States of Light

Episode 8

Outskirts of Hofveld

After a series of tough but successful skirmishes with the pirates, the heroes were allowed to spend a few weeks enjoying the perks of membership in The League. Ulis decided the time was best spent in the swamp testing his survival skills, but he was soon joined by several of the other junior League members along with a sizable entourage.

After their hiatus, the heroes returned to Krandor for a ceremony – in their honour! Magus Katsuro was in attendance and he spoke at least briefly with each of the heroes. He commended them for their work against the pirates and officially welcomed them to the Elite tier of League membership.

After the ceremony they were each assigned to a member of The All Church for some additional training and indoctrination. The results of the indoctrination were questionable, but at the end of the training each hero had acquired a new expression of their growing power.

Not long after the training sessions, all members of The League received urgent summons. Ulis, Amalaun, Gorun and Jiki Mal soon found themselves aboard the same ship, bound for Hofveld. En route they heard many rumours, primarily revolving around a massive disaster of some kind in or near their destination.

When they arrived, they were given a brief overview of the situation by Bellicus Demetrius himself. The scant information they could confirm indicated that Hofveld was the centre of some kind of disaster, but since no one entering the area had yet to return, details were sketchy. All available League assets had been mobilized and were now descending upon the city.

The Bellicus assigned the heroes two missions:

  1. Locate and investigate The All Church in the city.
  2. Locate and investigate an underground arcane library run by a ranking member of The League.

Aside from those missions, they were also to assist other League teams and civilians – but only if it didn’t compromise their primary goals.

They encountered a small group of undead in the forest well south of Hofveld. Jiki Mal speculated they were some sort of ghouls based on their speed and desire to consume living flesh. The team functioned flawlessly and the ghouls were soon defeated.

Not long after entering the cleared farmland around the city, the group spied a fortified farmhouse and decided to investigate. Not wanting to alarm anyone, Gorun approached the house yelling at the top of his lungs. The heroes were ushered into the house by its owner, Byron, who pleaded with them to keep their voices down, but Gorun’s yells had already drawn the attention of a few dozen ghouls.

The ravenous undead threw themselves against the door and boarded windows, eventually breaking through in multiple locations on both floors of the house. In an epic moment of heroism, Ulis threw himself at one of the ghouls that was about to eat a little girl. His action saved her life, but at the cost of his own. Before Amalaun could destroy the foul creature it leapt from the second floor, dragging Ulis’s body with it.

In the end, the heroes were able to destroy or drive off all the attackers and managed to recover a few, slightly chewed, pieces of Ulis. Gorun insisted on keeping them in case The League could resurrect him like they did Kenichi.

Comments

“Excuse me?”
Amalaun looked down at the bundle of wood, hammer and nails that Gorun was holding out towards him.
“Upstairs, the windows. Go and board them up please.”
“Of course, right away.”
Amalaun loaded the planks and tools into his arms, nodding confidently at Gorun. Gorun returned a toothy grin, then headed over to window on the far side of the room, another hammer in hand.
The dark elf looked down at his load of lumber, careful to keep the disgust from his face. At the same time, a young nephew of Bryon’s came down the stairs and sidled past Amalaun with a mumbled pardon.
“You, boy. Come here. Please.”
The youth halted, alarmed. Amalaun smiled at him reassuringly, but his voice held a strong hint of authority.
“Follow me now. Back up the stairs. Come on, don’t dawdle.”
The boy glanced around for a moment, unsure. Amalaun’s level stare prompted him to decide, though, and he quickly ran up the stairs after the dark elf.
“Right, it’s very simple. You must board up these windows. Quickly! And make sure it is solidly done please.” Amalaun patted the boy on the shoulder, then leaned in. “Should the ghouls return, and break in through these windows, I wouldn’t want your Uncle to know it was because of…your…shoddy work.”
The boy’s eyes widened. Amalaun gave him a knowing look, then nudged him forward. The youth immediately and with great energy began fixing the boards over the gaping windows.
Good, good thought Amalaun, with a satisfied smile.
Suddenly, from downstairs, raised voices. A heated argument.
Amalaun, intrigued, headed back down the stairs. In the centre of the main room Jiki Mal stood, arms crossed, confronted by a seething Byron. The other members of the family huddled near the hearth. They watched the argument in fearful silence, expressions drawn with weariness.
“No! We were doing just fine! If you had not drawn so much attention here, I would not have lost a daughter, or a nephew!”
Despair and rage radiated palpably from the distraught farmer. Gorun stood nearby, anguished guilt blotting his face. Jiki Mal was much harder to read. Which, in Amalaun’s experience, was usually a bad sign.
The skraeling finally spoke, and his voice was cold.
“Our sympathies for your loss, and our apologies if you feel we are to blame. However, we are in a war zone, and did not know what to expect from a silent farmhouse. Far all we knew, it could have been full of ghouls.”
“Your feeble excuse doesn’t change my decision. Leave. Now.”
“Please,” Gorun pleaded, “let us help repair the damage. Fortify!”
“NO.”
“You know…” began Amalaun.
Byron snapped around, wild eyes taking in the dark elf warily.
“Yes, hello. I don’t believe we were properly introduced. My name is Amalaun Melep, of the esteemed House Melep.” He offered his hand. “No? Well, hardly surprising, I suppose, given the circumstances.”
“What do you want, drow?”
“Yes of course! But we’ll let that pass. I just wanted to say, that you were only postponing the inevitable.”
“Postponing?” Byron nearly spat the word out. “We were fine, had been fine for several days. They ignored the place, thought it was empty.”
“Eventually they would have sensed your presence.”
“No! We, unlike you, were disciplined. No noise.”
Amalaun shook his head.
“Not by noise. By blood. The older ones especially, they seem to be drawn by it. Isn’t that right, Jiki Mal?” Jiki Mal considered, then gave a curt nod.
“Blood?! Idiot. The only blood spilled here has been because of you! Before that we were unscathed. We were not cut, or wounded in any fashion.”
Amalaun raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have to be wounded to bleed.” He nodded pointedly over at the gathering of women by the hearth. After a moment, one began to blush, as his words sank in. Byron’s face creased in confusion, until suddenly comprehension dawned, and his face turned an ugly red.
“How DARE you—!”
“We must confer,” Jiki Mal cut off the outraged farmer, turning away and pulling Gorun and Amalaun with him. Guiding his companions out of earshot, Jiki Mal addressed them briskly.
“Our orders are clear, we must press on. But, night is falling. Here is the most tactically sound place to recoup. We can enforce our presence by mandate of the League. Stay or go? Gorun?”
“Stay. We must help them. We owe it to their dead.”
“If we stay, we help ourselves,” Jiki Mal said sternly. “If it helps them, that is extra.” When Gorun’s face darkened he added, “Remember. We are at war, and under orders.” The goliath’s shoulders slumped, and he nodded a weary consent.
“Amalaun, what do you think?”
“Me? Think?” Amalaun gave a surprised laugh. “Right, ok. Um, stay. No, wait! Go. No, stay. Go. Stay go. Go stay. So, in the end, I think…stay.”
“Do that again, and I will gut you.”
“Pointless. I have no guts, you’ve said it yourself.”
Jiki Mal shook his head with annoyance.
“Perplexing. One second, an astute observation—the next, nothing.”
“You mean that ghoul scenting blood thing? Made it up.”
“Really.”
Amalaun shrugged. Jiki Mal paused, then snorted.
“Pretty good for a guess.”
Amalaun bowed his head with a smile.
“Ok, I say we stay too. Let’s inform our ‘host’”.
“Wait.” Amalaun laid a light hand on the skraeling’s shoulder. “Not you. Him”
The skraeling halted, and followed Amalaun’s gaze over to a very surprised Gorun. The goliath held up his hands.
“Me? I’m no good with words.”
“True. But you are good with honesty. They will believe your apology because, unlike us,” Amalaun indicated himself and Jiki Mal, “you’ll actually mean it.”
A pause followed, as Gorun appealed, mutely, to Jiki Mal. The skraeling smirked after a few moments, then flicked his broad chin towards Amalaun.
“How ironic,” he mused.
“What?”
“Probably the only truth you’ve uttered all day yourself, dark elf.”
Amalaun smiled. “I hope it’s not catching.”
Gorun sighed. “All right. I’ll do my best, with whatever truth we can offer. But,” he shot a stonelike finger in the air, “If I do this, then we fix their home, with proper defenses. “And, on top of that, we must—”
Gorun suddenly stopped. From upstairs echoed the sound of hammering. Only now this this register with the goliath, who turned to look at the dark elf expectantly.
Amalaun rolled his eyes. “Magic,” he explained.
Gorun whistled, impressed.

Episode 8
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