The events of this story take place on the same evening of the Second Battle of Lakewood and the Assault on Armsby Abbey…
Captain Tolland flinched at the sound in the dark, a cacophonous crash and rending sound of splintering wood that could only mean a direct hit to the outer palisade. Tolland spat on the stonework in front of him. If that sound didn’t mean that the walls were breached, they soon wood be. Did he participate in the liberation of Lakewood days ago, just to die defending the town from an army of humanoids that had abandoned Tyn City for this softer target?
“Hold your ground men! Basil has commanded us to hold this fortress as the last line of defense, and hold it we shall!” He looked from man to man, a bare dozen of them, assigned to defend the gates of Stonedennus and the women and children huddled within should the unthinkable happen and the inhuman horde defeat the defending army.
Tolland squinted his eyes and craned his neck for a view down the main alley in the direction of the north gate- obscured by houses and the bear-baiting arena from this angle he couldn’t see much. The darkness and thick smoke didn’t help. He could just make out what looked like fireflies buzzing above the rooftops, but which he knew were flaming arrows raining down on his friends.
A flash of light lit of the sky. The great wizard who participated in the cities defense perhaps? What the captain would not give to see him in battle. An inhuman roar soon followed.
Just then, a horse came galloping through the darkness. Tolland signalled to his men in the direction and they set spears. As he got closer to the lanterns of the gate Tolland recognized his friend.
“Tolland, it is I, Captain Bannel! They have sundered the North Gate! Basil is smitten! All reinforcements have been re-assigned to the North Gate to defend against the enemy! They have a Hill Giant!”
Tolland started shaking uncontrollably. Could Basil really be dead? “I- Basil’s last order was to defend Stonedennus at all costs…”. Another roar and a crash. A flaming boulder came sailing down fifty yards to the north, landing through a thatched roof. Damn it! If those adventurers he heard about hadn’t abandoned them, maybe they would have a chance…
“Ok…Sargent Davvus, you and the men re-inforce the North Gate. Martus, you order the women and children to the sewers. I will await your return and then meet the others at the gate forthwith! Goodspeed!”
The men all dispersed as they followed his orders. Tolland was eerily alone on the dark street north of the gate to the fort. For some reason his mind turned the the Abbey- surely it was lost by now.
Just then he spotted a shadow moving along the wall, gesticulating in his direction and whispering. “Halt! Stop you! Into the light old man!”
The man stepped forward, still talking, and not so old but crouched. He was bald, with tattoos covering his head. his mouth was covered by a blood red scarf, but Tolland could hear his words clear as day, hissing out at him after finishing his whisper:
“I don’t think I will halt, Captain Tolland. I think you will let me in that gate, and escort me to the prison cells.”
Tolland thought for a minute, then decided this was a fine idea.
In his dark, cramped cell, Goodwin could still faintly hear the sounds of battle outside. If Lakewood held it’s defenses, he could look forward to living the rest of his life in this cell. However, if the humanoids won…the humanoids were no Vermese soldiers, who could respond to reason and recognize the value of a fine swordsman and strategist. He’d be lucky if the goblins left him here to starve. More likely, they would find a less wasteful use for him.
“Renda..” he croaked out of the slit in the oaken door of his cell in his thick Northwood accent. “Renda, can you hear me woman?” The guards had “forgotten” to give him water today. There was no response.
Suddenly, the sounds of footsteps could be heard along the hall. Goodwin knew this could be no good omen- and guards should be defending the city. He hid under the slit in the door. He craned his head up to try to catch a glimpse of who walked past. The person stopped right in front of his cell.
“Goodwin!” the voice hissed. He could see those eyes looking through the door. It was that trickster sorcerer- the one who arrived and offered his services to the Vermese to help find the ranger Borden months ago…
“Chezlit- isn’t it?? What are….never mind…get me out of here, I can pay you!”
“You…you will have nothing to pay. No matter who wins this war, you will have enemies in the Tynese, the Vermese, the Northwoodsmen. You will find no solace in Est Harbor, nor Steelheart, nor Verma, nor certainly Tyn or the Duchy of Highsee. I will let you free and you will help me, because we have a common enemy. A certain set of adventurers who represent our shared hope. For there are powerful forces that just now are realizing that some fools have somehow hindered there plans, and we will be happy to make introductions- for a price!”
Goodwin listened to Chezlit, and without need of a charm spell, he also realized that his words were a fine idea.
The door opened, and Goodwin moved towards the exit: “Ok, let’s get out of here.” He saw that the rogue-woman Renda and the mercenary archer Cherra were already behind him, being helped from their binds by a Lakewood guard of all things.
“They who will join us will make us stronger. They will join our company or die here. But before we leave we have one other stop. The crypts under the prison. There is a body we must take with us.”
Goodwin was afraid he knew who’s body they were after, but even more afraid that he knew why.