Hunt - Chapter Twenty
~ 20 ~
19 Arodus, 4692 AR; Kenabres
19 Arodus, 4692 AR; Kenabres
Once the halberder's body was searched and tossed outside, Shayliss worked to calm Anevia down. The scout, after recovering from her initial shock, started stammering endlessly about various random seeming topics, but Shayliss was able to pull the pieces together to understand what was going on.
That half-orc was Vagorg. He was a devout cultist of Xoveron, the patron of nabasu demons and gargoyles. Bringing terror everywhere he went, Vagorg was planning the complete destruction of a neighborhood in Tymon when Anevia's wife, Irabeth, finally caught up to him. She had been chasing the fellow half-orc all across the River Kingdoms for months, always arriving just in time to help the settlements and camps recover from the attacks. However, with a stroke of luck, she captured Vagorg before he lit the fuse on barrels of explosive powder.
For the next three days of travel, Vagorg spoke to Irabeth, trying to convince her to let him go. He used their shared heritage as half-orcs to gain sympathy. Yet, Irabeth was only more determined to leave him with the authorities. Her putting him in prison was about two years before she and Anevia met.
By the time all of that information got through her lips, the scout was feeling more like her normal self. She rose from the bed and looked around the house, the effort to put her mind back together obvious on her face.
"She's not here." Anevia muttered, "The bedroom is a mess. Bedroom."
Her expression suddenly brightened with hope and she ran around the bed to the wall. Shayliss watched as the scout squinted her eyes at the stones, her pupils darting back and forth. A mintue later, Anevia let out a breath of joy and reached out toward one of the stones. Mortar broke off and cracked onto the floor as the stone slid from its hole. Behind the stone was a small wooden box with elegant carvings. Compared to the rest of the simple house and its furnishings, the box looked priceless.
Anevia's hands shook as she turned to set the box on the bed and flipped up the latch. It opened with hardly any sound to reveal vials of colored liquid, two of pinkish red liquid and three of a silver-blue hue. Under the vials was a folded piece of parchment with nearly illegible writing as if the note was written in a hurry. Her hands shaking even more, Anevia pulled the note out as gently as possible and read it to the group surrounding the bed.
"I pray to Iomedae every night that you are either with me in Defender's Heart or that you find this note. Once our guardian fell and our forces broke, I led our remaining men and civilians to the inn to make a last line of defense. I left all the potions I could get in here for you, two of healing and three of invisibility. Do not forget about Silverstrong."
Tears glistened in Anevia's eyes, "She's alive." A soft sigh, "She's alive."
Mordria frowned softly, "'Do not forget about Silverstrong'. What does she mean by that?"
"I am not sure." Strune answered with a confused tone, "There is nothing I can really think of that has the name or nickname Silverstrong."
Shayliss stared at the word. Possibilities rushed through her head. A flower? No, typically flowers are not nicknamed with powerful words like 'strong.' The same thing for a city, except it is a bit more believable. She turned to Anevia, "Is it a pet name?"
The scout shook her head, "No. I've never heard the word before."
"So, it is not a nickname for anything between you two." Shayliss muttered, "Is it a nickname at all?"
"It can't be." Strune said, "If it was a memorable nickname, then she would not even need to put it in the note, not to mention tell her not to forget it."
"It has to be of some sort of import-" Shayliss stopped herself when the realization suddenly hit her, "It's a password."
After a moment of thought, Strune and Kaira nodded at the same time. "It's our safeword." Strune said, "To get into Defender's Heart."
Shayliss put a hand on Anevia's shoulder, "Well, let's see about reuniting you two." She turned to the others, "Let's head out."
The closer the group rode to Defender's Heart, the less demonic presence could be felt or seen. Not only that, but Shayliss could feel her body relax more and more, as if there was an aura of peace over that section of the Gate District. Yet, they did not see any sign of guards. Which worried her. If there was a decrease of demons, then she would have expected an increase of Kenabres guards.
Were things really that bad?
She did not have time to worry about it. As they turned the corner for the road that Defender's Heart stood on, a crossbow bolt sailed through the air. It left a small graze on Shayliss's cheek and a voice yelled out, "Halt!"
The group's horses reared up and let out soft huffs. Shadowshine felt as if he was ready to charge for the attacker, but Shayliss pulled hard on his reins and held him back.
"One more move and we will fire!"
"Silverstrong!" Came Anevia's voice.
Her voice did not finish echoing down the road before the whispers of the guards reached Shayliss's ears. Anevia must have been pretty well known among them.
"Come forward, friends." The guard called, "Get the captain down here, now."
Anevia kicked her mount forward and, after a moment of hesitation, Shayliss directed the rest of the group to follow. Two buildings down was a worn structure of stone and wood. Miraculously it was relatively steady. There were three floors and guards stood at every other window. While a few of them held crossbows out toward the sky and street, the rest were whispering and watching in awe.
A stable boy ran out to grab the reins of the groups horses and direct them toward the stables barely visible behind the inn. He was not even around the corner when the front doors bust open and a massive figure stood in their frame.
She was a half orc, her unarmored head giving off both the experience of a frontline warrior and the gentleness of a devout priest. The plate armor covering her body shone with a golden light and held nothing but sharp angles. A broadsword hung down her waist and was covered by a large hand. But it was her tusked smile that caught Shayliss's focus. That smile was genuine in a time of turmoil.
"You made it."
With that, the form of Irabeth ran forward with uncontrollable joy and nearly tackled the shocked Anevia to the ground. But the scout only laughed and hugged back. Right behind Irabeth were three winged forms, two males and one female. It did not take Shayliss long to realize who they were as they mimicked the half-orc in rushing toward Strune. Both families have been reunited.
After a minute of reunion, Irabeth turned to the rest of the group, "You must be the brave adventurers who helped save my wife."
Shayliss stepped forward and gave her a small bow, "Yes, though she did not need too much assistance."
Irabeth let out a small chuckle, "Maybe so, but I cannot ignore what you have done. Please, come inside. I am sure you want to rest, but I need to hear anything you can tell me first."
"We understand." Shayliss gave the half-orc one last bow before following her inside.