Chapter 5 – Resolutions
Last Updated : 11/21/11
The death of the goblins changed the atmosphere of the room almost immediately. True, one of the nobles was dead, but the others, recognizing that the danger was past, were all too ready to try and move beyond it.
Their attitude toward their rescuers, however, had shifted noticeably. When they had burst on to the scene, swords in hand, there had been a look of excitement and hope. The few times Alista had given orders to one of the nobles, they had obeyed almost instantly. The death of the goblins had changed that noticeably.
“We need to go home,” one of the well dressed young men had demanded, “There are affairs to set right.”
“My father will hear of this as well,” a woman in a silk lined dress had threatened Greg when he prevented her from leaving. Almost as one their attitude of relief had shifted to one of demand. Alista had picked out one promising young man and was attempting to get him to explain what had happened.
“Did you see anything before they attacked?” she asked in a gentle voice.
“What do you care, elf?” the man had replied.
Alista gritted her teeth, “We are trying to understand what has happened and you are a first hand account. Please, help us prevent this from happening again.”
“That’s not likely,” the young man gestured to the gore around them, “You’ve killed the goblins.”
Alista sighed, “but there might be more. One could have been missed. Did there seem to be a leader?”
The noble shook his head, “I don’t have anything to say to a bodyguard.”
It was Marigold that finally got things in order, “ALL RIGHT!” she shouted, loud enough that it seemed like the room was shaking, “I have had enough of you idiots. All of you are going to line up right there!” she indicated the wall furthest from the entrance, “And you are going to submit to questioning from me! Anyone who refuses to answer my questions will find themselves talking to a squad of inquisitors rather than just myself.”
A few moved in the direction that she had indicated, but most stood there, snickering. Marigold approached one of the closer ones – a woman in a low cut red velvet dress – and grabbed one of the ribbons dangling from her waist, yanking her to attention before the half-orc. The human was dwarfed by Marigold’s height and stature, “Perhaps you misheard me,” she shouted in to the woman’s face. The girl paled noticeably, “I said to line up on the wall, over there, NOW.” She thrust the woman in the direction she had indicated. As soon as her feet touched the floor, the woman scampered, dragging her skirts, to the wall.
The rest of the nobles, seeing the display, moved to obey the half-orc’s command. Well done, Alista thought to herself, as Marigold surveyed the marching nobles.
When they were finally lined up as she had commanded, she gestured for Vicor and Choc to join her. She went down the line, peering at each noble as one might examine a lamb at the slaughterhouse, and pulled one aside. She neatly placed the trembling noble so that he was surrounded in half-orcs.
It did not take long, then, for the young man to begin spouting answers. They had been at a party there in the Warehouse. It had been designated for the sons and daughters of the current nobility, and hosted by Princess Serena. They had been enjoying their time when there was commotion from the kitchens. A group of goblins had broken in, ordering the nobles to stand down and surrender. The few that had tried to resist were knocked unconscious and dragged along with the group of nobles. They had been taken in to the tunnels and assured that they would be held until demands were met. None of the nobles, however, seemed to know exactly who had given the demands, nor what precisely those demands entailed.
For once, Alista was glad that she was not responsible for asking questions. Instead, she and Greg moved among the fallen goblins, looking for clues as to where they had gotten their orders. The party had agreed that the creatures had been acting in a manner inconsistent with their typical methods. That did not answer anything, save that there was something odd about matters.
Odd, she thought to herself, odd is Deacon’s reaction to the nobles. The death of the goblins had caused Deacon’s behavior to alter dramatically. He had taken a group of the nobles in to one of the corners of the room and had refused to allow his fellows any closer to him. He had also been trying to convince the others to allow the night to proceed and that the nobles be escorted home immediately. He had kept to his corner, watching his fellows as they continued to interrogate the nobility.
“I hate the smell of dead Goblin,” Greg commented.
Alista nodded, “Still better than the smell of dead human,” she gestured to the one noble that they had lost in the skirmish. Choc had, thoughtfully, covered the woman with the curtain that had disguised the entrance to the goblin lair. Alista had seen Marigold performing rites over the body when she had been attempting to harangue answers out of the nobles. She wondered, for a moment, if Marigold’s present irritation wasn’t somehow an extension for having had to perform her duties as a servant of Pharasma.
Greg took a look at the body as well, “I suppose. That could have been any one of us, Pretty. You just keep that in mind, when it comes right down to it, these people,” he gestured to the nobles, “they’ll sacrifice any one of us in their place.”
“That is unfair,” Alista replied.
“Is it? You see any of their servants here? Hmm, pretty?” Greg’s face twisted in to a sardonic grin, “Or their cooks. Or their bodyguards?” his grin became feral, “Let me answer for you. You haven’t. Any theories on why?”
Alista took in the people all around the cave. As much as she hated to admit it, Greg was right. There weren’t any of the usual servants present in the cave. On the other hand, there had been no sign of them at the warehouse either, she realized, and told Greg so.
“Of course there wasn’t, pretty. Fire beetles didn’t leave anything for us to find. Perfect distraction, a serving girl is.” He polished his dagger on the cloak of a dead goblin, “That’s just the way it is to them.”
“There are nobles that are better than that,” she countered, “Many.”
“Aye, your Vicor seems right decent for a half-orc. And that Carlyle did try and save the woman.” Greg sheathed the dagger, “But they are the exception, not the rule.”
Alista was about to reply when the interrogators broke up and began lining the well dressed nobles up. Several were handed torches from about the room so that they would not have to go through the tunnels in the absolute darkness that the she and her party had endured to arrive. A few faces held disgust at being requiread to do the task, but none were willing to complain with Marigold moving down the line.
Deacon and his grouping took to the back of the line. When she approached him to offer to assist his guidance, he flatly refused without explanation. Disgruntled, Alista took to her usual place beside Vicor and, at a sharp word from Marigold, the group began to navigate the tunnels.
The walk was largely uneventful and, following the complaints about the climb up the rope that the companions had secured – the complaints lasting only until Marigold had threatened to hang the next whiner as an example for those who would continue the trend – the grouping split to escort the nobles back to their various homes and inns. Alista and Vicor had been favored with a pair of young women who, for the most part, spent much of the time commenting on Vicor’s fine silhouette and his musculature. For his part, Vicor was able to keep a straight face though, Alista noted, he walked with a very serious air.
She gestured for Vicor to slow his pace a bit and allow the women to get in front of them. “Relax Vicor,” she whispered, “They’re women, not werewolves.”
“Do they have to talk so much?” he whispered back.
“It seems to be the case for them,” Alista replied. The pair was still chattering to each other, commenting, it sounded like, on fashion.
“Women are foolish,” Vicor noted.
“Vicor,” Alista interrupted before he could continue, “you realize who you’re talking to, correct?”
Vicor nodded, “You’re not much of a woman though,” he replied, “You don’t fill your head with idiocies and dresses. “ His tone was serious and, Alista realized, he had meant his words as a compliment. It should have come as no surprise that Vicor saw her as a bodyguard rather than a woman.
Alista sighed, “As you wish, Vicor. Let’s pick up the pace.” And with that her step quickened.
When they arrived at the home where the two women stayed, one of them turned and said, quite flatly, “A moment while your master escorts us to the door.” And gestured for her to stand beyond the gate.
Alista shrugged at Vicor’s confused look and gestured for him to finish the escort. The sooner they were rid of the pair of fools, the better. They moved up a long path to the house as she watched, keeping an eye on Vicor more out of habit than out of any real concern. If the two petticoats were a danger to him, then she had done something wrong in his training.
She watched as the two ladies knocked on the door. A well dressed man greeted them. His face took on a shocked expression as he surveyed the half-orc. He gave the girls an inquisitive look. Alista could not hear what was said, but she was able to see both women wrap their arms around Vicor in an affectionate gesture.
Her protégée froze, then, his entire body seizing up as he stood there with the women draped upon him. She could hear his low voice reply to the question of the well dressed man, though she could not make out the individual words. There was giggling from the women and a second query from the man. Alista saw one of the women stand on her toes and kiss Vicor on his chin, give him a little wave, and disappear in to the interior. Vicor spun on his heel and marched back in her direction, his face like a stone. He glared at her as he came closer, “Not a word, Alista. Not a word.”
Alista smiled, “I would not dream of it, milord,” she replied, “Come, Carlyle said to meet him at his estate when your friends were safely at their home.”
There was a sense of trepidation as Trevor entered the large estate house. The guards had been reluctant to admit him to the grounds but, upon invoking his mistress’s name, he had been allowed within. The servant’s entrance had been closed, but left unlocked. The large wooden door squeaked, loudly, as he pulled it open.
The fire within the kitchen was banked. He could see coals, still red hot, behind the grill designed to keep them from spilling in to the main chamber. The silver light of the moon cast its cold luminescence on the Vegetables in bins and was scattered among sausages and wreaths of garlic that hung over a large food preparation area. He could see several baking stones near the banked fire, presumably warming.
None of the warmth of the fire spilled in to the room as he closed the door behind him, quickly so as to not allow the squeaking to allow notice. The room plunged in to darkness, save for the faint glow of the coals. Trevor took a moment to collect himself and assure that the door was sealed. Satisfied, and with his eyes beginning to adjust to the darkness, he moved in the direction of the door that he knew was beyond.
“You are late, Trevor.” The cold voice came from the shadows, “Report.”
The man froze. She didn’t sound happy, “My apologies, mistress. I have come to report success, mistress.”
“Really?” the voice moved out of the shadows. He could make out the outline of her form as she stepped in front of the fire, blocking much of the red glow of the coals, “Were there any….complications?”
“Mistress?” he asked, concerned at her question. She has never questioned my ability before.
“I asked, Trevor, if there were any complications,” she repeated as if she were speaking to a slow child, “Why do you hesitate to answer?”
Trevor gulped, loudly, “There were some…late arrivals, mistress.” He replied, “After…the…the others had been taken.”
“And?” her voice was curious. Trevor desperately wished he could see her face, know the expression. Her eyes, her smile, her cruel grin, would warn him enough that he could make his escape. The red glow behind her betrayed nothing.
Trevor took another deep breath, “And they decided to investigate. They…found someone who had been missed. The lady DeFloures. One of them determined that the hole was the cause of concern. They went down. I waited ten minutes, and then reported to you, as ordered.”
“Good, good,” The cold cheer in her voice drew the warmth from his face. Trevor had heard that voice before, “And you have nothing else to report?”
Trevor shook his head, “Nothing, mistress. I did as you ordered. I’ve told no one, save yourself, of the goblins or the nobles,” he paused, gulping, “I have always been loyal, my lady.”
There was a low chuckle from the woman, “You have Trevor, and for that, I thank you. You have been a good little man and did assist me in ensuring that this party would take place. It is part of why you were spared and the others were not.”
Trevor’s mind whirled, “Cassidy? Joanna? Edward?” he questioned, remembering some of the other servants who had gone with him to the festivities. They were kitchen staff, as opposed to a guard like himself, but he was certain that they had been warned. Now that he thought about it, however, he had not seen them when the goblins had exited with their victims. He had assumed they had escaped, “They were your servants, my lady. We were all loyal. We followed your orders. I am loyal…I followed orders..”
“You did well, Trevor,” her voice took on a tone of faint regret, “I am glad that you have followed orders so well. Your service will be remembered.”
He took a step back and felt himself bump into cold steel. A pair of massive arms wrapped around his torso, “My lady! What…?”
He could hear the flint in her voice, “Witnesses.” Was the only word he heard. He felt a sharp pain in his chest and stared, in cold horror, at the dripping wound that now surrounded a blade buried there.
“I have always been….” And then he knew nothing.