After all the fuss, we sorted ourselves out. I didn’t see Pyrea or Ragar, but maybe they were helping the town and keep guards with the prisoners. Or maybe they were hauling Belaldur’s chestnuts out of the fire? I have to confess I was busy with a wedge of cheese set out on the bar upstairs.
The rest of us – let’s see, that was myself, Joran and Joffrey, Itsy and Mazlor, and Fergus, Willie, and Josef, plus Veckstos – dashed across town to the Temple of the Light. Joran joined in healing and aiding the wounded as Mazlor talked to Averin. I looked about and saw a few finely clothed merchant folk, one with his right arm awkwardly cradled in his left. Walmar’d been waiting some time to be tended, but triage had put the many burned and concussed and stabbed and all ahead of him.
And, my, wasn’t his son Kaymar red-faced with impotent rage. His wife Roebuck was there, too – staying calm but wondering why nothing could be done to help her husband. I sidled up and, as Kaymar clutched at his purse, offered my services for a fee. Watched carefully by Roebuck, Fergus resocketed Walmar’s dislocated shoulder. I pulled power from the earth to reknit his broken arm, and made a fuss about mixing together mint and willow (and I told them, ground gemstone) into a tea to ease his pain and soothe him.
I asked and received a royal for the treatment! And Roebuck asked me to visit her in the days ahead to talk of the herb and nature lore I had used. Perhaps I can get back my cloak then – it was all I had to use as a sling, besides the furs in my armor.
As I was finishing up, Mazlor emerged from the back with Gazelle. Averin would stay at the temple, organizing the relief, and Isty would stay with her. Gazelle, grabbing her spell book, joined us in our desperate effort to protect the Duke from the machinations of the Lightbringer faction. We collected our steeds and raced for the Keep.
We got there just as a parade of dignitaries and armed folk were entering it. Joran, Gazelle, and Mazlor muscled through the watching crowd – “In the name of the Light” – and we made the gates. Gazelle demanded, as a Flame, that we all be let through, and we were admitted but told to await the Marshall’s pleasure in the barracks. Fergus objected, but the guards let only Veckstos out, to report to his superior, the Captain of the Duke’s Guard.
After a bit, we were summoned to the Keep library. Gazelle left for the Duke’s welcoming reception; she patted my hand sympathetically and promised to have some food sent in for a late lunch. Once that arrived, we set to with gusto. I put aside a couple pastries for later, and advised Willie and Josef and Fergus to do the same.
The Marshall, looking grim, came into the room. Mazlor, after verifying Roehm’s identity, showed him the papers, one at a time, proving Orielt and Godfrey complicit in the plot on the Duke. We warned him, too, that the skinwalker was still loose. Marshall Roehm declared he would confine Orielt and Godfrey to their quarters, once the fête was over. 20 trusted men would guard the Duke. And Roehm would take some of the papers to prove the conspiracy to the Duke.
After the reception ended, and the crowds passed, Ynnivax came to gives us the news that Godfrey had gone quietly to his room, while Orielt raged and had to be bound. Gazelle took both their magic talismans. The Duke, furious, demanded the right to try them both under the King’s Law. Callista, the Captain of the Duke’s Guard was astonished; clearly Veckstos had failed to brief her before the reception. And Vekstos was nowhere to be found. We all set a password so we could know each other, with a skinwalker on the loose.
Come sundown, we were escorted to the kitchen, a fine place to snag a plate from the foods prepared but not served at the cancelled state dinner. As we made for our rooms for the night, we heard a great commotion, and a Duke’s Guardsman rushed to me, gave the password, and told me, “There is a monster in the Duke’s chamber!”
We ran towards the sounds of battle. The door to the Duke’s room glowed a dark pulsing purple, jolting the guards as they tied to open it. Joran quickly dispelled the magic, and a guard kicked the door open. The Duke was gasping, badly injured, and three beleaguered guards were fighting a viciously animated bed!
Fergus charged at the bed-beast, while Mazlor cast dispel magic at it (to no effect). I summoned insects from the Keep, but the Keep had been scoured so that only centipedes and earwigs and ants responded, and they were too slow to make a difference in the battle. Joran ran to the Duke with a potion, then helped him to the door, where she casts a healing spell on him. Mazlor met them there with two more potions, and the Duke is nearly good as new.
The bed-beast killedone of the guards, and nearly offed Fergus twice, but Fergus hit it a few times, and I got in a good smash with my cudgel before some guards came up and finished it. As the beast perished, Pyrea’s friend Joseph – who turned out to be the Duke’s court wizard – and Marshal Roehm arrived and conferred with us. Joesph wanted the Duke safely back in Rondorin, and he had a way to get him there!
In the basement, Joseph showed us a magical gateway, one of an ancient network that connected all the keeps before the Doom, and swears us all to secrecy. After rotating some stone disks so the right symbols showed (Here Fergus’ strength and my keen eyes were most appreciated) and an elaborate spell, the gateway opened and the Duke and Joseph stepped through, to return in a few days. Roehm would cancel all the Duke’s meetings and parties and tell everyone the Duke is recovering in secured chambers. The Duke charged Roehm to root out the conspiracy and catch the skinwalker – and Roehm turned to us, his troubleshooters.
A clue soon presented itself. That which we thought was Veckstos was actually the skinwalker in his shape. The guard he’d gone off with was slain.
As for the conspiracy, Orielt was dragged to the dungeon and a second holy symbol taken from her. She tried using a word of command but Callista punched her mouth and gagged her. We went to talk to Godfrey in his room as we took him to the dungeon.
And then such a babble of the Light this and the old gods that between Mazlor, Joran, and Godfrey. I mostly tuned it out, but one point stood out. Godfrey was converted to the Lightbringers by a silver-tongued cleric. Mayhap he’d been charmed? Perhaps the kindly Godfrey could be freed of the spell? I must talk to Joran or someone who can dispel magic. Bed first, though – well, perhaps another turn through the kitchen before that.