The Silver Wolf-For Crown Or Country: Watery Grave
Date: Mon, September 30, 2019
Topic: Stories & Fiction

The wizard’s attack was the last thing Weimar or any of his friends expected. The waters of the lake moat began to bubble and stir before they rose into a massive column nearly twenty feet tall. Two smaller columns extended from the column’s sides, growing what looked distinctly like human hands. A trio of bubbles formed nearly at the top of the column, two small ones appearing over a larger one, reminding Weimar of a human mouth and eyes.

Chapter Fifteen

Watery Grave

At dusk, the companions made their way through the outskirts of Zelradton towards Caradoc’s personal estate. The companions planned to break into the estate to see what they could learn of Caradoc’s conspiracy, as well as possibly find the Crown of Arumdina. While most of the nobles of House Cranden stayed at the family manor when they had business in Zelradton, their counterparts in House Naelax were more paranoid. The Naelax nobles each kept to their own private estates, with guards loyal only to them.

As the companions turned off the main road, planning to enter Caradoc’s estate from a far side near a thick copse, Airk thought about their lack of options. They couldn’t simply buy the Crown from Caradoc, since that would leave him and the other conspirators free to carry out their plot. They couldn’t warn the Ideeans of the conspiracy, since they had no proof and the Ideeans wouldn’t have any reason to believe them. It wouldn’t help the companions to get the Crown either. Worse, it would have opened Luna and Seline, and possibly all of House Cranden, to retribution from the conspirators, Xavener and possibly even Herzog Chelor.

Of course, this is all my fault, he thought to himself as the companions stalked through the copse to the point where it came nearly to the walls of Caradoc’s estate. I let Kalrek murder almost all my brothers in arms. I let Flinthold nearly fall to the Steelhearts. I let Kalrek kill and rob Garl knows how many people in his search for the Crown. I finish Kalrek’s murdering my brothers when I murdered Laessar. I’m probably going to lead my friends to disgrace, if I don’t lead them to death.

He tried to remind himself that his friends chose to come with him, that he’d helped them with things important to them, that Luna and Seline benefited from what they were doing, that the Iron League needed to be warned about the conspiracy…

…but the voice kept coming back to him.

Airk managed to put the dark thoughts out of his mind as Luna walked up to the stone wall surrounding the estate. Holding a small piece of clay Airk had crafted to resemble a stone wall with a hidden door crafted in it, Luna went up to the estate wall and touched it with the clay. She chanted quietly, and Airk saw a fine line appear in the estate wall. After about a minute, the piece of clay Luna was holding collapsed into dust, but a portion of the estate wall now resembled it.

Even with his gnomish knowledge of stonework, Airk needed a few seconds to find the secret door Luna’s spell had carved into the estate wall. Giving it a push so its outer edge was no longer flush with the rest of the stonework, Airk grunted as he pulled it open. He entered first, his human friends having to crawl through the door behind him. Luna couldn’t cast the spell strong enough to make the door taller than that, but it also made the door more difficult to see.

From there, the companions made further preparations. Amyalla snuck off to scatter some materials to confuse any potential tracking dogs. She said that the Greyhawk Guild of Thieves swore by mustard powder, oil of citronella and crushed stinging nettle as a way of masking scents. Amyalla had little difficulty buying those materials in Zelradton, and she spread them out with practiced ease.

When Amyalla returned, Luna cast a spell of silence over Airk and Revafour to mute the sound their heavy plate armor would make as they walked. Finally, they set off, as Weimar led them along the route he’d scouted earlier that day with his spyglass.

Caradoc’s manor was on an island surrounded by a lake moat. Only one bridge connected it to the mainland, and there was a large guardhouse at the front of the bridge. A dozen guards stood ready and waiting. The companions expected this, and most of them waited in one of the nearby stands of trees as Seline used her magic ring to make herself invisible.

Moving forward stealthily, she quietly cast a spell, creating an illusion of people trying and failing to be stealthy from the other direction. The guards reacted in surprise, as several of them ran towards the sound. Seline began her next spell, putting several of the guards into a deep sleep. The spell broke Seline’s invisibility, and some of the surviving guards saw her. Before they could attack, Seline quickly cast another spell, putting the remaining guards to sleep. Gesturing, Seline brought the rest of the companions over, as they prepared to pass through the gatehouse and cross the bridge.

The companions were startled at the bright lights that came up all around them and the sounds of eager battle cries and swords being drawn. To their shock, nearly a score of armed men seemed to appear out of nowhere, dressed in chain armor and wielding dangerous-looking swords and spears. Their shields and helmets bore the emblems of House Naelax, and they didn’t look at all surprised at the companions’ arrival.

In the light of the lanterns, Weimar suddenly saw there were suddenly fewer trees than there were just a few seconds ago, or that he’d even seen this morning when he was scouting the estate with his spyglass. He cursed the companions’ bad luck, realizing this was an ambush. He’d heard of spells that allowed wizards to disguise armed warriors as foliage until they were ready to strike.

Glancing in the direction of the men Seline had felled with her sleeping spells, Weimar saw they’d vanished, as if they never existed. Indeed, they didn’t exist-they were just illusions made to react to Seline’s magic. That meant-

Weimar realized a wizard was involved. As he defended himself against the Naelax guards attacking him, he tried to think of how the wizard might attack.

The wizard’s attack was the last thing Weimar or any of his friends expected. The waters of the lake moat began to bubble and stir before they rose into a massive column nearly twenty feet tall. Two smaller columns extended from the column’s sides, growing what looked distinctly like human hands. A trio of bubbles formed nearly at the top of the column, two small ones appearing over a larger one, reminding Weimar of a human mouth and eyes.

Weimar realized just how much trouble he and his friends were in. They might have overcome the human guards, but they were not prepared to fight a water elemental. The otherworldly things could only be injured by magical weapons, and only Weimar’s axe could damage it. Luna’s mace, while blessed to destroy the undead, simply didn’t have the necessary power to injure it. Grimacing, Weimar realized that neither Luna nor Seline probably had enough magic to destroy the thing, either.

Weimar wasn’t afraid of dying, but he never expected it to happen so soon.

Amyalla knew she and her friends were outmatched by the towering elemental, but she also knew they had their weaknesses. In her days in Greyhawk, she’d had a brief romance with Sir Aaron Strachan, a powerful wizard and the ambassador from Furyondy. Strachan told her about how the wizard summoning an elemental always needed to concentrate on controlling it. If that control was disrupted, even for a second, the elemental would turn back on its summoner. The wizard also had to be relatively close by to direct the elemental.

In the few seconds in which her friends and the Naelax guards were distracted by the elemental’s appearance, Amyalla slipped into the shadows of the guardhouse. She glanced around, looking for where the wizard might be. The wizard would almost certainly be human, and he’d need a light source to see what he was doing…

Amyalla spotted a robed man, looking to be in his mid-thirties with pitch-black hair, standing halfway across the bridge leading to Caradoc’s manor. He might have stood farther away, perhaps even on the manor island itself, but Amyalla realized that in the twilight he probably needed to be close enough to see the battle on the mainland. He’d almost certainly cast some magical protections on himself to guard against magical spells or missiles, and so he probably thought himself safe from any attacks…

…but Amyalla realized he’d likely only guarded himself against attacks he could see coming.

She ran for the bridge, her heart in her mouth.

Revafour instantly killed the first Naelax guard that came at him, and took the arm off the second one. He was forced to turn to defend Seline as another guard came at her, and left himself open to yet another guard tearing into his thigh with a spear. His heavy armor kept the gash from getting too deep, but it still stung. The spear-wielding guard raised his spear again as Revafour turned to face him, but hastily jumped back.

Revafour wondered why the guard was running, and his question was soon answered when he heard what sounded like a tidal wave surging towards him from behind. Turning around, he barely managed to get his sword up in time before the elemental struck him with a wavelike fist. Pain lanced through Revafour’s body and he crashed to the ground, rolling once before he came to a stop.

The spear-wielding guard charged at Revafour, thinking to impale him before he could regain his bearings. Revafour struggled to get to his feet, but the guard seemed to be faster. The guard raised his spear as Revafour got up on one knee, but then Revafour saw a flash of light as a dagger flew past him and buried itself in the guard’s throat. The man collapsed, blood gushing down the front of his chest, as Revafour regained his feet.

Turning around, Revafour saw Weimar struggling against another guard. Weimar had lost his axe, and was stabbing furiously with one of his daggers. As his gaze met Revafour’s, Weimar briefly winked at him.

Revafour’s eyes gleamed determinedly as he picked up his sword. He felt the battle lust rising within him as he charged back into the melee. The elemental struck again, this time hitting Luna, who fell to her hands and knees, dazed by the blow. One of the Naelax guards raised his sword, planning to take her head off, but Revafour made him lose his head instead.

Weimar cried out in pain as he took a nasty gash across the abdomen, though, and Seline could barely keep the edge out of her voice as she tried to cast a spell. The companions were fighting as hard as they ever did, but they weren’t sure if they could hope to win.

Theran Josiah Del Haxx smiled at the intruders’ struggle. They were helpless against his elemental, and they’d been caught completely off guard by the illusion he’d cast over the guards. Several of the guards fell to the companions’ determined resistance, but they were easily replaceable. Even if the guards were all killed, they’d have delayed the companions long enough for the elemental to finish them. He’d cast protections against arrows and most magical spells to shield himself, and he had every confidence he’d win.

Theran was so intent on the battle, and so focused on keeping the elemental under control, that he didn’t feel the dagger tear into his back until it was too late. Screaming in pain, he turned to see what had attacked him. His eyes widened at the red-haired halfling behind him, and at the bloody dagger in her hand. He raised his hands to cast a spell at her, but then he saw the look of alarm on her face as she looked past him.

His blood ran cold as he realized he’d lost control of the elemental. Elemental spirits hated being summoned to the material plane, and he was all too vulnerable to the wrath of the water elemental he’d conjured. To his immense relief, the elemental simply dissolved as its spirit returned to the elemental plane of water. Its body fell back into the waters of the lake moat, which soon became as calm and placid as if the elemental had never been there.

Theran felt relieved, and then he smiled as he turned back to blast the impudent halfling. She was faster, though, and slammed the hilt of her dagger into the side of his head, knocking him senseless.

When the elemental disappeared, many of the Naelax guards were stunned for a moment. They never expected the elemental to simply vanish, and wondered what happened to Theran. The companions didn’t waste the opportunity, and tore into the guards for all they were worth. Several of the guards had already been killed by the companions even with the elemental to help them, and they were quickly overwhelmed.

Several of the guards tried to run, but Seline cast a wave of deadly steam over them with her wand. The steam scalded the guards, making them scream in agony as they fell dead. The cloud lingered, and Revafour and Ma’non’go tossed some of the remaining guards into it. Soon, there was no one left alive but the companions, who were injured but alive.

“Is everyone alright?” Luna said once she’d cast a healing spell on herself.

“I’ll live,” Airk said, wiping the blood off his military pick with the hair of one of the dead guards, “but I don’t see Amyalla. Did the elemental…”

Any dismay the companions may have felt was broken by Amyalla’s calling out to them. Looking out over the bridge, the companions saw Amyalla waving to them, standing over the prone body of the wizard who’d summoned the elemental. They hurried across the bridge to join her, wary of any further attacks.

“Are you alright?” Weimar asked in surprise as the rest of the companions came up to Amyalla. “How on Oerth did-“

“I crawled on the bridge’s underside,” Amyalla said, indicating the scratches on her hands. “It wasn’t easy, but he didn’t see me coming. Once I put a knife in his back, it shut him up.”

“You didn’t kill him, did you?” Seline said, before Amyalla shook her head.

“I thought you’d want to interrogate him,” Amyalla said, “but I don’t know if he’ll be willing to talk.”

“We have ways around that,” Seline said with a determined frown.

Luna healed the companions’ remaining injuries, but nothing else came to attack them. As Airk grimly noted, the wizard and the guards knew they were coming. It was likely that any proof of Caradoc and Xeravho’s conspiracy was long gone, and the Crown of Arumdina along with it. The companions bound Theran’s hands and feet, before they carried him to the island holding Caradoc’s estate. He regained consciousness in a few minutes, scowling angrily at the companions despite his helpless position.

“You’re going to answer our questions, or-“ Airk said, before Theran cut him off.

“Spare me your threats,” he said with a sneer. “There’s nothing you can do to me that wouldn’t be worse than what my lord would. You’re wasting your time if-“

He fell silent as Seline chanted a spell. His expression grew serene, with warmth reflected in his eyes and his expression.

“I do hope my previous refusal hasn’t caused you any distress, my lady,” Theran said with a smile. “Is there any way I can rectify my offence?”

A few of the companions looked at Theran in surprise before they turned back to Seline, and realized she’d cast a charming spell on the other wizard.

“Caradoc and Xeravho knew that we were coming, don’t they? They set this trap for us,” she said.

“I’m afraid so,” Theran said, nodding in confirmation. “They also know about your search for some royal regalia you’re after, so Caradoc took his entire collection with him. You won’t find anything like that in his manor,” he continued, gesturing with his head back towards the manor house. “They’re also planning a suitable vengeance on that Xavener boy for interfering with their plans.”

“They’re not just going to betray him to the Herzog?” Amyalla said in surprise.

“I doubt they have any proof that Xavener was behind our coming to the manor,” Luna said, shaking her head. “He can disavow any knowledge of us and just let us suffer any consequences that might come. We’re alone in all this, and time’s running out.”

Ma’non’go clapped his hands once to get his friends’ attention, and they turned to look at him.

If we are alone in this, that might not just be our curse, but our salvation, he signed, as a smile crossed his face.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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