–Dark of the Moon, ch. 11–
In which the companions return to Castle Esris and prove their worth.
The four companions split up to search the skyship. Fascinated by the defensive turrets, Danath approached the last intact one and examined it. Like the enchantment in Silvern’s laboratory, the turret was a complicated mix of lenses, tubing, and gears. But what caught Danath’s attention was the shimmering gray crystal at its center, which he dislodged and pocketed.
Norros returned to Dalvin Torn and freed him from his cell. “Any chance you can pilot this ship?”
“This is a thing of a beauty,” said Dalvin. “I don’t have a clue where Calder generated the capital to purchase it. These things cost a fortune. I’ve never been in one before now, but I’ll give it my best shot.” He hurried away to the cockpit on the floor above the brig while Norros wandered over to check on Thevir. The Dwarvish courier was injured and unconscious but still breathing.
Nadarr and Elendithas each went into a side room off the main hold. There was something odd about the desk Nadarr found: one side of it seemed to have more wood than it needed for its basic shape. Not usually the most patient Dragonborn, Nadarr slowly ran his fingers all over the desk until he heard a click. A false panel detached from the base of the desk and gold pieces started pouring out.
As Elendithas entered the other room, she heard Norros shouting at Thevir to wake up and walked over to the brig instead. Soon all four companions faced a surly but awake dwarf from across the cell’s bars. Danath had brought in Calder’s head just to show Thevir they meant business.
“Calder has eyes everywhere,” said the dwarf. “All over Torniel, even in the Pinnacle. Even the duke’s closest advisor was in his pay.”
“Silvern. We know. He skipped town,” said Norros. “What did you do with the silver you were collecting?”
“Dumped it in the Sea of Torn. Bloody waste if you ask me, but I wasn’t about to disobey orders. That’s why I’m in this cell in the first place.”
“You disobeyed orders?”
“The package. I dropped it when you lot were chasing me. Got snatched within ten minutes. Someone must have been keeping tabs on me.”
“What else do you know?”
“That Calder kept the Pact compartmentalized. Only he knew everyone involved. And now –” Thevir gestured to the werewolf head – “You have cut off the head of the beast, so to speak. You’ll never know who else was involved.”
“With their boss gone, I doubt they’ll be much trouble,” said Elend.
“Don’t be so certain, lass,” said Thevir. “We all had final orders issued to us if we weren’t contacted at certain times.”
The adventurers left Thevir in his cell and returned to the room Elend had been about to search. A work bench was strewn with several items. “Bitterroot!” said Nadarr taking the dried sprigs from a hook on the wall. “I think I’ll make some more tea. It may taste disgusting but it does the body good.”
“Look at this,” said Danath holding up a bone broken in half. “And there’s something ground up in this mortar. Looks like a flower of some sort. Can’t tell now.”
“And this,” said Elendithas. “Ouch!” She pulled her finger back from a dish of jelly and shook her hand. “Ow ow ow! Don’t touch that. It burns!” She held up her finger, now blistered and throbbing.
“There’s a vial of blood, too,” said Nadarr. “And what do you make of this?” He held up a piece of parchment full of numbers. “I found a similar one on the desk in the other room.”
“It looks like a cipher of some kind,” said Elendithas. “Calder must have written in code to keep things secret.”
“Come on, let’s go check on Dalvin,” said Norros.
The party clambered up to the pilot’s room. “This baby is a dream to steer,” said Dalvin. “It does most of the work for me. Shall I put it down someplace?”
“We better report back to the Duchess,” said Danath.
“Or we could just take the skyship and leave,” suggested Norros.
“I don’t think Samara would take kindly to that. Where would you land, Dalvin?”
“How about we make a grand entrance? The courtyard of Castle Esris should be big enough.”
The four adventurers went up on deck as they descended towards the Pinnacle. Spotting an eagle hovering overhead, Danath called to it, and tied a hastily written note to its leg. “Just to make sure they know we’re friendly. It is as enemy vessel, after all.” Sure enough, a few minutes later, the griffin riders made a pass with the eagle soaring above them. Norros waved and gave a thumbs up.
Dalvin landed the skyship with aplomb in the center of the courtyard. Right before it touched down, four massive struts unfolded from the sides of the ship and hit the cobblestones with a dull thud. Norros, Nadarr, and Elend shimmied down the rope ladder, while Danath went to retrieve Thevir. As he unlocked the cell, the dwarf moved with surprising speed and dove at him with twin daggers drawn. Danath reacted at the last second and sidestepped the attack. Thevir belly-flopped on the ground with his daggers stuck in the wood floor.
“Silvered daggers,” said Danath. “I see someone didn’t trust his boss.” And with that he struck Thevir a blow to the back of his head, and the dwarf collapsed. Dragging the unconscious courier to the main egress hatch, Danath kicked the door open and a staircase uncurled. He pushed the dwarf out, and Thevir tumbled down the steps to land in front of Norros.
“I like your style, Danath,” he said. “Ooo, nice boots.” Norros pulled the boots off the dwarf.
“Must be where he stashed these knives,” said Danath. “Seriously, did none of us search him earlier?”
Nadarr hefted the dwarf onto his shoulder. “Come, let’s return to Duchess Samara.”
They wended their way through the castle’s hallways until they reached the passage to the room where they first met the duchess. Sounds of fighting reached their ears, and Norros and Elend raced off without so much as a word. Nadarr unceremoniously dumped Thevir’s body on the ground and charged after them. “I’ll just tie him up then, shall I?” said Danath.
Norros reached the end of the passage first. A bloody hand gripped the doorframe. “Guards…turned…” The captain’s hand slipped off the frame and fell limp. “Help her,” he gasped with his final breath.
Norros, Elend, and Nadarr dashed into the room, running past three more dead guards as they went. Four werewolves surrounded Samara Esris, who had backed into the corner of the room. Her hands were alight with radiant energy, which she shot at one enemy. The werewolf dropped to the ground with a howl of pain and lay still. “Friends, thank goodness,” she called. “I can’t hold them off forever.”
Nadarr charged the nearest werewolf and hacked at it with his silvered longsword. Two of the wolves turned and attempted to strike the paladin, but he turned their blows with his shield. Norros put a silver-tipped arrow into the side of one, and then noticed Kirra Esris hiding behind the table in the corner. “Get help!” he called to her. Kirra looked up at him, and something in his tone made her obey. She edged along the side of the room and out the door.
Danath streaked past her, nocking an arrow as he ran. He gained the room in time to hear Elendithas attempt to mock one of the werewolves. “…And your fur is scruffy and you have dull teeth and…and…and you smell!”
As she said the word “smell,” a pulse of rainbow light burst from Norros’s hand, blinding the nearest werewolf. Seeing her chance, Samara pointed three glowing fingers at it and a burst of fire shot from each. The flames caught the wolf on fire just as Nadarr’s sword found purchase in the beast’s neck. It was dead before it hit the ground.
The werewolf Elendithas had mocked did not take kindly to her words. It moved to her side and buried its teeth and claws into her flesh. A heavy, throbbing pain coursed through Elend’s veins, and she felt suddenly feverish. The last wolf joined its companion at what seemed the easiest target. As it raised its claws to strike, Samara’s hands glowed once again, but this time it seemed like she was cradling a ball of light in a basket. She spread her arms wide and the light washed over the companions, refreshing them with healing energy. Samara dropped to one knee, spent.
Elendithas took another blow from the werewolf’s claws, but then she strummed her lyre and the momentum of the strumming motion carried her arm up over her head. Continuing the arc, she slammed her hand onto the ground and a wave of thunderous energy battered the two werewolves. One nearly lost its balance as she forced it away. Two more silvered arrows found it. The two wolves looked at each other and fled.
Norros, Nadarr, and Elendithas gave chase, but the wolves were too quick, and they reached the door to the hallway without being caught. Samara looked up at Danath who had stayed behind. “Master hunter,” she breathed. “Do you remember the sequence?” She gestured to the secret door in the brick wall.
“I do,” he said, and he pushed the four bricks into the wall.
The lead werewolf careened down the passageway, only to skid to a halt as Danath stood in front of it with his arrow drawn. As Danath loosed his shaft, the second wolf crashed into his companion, and the arrow went wide. Nadarr came sprinting around the corner with his sword held high. Finding the same place in the neck as the last beast, Nadarr swung with all his might and the longsword buried itself in the wolf’s clavicle. The force of the blow slew the wolf and propelled its companion toward Danath. It sank its jaws into Danath’s neck, and he too felt the heavy throb fill his body with sudden fever.
Norros stepped into the hallway with a silvered arrow at the ready. “Tell Calder we said ‘Hello’.” As the werewolf opened its mouth to strike again at Danath, Norros let fly. The arrow hit the wolf in the back of the head and grew through its open mouth to rest just brushing Danath’s nose. The ranger pushed the wolf off him and it slumped to the ground. As it hit the floor, Kirra came racing around the corner with the griffin riders in tow. “You killed it!” she said to Danath. “I knew you could!”
“Hey,” said Norros, but no one was listening.
Duchess Samara stumbled into the hallway on Elendithas’s arm. “Calder is dead, Duchess. And he didn’t return to his human form upon death, so you need not worry about your secret. It is safe with us.”
“It is finished, then,” said Samara. “Or…not quite. Come here, master hunter, you look not yourself. Nor you, Lady Day.” With a final rush of radiant energy, she burned away the curse that was seeking to take root in Elend and Danath. “Be free of this curse, as I hope now Torniel is free of the Lupine Pact. Thanks to you all.”
Kirra beamed at Danath. Nadarr sheathed his sword. Samara put an arm around Elendithas and hugged her tightly. Norros said, “When do we get paid?”
Written by Adam Thomas, Dungeonmaster
Jarrod Antkowiak as Norros Arborshade
Allissa Leonard as Nadarr Kasdann
Jack Leonard as Danath Errandir
Leah Thomas as Elendithas Day