Waking up in the same room for the sixth day in a row was very strange for Jalana. More at home with the open skies of the road, she felt uncomfortable in the guest quarters in the keep in the town of Corundum.
The metal clad men on glorious warhorses had routed the goblin horde, and after a quick debriefing with the captain of that contingent, they learned that they were probably never going to make it out alive if help hadn’t arrived when it did.
The town nestled in between two roaring rivers, both heading in opposite directions, one south and one north, was as orderly as it was oppressive. To Jalanas senses anyway.
Baer was no different, however he was more used to the towns this side of Dharma, as his ranging had brought him this way before, but never had be met anyone like the Paladins of the Sapphire Throne, the rulers of Corundum.
Grash, Jalana and Baer had been brought to Corundum almost a ten-day ago, but Grash hadn’t been seen since. They were told that the priests were tending to his most grievous wounds, and that he was on the cusp of death when they found him. Whilst they were uncomfortable that they weren’t allowed to see him, they felt that his best interests were served in staying alive, and they had no reason to believe that the Paladins would lie.
Looking around her room, she noticed that the plants she smuggled in had taken root, and had made their way up the wall, where a bird had since nested. “Hello little one” she whispered to it as it chirped away at her. Smiling, she left her room and made her way downstairs to the mess hall where she would look for something to eat.
Lying on his back in the dirt, somewhere outside near the barracks, Baer looked at the sky, hands crossed on his stomach, wondering what was on the agenda for the day. They were guests, however it was advised, very strictly, that they were not to attempt to leave before they met with Lord Arryn, High Paladin of the Sapphire Throne.
Baer didn’t mind spending time in a bailey such as this, especially as he was encouraged to spar and train with the soldiers there, but he did not appreciate being held against his will. However big this cage was, and how delicious the food was, it was still a cage if he wasn’t free to go. He knew he could escape, no walls had ever kept him inside, but he still wanted to see what the Lord Paladin had to say, and… of course… to see Grash safe.
Mid-afternoon, the two are going at it very hard, sweat pouring off their brows and their breath sharp and fast. Jalanas face was flushed and Baer was grunting with the effort. neither of them had been worked so hard for some time. Finally after thrusting and heaving for almost a half an hour, they both collapsed in a heap, to the applause of the watching men.
Baer and Jalana sheathed their weapons, the mighty Giant Slayer that Baer got from the horde of the Sha-Khan, and the sharp-as-her-tounge scimitars that Jalana almost always had sheathed to her sides.
Jalana stood and helped Baer to his feet, laughing as they both took a swig from the skin of water by the training grounds. “You’re getting better Jalana” said Baer "But you need to channel more of that aggression I see in you. Your swords are sharp, but " he paused, looking at the edge of the sword, and seeming to go to another place, some memory “but is it enough…”
A loud “SIR!” brought him out of his reverie, and they both looked as a Paladin walked towards them from the chapel, calm as a summer day, with blonde hair flowing in the wind and gleaming armour clad on his muscling body. Warhammer strapped to his side he walked up to them and spoke “He is awake, you may see him now. Then report directly to the throne room.” Then, without further ado, he left.
Jalana asked first “Who was that, and does that mean Grash is awake?” before he could reply, Jalana started towards the infirmary.
They arrived in a storm of activity, the waiting room was a flurry of commotion, trays bearing instruments neither of them had seen before were being ferried between stations, some covered in blood, some in other fluids. Before they knew what was happening a young woman, rosey cheeked and obviously being kept very busy grabbed Jalanas arm “We are very busy here, if you’re here to see the lizard, he’s down that hall and on the left.” and pointed them the right way.
“Well, seems these Paladins can’t keep themselves out of trouble, not that I’m not happy for the assistance…” said Baer. “But there are a lot of wounded here.”
When they got to Grash’s room they found him sitting up and eating a piece of meat, on the bone. “Well, look who we have here. Thought you’d come and finish the job aye?” he asked, brow furrowing and a flicker of flame dancing about his mouth.
The two of them stopped, unsure of what to say, then, without warning, Grash laughed. “Fools, I am bed ridden, almost to death! and you both stand there and offer me no release to death, free me!” he laughed again.
“Grash! you are the fool!” Jalana yelled making her way to the Dragun-borne in the bed. Bear stopped her by way of grasping her arm, although her frame was small he still needed to use some considerable effort.
“You! Where did you come from? Why did you run up that cliff? Why did you-” she began again but was interrupted by Grash leaping out of the bed and standing to hold her shoulders.
“Girl….be….quiet” he said as he stared right into her eyes. “This…is not a safe place to speak of such things.”
Jalana paused, taking in the information, quietly understanding Grashs need for secrecy. “Fine!’ she said with no small amount of irritation.”We’ll talk about it some other time, but for now, we are expected at this Lords throne."
Grash lowered his arms and looked at Baer, standing with a curious look on his face. Wary, yet in control. “Lets go.” he said.
- – - – - – - – - – - -
The three of them find themselves standing in a foyer awaiting the audience of the Knight Captain of Corundum. Surrounded by heavily armed guards they realise they would have a bit of a fight on their hand should they need to make a hasty escape. Although none of the guards had an overt sense of aggression about them, they knew that they would not hesitate to kill them should the need arise.
Eventually the giant iron-clad wooden doors open and the light from the next room surprises them. Whilst being shepherded towards a raised dais towards the back of the room they can see giant glass windows surrounding the room, with marble steps leading up from a polished stone floor to a gilded and decorated seat that almost, but not quite, resembled a throne.
Tables and seating areas were to the side, flourishing plants and drooping plants in giant pots abound. The smell of plants and the sound of trickling water from some source teased their ears. The beautiful smells and sounds were over shadowed by the marching of steel clad boots and the smell of grease and oil on the guards plate armour.
They are led to the feet of the dais and the four guards veer off to the side, turn on their heel and plant the butt of their spears on the ground in unison. Sitting on the throne was someone that they didn’t expect at all. A Halfling, sitting clad in heavy plate adorned in dazzling blue sapphires and a heavy royal blue cloak stood and started to make his way down the stairs. The armour, as heavy as it looked, didn’t seem to hinder him at all, matter-of-fact he seemed to be very comfortable in it.
He reached the bottom of the steps and didn’t break stride, coming right up to them and, even though he was a good two feet shorter than the adventurers, he seems to look them all in the eye on their level.
“I’ll not tip-toe around it, you are dangerous people, I’ve heard of you and your exploits in Dharma City and I don’t want you in my lands.” He said, looking at each of them in turn. “My men and I saved your lives, and we have healed your wounds, and we ask nothing in return but that you leave here and never come back.”
The groups silence spoke for them, the confusion on their face apparent.
“I’ll take that as agreement then.” He said, turning about and heading back up the dais to the seat atop it and again taking his seat. “You will be escorted to the borders in the North and will be on your way, you leave immediately” and waved his hand towards the guards beside them.
“Wait a minute”
The Halfling looked up again at the group to find who had spoken.
“I need to get my ship.” Said Grash, to the group and without even looking at the little lord on the throne. “I think I left it atop that plateau.” He said as sheepishly as a Dragun-borne could, “I..uh, threw it at the goblins.”
Jalana leaned forward to look past Baer at Grash, “You threw our boat at them?!” she quietly hissed at him.
Grash looked at her and shrugged, “I’m not leaving this land without it.”
The Halfling interrupted “Fine, we will escort you to the site of the battle to collect your ship, and then you will leave.”
“There she is.” Said Grash, with a note of relief in his voice, “Didn’t think I’d live to see her again.”
They walked up the incline to see a few people aboard the DragunShip, seeming to be investigating different parts of it. The field was littered with goblin and ogre corpses, no humans to be found. As they got closer they could see that most of the people on board were not dressed in the livery of soldiers, but seemed to be academics of some kind, in robes and leather sandals. They noticed one man looking into the captain’s cabin with a look of concern on his face as he turned back and forth form the incoming adventurers’ to the cabin.
“What the fuck are they doing?” growled Grash as he picked up the pace and started a long loping gait towards the ropes on the side of the ship and began climbing them.
Jalana and Baer ran to catch up, knowing that once Grashs’ blood gets hot that he would do silly things again. As they got closer they heard a commotion above them and then heard yelling. Before they knew anything they saw a man flying over the rails of the ship into the air. At first they thought he had jumped but then before the man landed Grash appeared gripping the rails and yelling curses and telling the man to get off his ship.
With a sickening thud and an audible snapping sound of the poor man’s arm the group realised that Grash had done a silly thing again. The group turned about to see a large commotion of people running to assist the man, guards unsheathing swords and men and women disembarking the ship as fast as they could. Grash climbed down the rope ladder and stood next to them, “They were messing with my stuff.” He explained, as calm as ever.
Several guards were now approaching with their swords at the ready accompanied by a two robed and threatening men with tattoos on their face, mages seemingly.
“Stand right there, no fast movements you lot” said the leader of the Guards, “Why did you throw that man to his potential death? He is Lord Arryns personal scribe. What right do you have to attempt his murder?”
Grash just looked at the man, and his hand started to instinctively reach towards his daggers, and his sight became a sharp tunnel, focused on the mans throat, calculating how much speed and energy he would need to lodge a sharp piece of steel right in his larynx..
“Grash…” a voice beside him torn him from his thoughts, it was Jalana. “Please, don’t make this any worse for us” she pleaded with him, with as much anger as frustration in her face. He took his hands away from his weapons and the guards visibly relaxed.
The leader stood forward, “You will drop your weapons and come with us back to Corundum and be judged for your crimes.” He said with as much authority as he could.
After a small discussion, they decided to be, once again, taken prisoner. Bear growled when the shackles went on, but said nothing. Jalana and Grash, knowing that they could slip from the pathetic bonds any time they wanted, went ahead without a fuss.
A day and night later, they found themselves bound to a stake, sitting in the middle of the camp surrounded by the guards and mages.
“This is terrible” said Jalana. “What a waste of time this is.” She mumbled whilst poking at the ground with her hands. A few worms came up to wind themselves around her finger and a small beetle settled on the back of her hand and spread its wings, seemingly showing off to her, she smiled.
“We need to escape these bonds and leave this place” said Baer, gritting his teeth, obviously not happy with the situation, never one to enjoy being constrained in any way. “These people are sycophants and their justice will not benefit us. We should leave.” He said, quieter this time as a guard was walking past.
Grash looked at Baer and smiled, “I agree, I care not for sitting in the mud and playing with worms. How about you, Jalana would you like to go to trial for my scrap back there?” he asked whilst smiling and looking at her to the side.
Jalana had the beetle in her closed hand and, after opening it, the beetle flew away into the night.
“We will leave. But Grash, no more scraps, promise?” She replied, matching his grin.
His smile widened, all of his teeth glistening in the moonlight, and held up his hand which was free of the bonds and replied.