Hunt - Chapter Twenty-One
~ 21 ~
19 Arodus, 4692 AR; Kenabres
19 Arodus, 4692 AR; Kenabres
Irabethâ€™s finger taped down upon the paper-covered desk over and over again. Her other hand was placed to cup her chin in thought and her eyes stared down at the note the group found within the Mongrel Lair. The group sat either in chairs or on the queen sized bed within the cramped inn room turned office.
â€œThis changes things.â€ Irabeth mutters after five full minutes of silence, â€œWe now have a chance, something we did not have up until yesterday.â€
She rose from her chair, placing the note onto her desk, and turned to look at the others. While she was trying to contain it, to give off the air of a commander in control of her emotions, it was easy to see the excitement rising up within her.
â€œNot only did you survive the attack on Kenabres and return my wife to me, but you also saved two men that could provide great help to the Crusade, gained the support of a nation unto itself, and gathered valuable intelligence about our enemy.â€ Her massive head shook in disbelief, â€œIt is remarkable. With this, we will be able to go onto the offensive after days of holding our ground.â€
Shayliss rose, â€œIf I may ask, why have you not gone on the offensive yet? There are people out there still who are struggling to survive and losing hope by the hour.â€
The paladinâ€™s tusked mouth turned up slightly, â€œI know and I wish I could. But this is all I have under my command.â€ She waved her hand out toward the rest of Defenderâ€™s Heart, â€œWith so few numbers, I could not risk sending them out on what could be suicide missions. I needed them here to protect those we know are alive and with us.â€ Her expression shifted slightly to a small smile, â€œBut, if what you say is true, and the demons are starting to dwindle in the city, then I may be able to send small teams out there to get people back here. If you can mark on a map where you found those survivors you ran across, then I can get them home.â€
â€œWhat about the Mongrelmen and Templars?â€
At that, Strune perked up from her polite, but exhausted, posture. Irabeth glanced at the strix before returning to Shayliss, â€œI will send a team with our best diplomat to the First Descendants to talk about their assistance. As for the Templars, we need to be careful. While we need them taken out, they are paranoid by nature and ready to kill.â€ Her gaze goes over the group as a whole, â€œBut I will not send you all. You have done way too much already for us.â€
This time Strune got to her feet, â€œBut-â€
Irabeth put a hand up, stopping Struneâ€™s next word, â€œTrust me, if you are willing, I will be glad to have your assistance.â€ Her smile widened, â€œBut I think you all need rest. Please, take the rest of tonight and tomorrow off. Rest, recover. We can talk afterward.â€ She tilted her head toward their packs sitting next to the doorway and gave Shayliss a wink, â€œMaybe you can even teach my men the game the First Descendants showed you.â€
Strune opened her mouth, hesitated, then nodded in surrender, â€œI understand.â€
â€œGood.â€ Irabeth bowed, â€œYou are all dismissed, except for Shayliss. I want to talk to you a bit more.â€
With various forms of bows, or silent departure in Snagaâ€™s case, the group excluding Shayliss left the room with their packs. Right outside the door, there was a young dwarven girl in the uniform of an army servant or flagbearer. She gave the exiting group a bow and waved an arm down the hall toward the left. Strune gave Shayliss a last glance before closing the door behind her.
Once the door hit frame, Irabeth let out a small sigh, â€œI knew I recognized you.â€
Shayliss blinked in surprise and turned to the half-orc, â€œWhat do you mean?â€
Irabeth stepped up to Shayliss, close enough to force Shayliss to look slightly up to meet her gaze, â€œYou spent two weeks before Armasse searching for someone. While you never talked directly to me, you spoke to many of the Eagle Watch and word reached me.â€
She turned toward her desk and rifled through some of the papers on top. After a minute, she finally pulled out a worn looking sheet with writing and bloodstains on it. With slight hesitation, Irabeth passed it over to her.
â€œI sent a scout out after the attack to find out what the demons did with any captives. This is the report I got back.â€
Shaylissâ€™s hands shook as she took the parchment and glanced over it. She knew exactly what Irabeth was getting at and the thoughts racing through the girlâ€™s head were not pleasant.
As expected, many of those that the demons capture do not have much time to realize their fate before they are killed, sometimes eaten, sometimes not in that order. Yet, there is a small group of demons who have chained various citizens to each other hand and foot. They lead the captives out of the Gate District toward the north, making a huge circle around our base of operations. From the city, they continued north far beyond Kenabres. I did not follow under your orders, but my suspicion is that they returned to the Worldwound through Vilareth Ford. Unfortunately, there were many women matching your description of the target, so I could not confirm that she was there. I was found out, though, and had to fight my way back into safe territory, so excuse the bloodstains.
Shayliss lost her breath. There was a chance that Valtyra was within the Worldwound now. The desire to dash out of the inn and chase after her was strong. So strong that she felt her body shifting her weight toward the door. She caught herself and forced her body to freeze.
â€œI know how you feel. There would be no shame in leaving now.â€ Irabeth put a hand on Shaylissâ€™s shoulder, â€œAnd I know you are skilled enough to do it. You saved my wife after all. But I would suggest waiting and resting first. You would be no use to either of you if you died because of poor choices and sleep deprivation.â€
Shayliss bowed her head, trying to calm herself, before nodding, â€œOf course. You are right.â€
Irabeth let out a small huff, â€œYeah. Come on. Iâ€™ll show you to the room weâ€™ve prepared for you.â€