to sparkle. For the next twenty minutes, he taught me how to don my armor. After learning how to remove it and putting it back on the others had managed to get all of our supplies ready for our trip. So after telling Caston that I will see him again soon we began our trek southward. It didn’t take long for me to notice that my new armor was slowing my pace. The others slowed to match my speed. It wasn’t much of a problem once I got used to it though. The clanking of each step made me stronger, my body learning and growing in response to the new second layer of metallic skin. As we walked we talked with the dwarf. Asking him things about what he knew. Where his people were from and other questions and to our shock, we found out that a dragon had attacked the dwarven capital forcing the dwarves to live as a nomadic people. Tahn, as he liked to be called was a monk. A righteous warrior who looked out for the good of his people. I could tell we were going to get along instantly.
We had decided that we were going to cut from the path and follow Hayes compass, which the blue needle pointed directly south. As we walked through the hills we could see that the mountains to the south bearly peeked over the horizon. Our goal was still a way away but I couldn’t help but think of how far we have come already. Not even a month ago we were rotting corpses. Now we were going to meet a dragon to see if he could read the scroll we got from the crows outside of the crypt.
Our path had brought us into an area of land that was covered in rolling hills. The beauty of the sun setting onto the hills was marred by the sounds we could hear coming from the hilltops, the unmistakable war cries of three trolls charging at us. We knew how to handle ourselves in battle so we let them draw closer to us. With the chime of a pan flute and the warm notes of Alessisa’s voice filling the hills with echoes I felt the courage to fight them fill me to the brim as I charged one of the trolls. Tahn and Swordsmen took on another and the larger of the three trolls slowly bound down one of the hills towards us. Alessisa’s song changed and the trolls seemed to forget they were fighting us as the began to slowly walk over to her. As they walked by I went to attack the troll closest to me by I wasn’t used to the burden of my armor and fell short as he continued on his way. Swordsmen managed to take down the larger troll by slicing its left foot off with his cutlass and then stabbing it through its back pricing through its heart. With the big one dealt with we quickly dealt with the others. Even with them being bound to Alessisa’s song, ending them left us winded and tired. After setting up camp we rested under the stars. We would reach the whalebone bridge tomorrow and I could tell that the Swordsmen was anticipating our arrival.