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The Betrayers Disciple - Chapter Two

Hilary Datten
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Chapter 2


“Oh dear." I said. "Well, there goes the quiet life I had planned. I think I’d like to get back to Neverwinter and see if I can find Neeshka, and Kelgar. You’d like them, and if I’ve got to deal with a live god, I’m going to need a lot of help. Gann, did you find anything out about where we are?”

“We are in a village called Farthingford, which is fortunately between two major trading routes. From here, we could go north west, skirt the great glacier, carry on round the great Sand Sea, up to the High Forest, and thence to the Sword Coast and Neverwinter. We would be pretty much on our own most of the way. Or we could go south, then along the Golden Way, take a boat across the Sea of Fallen Stars, through Comyr, onto the Trade Way, and come into Neverwinter from the south. That route, there would be plenty of merchants travelling, so it might be an easier journey. There’s a caravan due in tomorrow, and it would seem they are likely to be on the lookout for extra guards. In the last year or so, the roads have gotten more difficult – marauding parties of orcs and drows, as well as trolls and ogres have been on the increase. I think the chances of us being hired are quite good. Aside from that, the stories everyone is telling are about the valiant Knight Captain of Neverwinter, how she turned up from nowhere, defeated the Shadow King, and disappeared in the process.”

“Hiring out to a caravan sounds good”, I said, “apart from the orcs, who seem to have a tendency to take an instant dislike to me. Safiya?”. “Yes, I agree. However, we do need to sort out how we are going to present ourselves. With a god after you, you cannot afford to let people know who you are. His followers will be dogging our every step. It’ll be easier for me. There are few outside my Academy who would recognise me, and those there are unlikely to be out and about for a while.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to sort things out in the Academy?” I interrupted. “I know it’s important to you, and it was in such a state when we left”.

“No”, she smiled. “It’ll keep for a while. I need to sort out all the experiences of the Foundress that have become part of me before I can sort things out there. Anyway, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity like this – life has been so much more exciting since I met you. Scary at times, but definitely exciting.”

“Anyway,” she continued, “I have had plenty of practice in disguising myself recently, so I can do that in areas where the Red Wizards are not popular. Which will probably be quite a lot round here. Gann can probably stay as he is – unless you have left a trail of heartbroken maidens all the way to the sea?”. “I have travelled” Gann admitted, “but not in this direction – but Hilary? You cannot really hide that you are a bard, but even as far as we are from Neverwinter, the name of Hilary Datten, the Knight Captain is well known.”.

“I think”, I said, “that I will be called Elyria. It has a nice feel, and is not too dissimilar, but different enough. Yes, Elyria Lupus Daysun.”. “Lupus? Oh, the wolf. The menagerie name Kaelyn gave you. That’s a nice touch” said Gann.

“Can I do the negotiations with the caravan master?” I asked. “As long as you promise to try and get some sort of living wage, and not give us away free like you did with that other merchant” said Gann. “Hear, hear” said Safiya. “Err, right” I said. “Safiya, where’s Kaji – I haven’t seen him today”. “He’s with Althyria”, she said. “Doing what?”. “Well, I’m not quite sure, but it sounded as though she was trying to teach him to say chocolate”. I laughed. “That should keep her busy for a while!”.

I stretched a bit, and had a wonderful thought. I winked at Safiya. “I think I need a walk – I feel a bit stuffy. But first, I really need to decide what to wear. I was thinking about by Neverwinter cloak with this, Gann, but I’m not sure if the colour is right”. Gann look perplexed. Safiya joined in – “No, no, Gann, you can’t let her wear the cloak, not with that robe. It’s completely the wrong colour, and it makes her hair look all flat and drab. She needs to wear a nice red”. “Oh, yes, and the dragon slippers. The dragon slippers would look nice, and they’re very comfy.” Gann was choking. One small push. “Which sword would look best, Gann. The Ceremonial Neverwinter blade is too chunky, but the Sword of Gith is just too silver, and doesn’t match my undies anyway”. Gann went bright red. “I surrender” he said. “I’ll wait for you in the market place”. He left. We waited a minute or two, and then collapsed in giggles.

When we had recovered, we went out to find Gann. He was waiting as promised in the market. I tucked his arm round me and gave him a hug. “I really do think I need a walk” I said. “Which direction do you think would be most interesting?”. “I’m not sure” he said. “I hear the next caravan is coming from the north, so perhaps we should wander that way”. “Sounds good to me” I said. “Safiya?”. “I’m right with you”. So north we headed.

We’d been walking, enjoying the peace and tranquillity, for a couple of hours when we heard something in the distance. Shouting and yelling. Gann listened carefully. “Small raiding party of orcs” he said. “And they’ve found something to raid”. “Oh no”, I said, “not orcs. Why orcs? Oh well, here we go again”. “May I have the pleasure of your company, my Lady”, said Gann. “Lead on, my brave knight” I said. “Idiots”, smiled Safiya.

I summoned Orglash, and we hastened in the direction of the noise. A party of about 20 orcs was attacking a caravan of merchants, and their guards were being overwhelmed. The orcs had a pretty ferocious looking shaman chief with them, who unfortunately, had obviously travelled. “The Orc Slayer” he shouted. “Kill her, now”. Well, at least that took the pressure off the merchants. The next half hour was, well, bloody, although the Orglash seemed to be enjoying itself. I will say this for the chieftain; he did not hide behind his warriors when he saw me. He came right for me, with an axe that was large and clearly frequently used, if not so frequently cleaned. I had time to cast some protective spells, and then he was on me. I fended him off whilst Gann, Safiya and the Orglash had dealt with the rest of the orcs, and then, well then we had to kill him.

After we had caught our breath, we went to talk to the master of the caravan. “If it’s not a stupid question, what happened?” I asked. “I don’t rightly know, young lady” he said. “We’ve been travelling this route for years now, and ‘tis not often I’ve seen orcs on it, and never that many, nor this close to a town. I’m right grateful for your turning up with your friends when you did. Might I offer you a ride to Farthingford?”. “Why thank you” I said. “That’s very kind. If you don’t mind though, perhaps you could wait a few minutes – I really ought to check over the orcs to see if I can find out any reason for them to have been in here in such unusual numbers”. “Of course”, he said. “It’ll take a few minutes to calm them horses down, and we need to pick up the bodies of the guards. They deserve a decent burial”.

So we went to check the orc’s bodies. We didn’t find very much, though, although they seemed to have an unusual amount of money on them. Interesting. I picked up the chieftain’s axe. It was incredibly heavy. I tried to heft it and nearly fell over. “Wow”, said Safiya. “That is one scary axe. For a moment there, you actually looked intimidating”. Gann picked it up and looked at it. “That’s an unusual construction – that haft is certainly iron on the outside, but it’s too heavy for that. Must be worth quite a bit, unless you are thinking of adding it to your collection of ‘interesting things people have tried to kill me with’?”. “Of course” I said. “Here, put it in the bag of holding – it’s too heavy for me. I do wish, ” I added, “that they hadn’t attacked. I didn’t want to kill them”. Safiya squeezed my hand. “It’s all right. We understand”.

We wandered back to the caravan and told the master we’d finished checking, and asked if there was anything we could help with. He said they were ready to go and waved us on to a wagon. I cuddled up to Gann and closed my eyes to help me think.

“Wake up sleepy head, we’re back in town” said Safiya. “I was not asleep, I was thinking”. “Well”, said Gann, “try not to snore when you-”. “I do NOT snore when I am asl- aarggh.“. I pouted and they both started to laugh.

We went to thank the caravan master. “Anytime” he said. “And we’ll be travelling south to Two Stars, and then along the Golden Way to Telflamm from here, and if you are looking for work, I could do with some new guards. Come and talk to me tomorrow if you are interested. The name is Saxon. Windyn Saxon”. “Thank you” I said.

We went back to the tavern and went upstairs. It looked as though the builders had been hard at work already. Well, the bed had been replaced, and one of the walls was whole again. The bathtub however was still in the room. So were Althyria and Kaji. Althyria took a very long look. “Wait here.” she said. She called something down the stairs, then turned to Safiya. “Wizard lady – a bath is being prepared in your room. Go.” Safiya went, followed by Kaji. Althyria looked at Gann and pointed to his room. “You too.”. Poor Gann left, looking rather ashamed. “Pretty lady, I will attend to you”. “Really, Althyria, you don’t need to. I’m sure I can manage”. She looked at me pityingly. “I am your maid now. And I will do these things for you. And the wizard lady – she can’t do your hair, as she has none of her own. And the nice man – he can’t do it, because he is a man and wouldn’t understand. And you can’t do it properly because it is behind you. So. I do it. Now, sit down.” I don’t think I’ve been ordered around like that, ever. I sat down.

Some people came in and filled the bath with hot water, and someone lit the fire. I watched the steam rising from the bath whilst Althyria undressed me, tutting over the state of my clothes. She put me in the bath. “Stay here” she said, and went into Safiya’s room. I heard the murmurs of a brief conversation, and then the sound of feet going to Gann’s room. Then I heard Gann shriek and Althyria telling him off. Then she called down the stairs and returned. Shortly afterwards, most of my clothes were removed. I think most of all our clothes were removed.

“Pretty Lady, you want the nice man, don’t you?” she said. “How on earth? Am I ...”. She patted my hand. “I will take care of you, pretty Lady, don’t worry” she said. “Please”, I said. “I am not a lady, I’m just me, and I’m not especially pretty.” “Your heart makes you a lady” Althyria said. “Now, I will sort out your hair and you will see I am right about you being pretty as well”. She scattered flower petals in the bath. “Thank you” I said. “I do like the flowers. They smell nice”.

She washed me and then started on my hair. I felt her untie the band and the hair fall free. Every now and then she would tut, and I soon learn that meant imminent pain. “More tangles” she would say. “Silly”. Once or twice she got some more water brought up. Eventually she allowed me out of the bath, wrapped me in a towel, sat me in front of the fire, and started to dry and brush my hair. She eventually finished, and tied my hair back again. She walked round me a couple of times inspecting the results critically.

“Much better” she said. “Pretty lady, Kaji said you are leaving with the caravan. I will come with you”. “What? I can’t. I’ve no idea what we might run into. To expose you to that kind of danger at your age would be wrong. What would your parents say?”. “I have no parents. They died when I was small. The landlord is my uncle, and looks after me in their memory. He has plenty of help here. I will come with you.”

“Ah”, I said. “I am so sorry to hear that. But, all three of us know how that feels. I will talk to your uncle then.” “I will come with you. You are dry now. I will dress you”. And so she did. She had found some clothes I didn’t remember having and put them on me. Then I was ordered to wait again. She fetched Safiya, who was wearing some lovely red robes, and then Gann, who was wearing something else I had not seen before. Gann just kept staring at me, then offered me his arm.

As we walked down to the main room, the place went completely quiet. “Safiya. I am dressed, aren’t I? I haven’t forgotten something essential again?” “No, silly. It’s your hair. Althyria definitely knows what she’s doing. It’s still in that long plait about half way down your back, but now it’s like a waterfall of red gold, and it ripples when you move”.

“She wants to come with us, you know. I promised I’d talk to the landlord. She lost her parents when she was young.”. “If it’s OK with you, it’s fine by me”. “Likewise”, said Gann. “But I hope she can cope with not being able to get us bathed nightly when we are on the road, in the middle of nowhere”. “I wonder”, said Safiya. “Somehow I can see her finding a bathtub in the middle of a desert.”

I went to talk to the landlord. “Your niece”, I said, “she wants to come with us. I have to be honest. I don’t think it’s the safe option, and I’ve done enough damage here already, but I promised to talk to you, and

she’s very, um, determined”. “Ah”, he said. “She’s always been determined, that one. No, she’s wrong for here anyway. I have tried to give her a good home, but my brother was not one to stay still in a small village, and she has that from him. We have plenty of help here. Take her with you, with my blessing, but take

care of her”. “We will do that”, I said. “One other thing – I am a bard, and, if it is agreeable to you, I’d like to entertain your customers tonight as some sort of recompense for last night”. “Lady, how could we refuse. Bards have always been welcomed in this town, and I’m sure our customers would be delighted.”

I seemed to have everyone’s attention already, so I thought - no time like now.

“I know you will have heard the stories of the Knight Captain of Neverwinter, who battled the Shadow King and disappeared a year ago”, I said. “But, perhaps you have not heard of how she left her home town of West Harbour and came to Neverwinter in the first place”. I looked around. Good, they were interested.

“It all started slightly over 25 years ago, just before the shadow wars. A group of adventurers had grown tired of adventuring and the deaths of their friends. One, an elf named Duncan, went to Neverwinter to run a tavern. His half brother, Daeghun Farlong, and Daeghun’s wife Shayla settled in West Harbour, where the fourth survivor of the group, a human woman named Esmerelle Datten, would visit them from time to time”. They hadn’t heard this before, and were looking intrigued, and puzzled. Good.

“One day, Esmerelle turned up, pregnant. She would not say who the father was, and Daeghun would not ask and did not judge. He and Shayla simply took her in. Eventually, Esmerelle was delivered of a pretty little baby girl, with intense eyes and a strange birthmark on her chest. And for a short time, they lived a quiet and happy life. Hilary was just starting to walk. But then the shadow wars started, and West Harbour found itself positioned between the army of Neverwinter and the army of the Shadow King. Duncan had arrived shortly before to warn them what was happening, and Daeghun organised an escape from the village, but things were confused. Esmerelle and Shayla were checking all the children, and they realised Hilary was missing. They went back to find her. Eventually, Daeghun noticed his wife and friend were missing, and raced back with Duncan to get them. As they got to the village, there was an almighty explosion and the shadow army disappeared. It was deadly quiet”.

“Then Daeghun heard the sound of a baby crying. He and Duncan headed towards the sound and found Esmerelle and Shayla, both badly burnt, and the baby, covered in blood. ‘Duncan, get a healer. Now’. Shayla shook her head. ‘Hilary was so proud she had walked by herself. I promised Esmerelle we’d look after her’. Then she was gone. Daeghun turned to Esmerelle. She had died holding the baby.

Oh my mother. I miss you so.

“Daeghun lifted the baby from Esmerelle’s arms. Cleaning off the blood, he found she had a terrible wound in her chest, where something had entered her body. It should have been fatal, but somehow she was still alive. He decided it was safest to leave it there. Beside the bodies he and Duncan found two silver shards. They took the child and the shards to Neverwinter, to talk to a wizard, Sand, who had been part of their group at one time. He examined the two shards, but said they were just silver shards, with merely a residue of magic from the battle, which was leaking away quickly. He then added that a third shard had embedded itself in the child, and that under no circumstances should it be removed. ‘Removing it’, he said, ‘will kill the child, but leaving it there – well, she has a good chance of surviving, even if it weakens her.’. Daeghun decided he would foster the child, in honour of his wife’s promise. Duncan stayed in Neverwinter with one shard, and Daeghun returned to West Harbour, with the other shard and the baby”.

Daeghun, foster father, who else but me would know this?

“Daeghun is an elf, and to this day he has not recovered from the loss of his wife. Still, he tried to bring up his foster daughter as well as he knew how. The wound healed over quickly, leaving only a scar where her

birthmark had been. She grew up as a friendly child, possibly trying to make up for her foster father’s frequent absence, often smiling, always trying to put others at ease, and with a somewhat trying sense of humour. She caused several houses in the village to be evacuated after she had painstakingly brought in a

quantity of frogs from the edge of the swamp, hiding them in Daeghun’s basement, and then releasing them all on one night.”

You always thought that was me, didn’t you Bevil? See, you were right.

“As she grew up, she developed a special friendship with a girl called Amie Fern, orphaned at the same time as herself, and a boy called Bevil Starling, and the three of them were always at odds with three Mossfeld

boys, a close knit and somewhat pugnacious family.

Hilary discovered her bardic talents fairly early on in life. She later told Amie that it had come about because her earliest memories were of a comforting warmth, and soft voice singing to her, full of love; so

she had been determined to sing for others”

But I didn’t tell her of the bright light, the noise, the darkness and the pain that came afterwards. I wanted so much to bring the voice and the love back. I know now, I will not hear the voice in this lifetime. But I can give the love I remember to others. I think mother would like that.

“Now, I’m sure you are aware, that almost everywhere, there is a festival every year to celebrate the bringing in of the harvest. And posh and well to do people in posh and well to do places go to a Harvest Ball. In West Harbour however, something had gone slightly askew with this tradition. Every year, to celebrate bringing in the harvest, they have a Harvest Brawl.

There was a fair, of sorts, and a feast in the evening, but during the day the young people of the village attempted to win four competitions – the Archery Competition; the Tourney of Talent, for magic users; the Knaves Challenge, for those with sticky fingers; and the Harvest Brawl, for what I think you can guess. In case you hadn’t gathered, West Harbour was very keen to welcome everyone. Excitement was running high that year. Nobody had one outright since the Brawl many years earlier, when Cormick had beaten Bevil’s elder brother Lorne and both had left the village. It was felt by the betting folk that an outright win was about due again. And the hot favourites were Hilary, Amie and Bevil on the one hand, and the Mossfeld brothers on the other. They had been competing for the overall prize for the last two years, and this was Hilary’s and Bevil’s last chance to enter. Amie was heard to remark a few days before the Brawl that if the Fighting event was replaced by Flirting, Hilary would be given the overall prize without needing to attempt the other three.”

I’ve heard that Daeghun and Bevil are still looking for me. I hope they hear this story, and realise that I am still alive, and their hope is not in vain.

“On what was to be her last day in the village, Hilary left the Daeghun’s house, having been tasked with him to trade some furs he had recently trapped for a duskwood bow that a merchant was delivering at the fair. Daeghun was running the archery competition, as always. It was a bright sunny day, and Hilary knew the Harvest Cup was waiting for her friends and her to claim it. She hurried to meet Bevil and Amie at the little bridge. The three of them then advanced to enter themselves in for the competition. As they approached the organiser, Georg Redfell, Hilary heard the tail end of a conversation he was having with one of the village councillors. It sounded as though the village was going to have a difficult winter. The harvest had been bad, and Orlen, the councillor, had been unable to get into contact with the druids who lived in the Mere of Dead Men. Still, Georg seemed happy enough to see them. He ran through the rules of the competition, and reminded them of the story of McCormick and Lorne Starling, hinting that it was about time it happened again. The only real competition, it appeared, was likely to be their favourite enemies, the Mossfelds, in the brawl.”

I looked around the room. They’d clearly not heard this before, and were definitely enjoying the story.

“They made their way to the mead stall, and were promptly refused a drink, due to Amie’s scandalous behaviour the previous year after drinking too much, which Hilary had hoped would have been forgotten. Amie had certainly forgotten, and Hilary and Bevil felt it was their duty to remind her. Laughing, they proceeded to the magic competition. Hilary saw a convenient log pile and sat down to watch. There was a loud crack and Hilary was thrown to the ground. ‘Ah’, said Bevil. ‘That log pile is trapped. Must be something to do with the Knaves Challenge then’. ‘Thank you for your kind sympathy’ Hilary replied, rubbing herself ruefully.

Amie seemed a bit shy when they approached the Tourney, possibly because it was being run by Bevil’s mother, but she advanced into the arena – well, the small fenced enclosure. As Hilary had known they would, all Amie’s spells worked beautifully first time. The children oohed and ahhed in awe, and Retta Starling gave Amie some scrolls which Tarmas, the village’s wizard in residence, had put aside ‘in case Amie won’.

As Bevil and Hilary were congratulating Amie, Orlen turned up. ‘I wonder if you can help’ he said. ‘You see the entrants for the heftiest hog competition. Well, Lewy Jon’s entry seems to have grown rather rapidly in recent weeks. I wonder if you could take a look’. The three of them wandered over to have a look at the hogs. Amie looked at Lewy’s entry for a time, and said ‘There is definitely a spell on that one’. They decided to have a word with Lewy. He was less than forthcoming, and tried to bribe them. Proof enough. Tarmas had provided Amie with a dispel magic scroll, so she decided to try that out. Scarcely had she spoken the words on the scroll, than the mighty hog shrank. And shrank. And all that was left a cute little pig.”

The listeners burst out laughing.

“Orlen gave them some pork jerky as a thank-you, which seemed strangely fitting. The three of them proceeded to the merchant’s tent, and Hilary traded the furs for the bow, as she had promised her stepfather. They then proceed to the archery competition. She gave the bow to Daeghun, and he let her keep the money she had made on the transaction. Hilary then entered the competition, receiving a brief lecture from Daeghun about her having the same rules as everyone else. That annoyed somewhat, with the result she promptly shattered all 10 of the targets she was required to hit, and, as the first person to do that all day, she won the archery competition outright. Daeghun kindly attributed the result to skill.

Two down, two to go. On to the Knave’s challenge, which was being run by Tarmas the wizard, who was full of his usual cynicism. Hilary, however, knew how kindly he treated Amie, so she chatted to him for a bit, before asking about the competition. He said it would need underhand skills which he was sure she lacked. Amie suggested they recruit Kipp, the somewhat light fingered child of a retired thief, who was lurking around the back of the tents. He seemed amenable, so the four of them went back to Tarmas, who delivered himself of the most appalling rhyming riddle requiring finding three feathers. Clearly one of the clues referred to the trapped log pile, so Kipp disarmed the trap, and they collected the first item. Wandering back to the mead stall, they heard the children discussing a locked box which was sitting forlornly by itself. A bit of lock picking later, and one more feather. The last feather was meant to be green, and in the pocket of ‘the same coloured man’. Amie spotted a man dressed in a green shirt and trousers, so Kipp hurried off to pick his pocket. Three feathers collected and back to Tarmas to claim victory.

‘Right’ said Hilary. ‘Just the brawl left. Three outright victories, I know we can do this’. They reported to Brother Merring, the village priest of Lathander. ‘Someone’, thought Hilary, ‘really organised this strangely’. Brother Merring explained the rules, handed out some clubs and suggested they take a couple of swings at a practice dummy. Kipp hung around to watch. Hilary’s first swing broke the dummy, much to Amie’s amusement and her own embarrassment. ‘Umm, I think we must be ready to start’ she mumbled. The first bawl was against the three Lannon sisters. It was over fairly quickly, and the three victors returned to Brother Merring. ‘Now you fight the Mossfelds’ he told them. ‘When you are ready, talk to Wil’.

So they rested a bit, and went to talk to Wil Mossfeld. Wil was not impressed, and suggested a bet on the outcome ‘to make things a bit more exciting’. Brother Merring had banned bets by the participants, and Bevil looked quite upset by the suggestion, so Hilary turned it down, and suggested they just got on with it. So they did. A bard more skilled than I could probably turn the tale into something an hour long, featuring mighty deeds of daring, swooning women, narrowly avoided fatal blows. But it was only a brawl between two teams of three. No swooning women, no fatal blows. Quite a few bruises though. And the result? Well, suffice it to say, Bevil had a few incidents in his past he felt were due for repayment, and he had used his time in the militia well. The Mossfelds were squarely beaten. Hilary and her two friends limped back to Georg, who was absolutely delighted. He permitted Hilary enough time to gloat a bit, and told her to meet him at the stage. They attempted to get some mead, as heroic victors, but no. Amie’s song the previous year had definitely left a lasting impression. They made their way to the stage, were Georg presented Hilary with the Harvest Cup and Harvest Cloak. She still had them with her the day she went to confront the Shadow King.”

And still she has them.

“They went to bed that night tired, but happy. And completely unsuspecting.”

And now it starts.

“Bevil and Amie came rushing into Hilary’s room. ‘The town is under attack. Quick, get up.’ Hilary fell out of bed. ‘Where’s my things’ she asked, not being at her best when woken up suddenly. ‘In the chest by your bed, where you keep everything’ said Bevil, patiently. She got dressed, and they rushed down stairs. As they got to the bottom of the stairs, a group of dwarves burst in through the front door and attacked. There was a short but brutal fight, and the three staggered out of the door and into Brother Merring, and several seriously wounded villagers. Brother Merring quickly healed them and told them Georg was organising the militia by the bridge. Unfortunately, some more dwarves were there, trying to disorganise the militia. The three friends fell on them from behind. After a while Hilary noticed there were no more dwarves and Georg was trying to talk to her. ‘Find the militia and get them to join me over at the wheat field’ he said. She agreed, and went back to the priest for some more healing. On the way, she found Ward Mossfeld, grievously wounded. She said she’d try to help, and carried on to see Merring. He gave her some moss which he said would help the wounded, so she took it and went back to Ward who used some moss, and hurried off to join Georg. Hilary and her friends ran across the bridge, and persuaded a couple more townspeople to help

Georg, although one needed his door knocked down first. And Webb Mossfeld, who’d clearly been in the thick of it. Hilary handed over some moss, and he too went to join Georg. That moss, she thought, was good stuff.

Then they found Tarmas, in a stiff magic battle with a creature they could not recognise. ‘Stay away’ he said. But Amie couldn’t stand by and not help her tutor. She launched a magical attack on the creature. But it just laughed. A bolt of lightning struck Amie, and she was hurled to the ground. The creature said ‘Bah. It is not here’. And it summoned several giant spiders and disappeared.”

Amie, I am so sorry. I avenged your death eventually, but it didn’t bring you back.

“When they had dealt with the spiders, Hilary rushed to Amie. She was dead. Hilary could not take it in. She turned to Tarmas, who seemed more angry than upset over the death of his apprentice. ‘The way he hides his feelings’, Hilary thought, ‘he must be part elf’. He told her and Bevil they could find some stuff that might help in his house. On their way there they got into more fights with dwarfs, and another sort of creature they had not seen before. They found a lady from the militia in the fighting and sent her off to join Georg. Then there didn’t seem to be any more creatures. So they checked Tarmas’s house and then wandered off to join the militia. On their way past a burning barn, they found a dying dwarf. After insulting them, he told them that they had been brought to the village to find something silver, but had failed to do so. Hilary offered to heal him, but he insulted them again. Hilary just nodded, and let him die. They found the last Mossfeld brother under a tree near the Starling’s house, healed him, and took him to Georg.

‘Is that it?’ thought Hilary. She spoke to Georg. He told her it was unlikely to be over. Brother Merring added that the creatures were called ‘Bladelings’ and summoned from another plane. Someone plainly had it in for the village.

And then they came – more bladelings and dwarfs. It settled into an awful routine of hack, slash, duck, run. Then there were no more, and Hilary could catch her breath. And then more of them, would they not stop? Hack, slash, duck, run, until it went quiet again. ‘More coming’ said Georg.

But Bevil and Hilary saw some dwarves going into the Starling house. ‘Hilary, come with me’ he said. Georg told Hilary she could go with Bevil, or to stay. She went with Bevil - she could not let the dwarves harm the children. They went into the house to discover Retta and her three dogs. She told them the children were in a downstairs room, but about 6 dwarves were between them and the children. ‘C’mon boys’, Hilary said, ‘let’s get those dwarfs’. She opened the door and they entered the room with the dwarfs. It was a short but bloody fight, and sadly one of the dogs was slain.

Bevil found the children in the inner room, listening raptly at the key hole. Hilary took a deep breath. The children promptly demanded to see the blood. This rather upset Hilary, and told them she’d quite happily give them to the dwarves if she heard any more remarks like that from them. Bevil calmed her down, and she told the children to lock the door after her, and only open it to their mother or brother. She told Retta the children were safe, and went back outside. Just in time to meet yet more dwarves and bladelings. And then Daeghun turned up with a small body of rangers, and the last of the invaders were driven off. But the cost to West Harbour had been high.

Hilary went to see Daeghun, wanting to talk to someone about Amie. He, however, was more concerned with the invasion itself. He felt the invasion was about a silver shard he had buried outside the village in some ruins, and sent her to collect it, along with Bevil. The Mere was dark, and full of strange creatures, and a tribe of lizard men that had settled there recently. There were a few brief skirmishes before they arrived by two ruins, one old, and the other very old. Hilary asked Bevil, and he said that all he had heard was that many years ago, a powerful wizard had tried to enter the very old ruin and had never been seen again. And that Daeghun had said he’d put the item in the other ruin. So they went back there. There was a camp fire

outside, so they took the opportunity to rest for a few minutes. Then they went into the ruin. As they slipped through the door, Hilary could have sworn she saw someone moving outside, but when she looked out again, there was no one there.

They explored the ruin carefully. There were a number of lizard men on guard, who took exception to their presence. All Hilary and Bevil could do was kill them. But every room they found was empty. Eventually, however, as they entered another room, they interrupted a lizard shaman and his followers praying for blessings for a fight they expected against other lizard men. The shaman demanded to know what 2 “warm bloods” were doing in such a place. Hilary told him that her people had left something there, and were having similar problems to him, with other people invading their lands, and offered to help him in the future. He seemed mollified, and left. Then Hilary and Bevil searched the room. In a chest in a corner, Hilary found a small silver shard. Bevil looked at it and was less than impressed. He suggested they leave, and Hilary was only too happy to agree.

When they arrived back at West Harbour, Daeghun dismissed Bevil abruptly, and, as Hilary pointed out to Daeghun, rudely. Daeghun told Hilary she must visit his half-brother Duncan in Neverwinter with the shard, as he had a second shard. This would also take her away from West Harbour and make it safe for the villagers. Hilary probed a bit and Daeghun told her some of the story of the shard, and of the Shadow wars, but she could tell he was holding something back. When she taxed him with this, he said the information would merely confuse her. What with all that had happened that day, she lost her temper with him, and offered to beat the hells out of him instead. He apologised, and told her he had arranged things so that she could leave the village without being noticed, and go to HighCliff to catch a boat to Neverwinter, and suggested she made any farewells, adding that she could take anything she needed from the house.

Hilary said goodbye to Bevil first. And to Tarmas, who was clearly deeply upset about Amie’s loss. Brother Merring had some kind words about Amie, which helped heal the hurt a little. Georg’s advice on the outside world involved avoiding a giant elf who would turn people to stone, so Hilary promised to be careful. And she promised Retta Starling that she would find out anything she could about Lorne. Then a brief word with her father, and she left West Harbour.

She would only return twice. The first would be to bear the news of Lorne’s fate to Retta. And the second time she returned would be to a place over-run by shadows”.

The room was silent. Maybe I'd overdone that last bit. But then a ripple of applause started, and people started to thank me for the tale, and one thoughtful person got us some wine. I could see and hear people talking about the tale I had told, so I felt confident it would get repeated, and hopefully reach Neverwinter.

I felt so drained – both by the memories and the need to not reveal the story was my own. I needed to concentrate on something else. Ah, of course. I pulled out my flute and began to play a tune Grobnar had taught me. It was originally written for a mandolin (so Grobnar said), but could be played on a flute if you really concentrated. It started grand and sombre, and little joyful notes would creep into the tune and play around for a bit. Then rush away again, whilst the grand and sombre tune tried to remain sombre. But it eventually lost the battle and ended up grand and happy. A very gnomish tune. The need to concentrate and the joy in the tune helped me to bring my mind back to the present.

Thank you for your tunes and irrepressible optimism, Grobnar. I’m sorry you couldn’t remember the song for stopping the collapse of a building when you needed to. Be at rest, my friend.

I played another tune, and then the innkeeper brought us supper, cheerfully announcing that it was free thanks to the extra takings - it would appear that the entertainment had gone down well. I was glad for him, but it was a painful way to earn supper. We settled to our food.

Later, the people in the inn started to clamour for a song. A bard’s work is never done. I gave them a few popular ballads, and then, seeing it was getting rather late, decided I had better do a finale. I remembered another song which Grobnar had taught me one night at the keep, after we had drunk a couple of bottles of extremely potent “wine” which Orlen had given us shortly after he escaped from West Harbour. Sitting on a stool was definitely not the right place for this though, it was quite a visual song. I sat on the table and swung my legs up. “Odd”, I thought. “Why is Gann looking like that?”. I looked down. I hadn’t realised my clothes showed quite that much leg. I grinned happily at him, then stood up and clapped for silence. And then I sang the tale of the love of a gnome boy for an ogre girl and his inventiveness when it came to dealing with the differences in size. Of course, no one expects a girl to know that song, or the movements that go with it, so the reactions were all I had hoped for and more. Men would start to join in, realised a girl was singing, go bright red and look intently at the floor. Then a different set of men would do the same thing. Then a bit more ale or wine would be drunk, and the process would start again. Safiya was reduced to helpless tears of laughter.

When I had finished the song, we went upstairs to our rooms. I was a bit worried that after last night, Gann would not be able to find me in my dreams, but he did, which was wonderful. And it was made extra special because we were somehow joined by Safiya, who I think could not have shared dreams before.

The Betrayers Disciple - Chapter 2 © Hilary Datten

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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