Chapter One: Butterflies and Blood
Now then, on to chapter two!
The Ties That Bind Draw Taut
After the initial wave of goblins was pushed back, Sandpoint started assessing the damages and trying to rebuild. Zordlan shared encouraging words, ran water, and helped with rebuilding where he could. Thokk put his broad shoulders to work, lifting beams and tossing aside splintered, or burnt boards that needed to be replaced. Even Zhakar aided where he could, though his gauntleted hand always seemed to twitch toward the longsword he wore when someone called his name. Even Mirelinda offered to stay and do what she could to help protect the town, which helped a number of residents sleep a little better. And aside from a few minor scrapes with goblins, and a bizarre theft from a crypt, everything seemed to have settled down somewhat.
|The place is finally starting to look more like its old self.|
It was during dinner at the Rusty Dragon when an old man in rich clothing stormed in, a thunderhead on his face. Lonjiku Kaijitsu, the tavern owner's father, was in a rage over something. What that was none of us could rightly say, but age and riches had made him rude and haughty. He stormed out as quickly as he'd stormed in, it seemed, and Ameiko gave the tavern a round of drinks to gloss over the unpleasant incident. Anyone who asked what it was simply had the incident waved off, as if Ameiko's father had been a particularly irksome gnat, rather than the wealthiest man in town.
Still, he was livid about something. And whatever it was, Ameiko was clearly worried about it.
Molten Murders, and Shattered Betrayals
The next day, Zhakar was getting his pack together, considering whether it was time to leave Sandpoint behind. He'd been there longer than he intended to already, and he knows that the questions were bound to start any time. He was just getting breakfast, and preparing his good-byes, when a washer woman approached him with worry on her face. She told him that Ameiko had gone missing, and that no one had seen her all day. She had left a letter behind, and it seemed it was from her half-brother Tsuto. He had something urgent to talk with her about, and he needed her to meet him at their father's glassworks. Alone.
|Because the phrase, "Meet me at the glassworks, and come alone," is never insidious.|
Swearing under his breath, Zhakar pounded up the stairs to his room, donned his chain, and threw his baldric over his head. Once outside, he roused Thokk from where he'd been sleeping on the long grass, and quickly brought him up to speed. Zordlon was nowhere to be found, and Mirelinda was off among the wagons. If something was going to be done, it was down to them to do it.
They approached the glassworks from the south, and the first thing they noticed was how eerily quiet it was. The clangs and whooshes of its usual operation stilled to near silence. There were no windows they could see through, but something felt... off. Out of sight of the others, Zhakar fished a silver pendant from beneath his armor. He closed his eyes, held it in his left hand, and stared into the place. When he replaced the pendant, Thokk raised an eyebrow.
"Are there evil spirits within?" Thokk asked in the low growl of Hallit.
"Yes," Zhakar said, drawing his steel in a slow, soft rasp.
Thokk smiled, and took a firm grip on his longspear. "Good."
The two men stalked through the glassworks the same way they'd walked through the forests they'd first met in. In room after room they found broken furniture, shredded papers, burnt finery, and blood. The bodies of the workers, some of them at least, had been left askew where they'd fallen. Then, when they made their way to the front room of the glassworks, they found themselves face-to-face with a small band of goblins playing with what was left of Lonjiku Kaijitsu. The old man had been tied to a chair, tortured, and finally been crowned with a helmet of molten glass.
It didn't take long for the goblins to realize they've been found out, but before they could raise the alarm, Thokk put his spear through one of their throats. Zhakar advanced on the other, trading blows as the vicious little creature snarled and swiped at him. It fell soon after, a foot of steel piercing its guts. The third, having no stomach for what befell the others, fled into the bowels of the glassworks.
They followed, cautious, but undeterred by the carnage they'd witnessed.
Face-To-Face With A Traitor
Below the glassworks was nothing but darkness. Casting stealth aside, Zhakar gripped the tip of Thokk's spear, and it glowed with a bright, shining light. Zhakar held his medallion in his hand once more, and advanced. They stalked through the halls, and found the goblin who had fled, and one of its fellows. With them was a tall man whose heritage was distinctly inhuman.
|And whose aura was distinctly wicked.|
The goblins took up defensive positions around the taller man with hints of elven in his visage, jabbering and howling. Thokk dispatched them quickly, adding a twist to his spear thrusts to hasten them along to their ends. Zhakar advanced, sword in hand. As he walked, though, something changed in him. His eyes grew bright, and his voice boomed as he pronounced sentence on Tsuto. Though Ameiko's brother tried to fight back, he couldn't stand before the creature who had come for him. Blow after blow drove Tsuto to his knees, and as he tried to rise Zhakar backhanded the half-elf hard enough to splinter his teeth. When Tsuto didn't rise, Zhakar shook his head hard, blinking as he looked around. As the bright light faded from his eyes, he knelt, and gently touched Tsuto's forehead. Soft, white luminescence bloomed around Zhakar's fingertips. Tsuto's wounds stopped bleeding, and his breathing evened out. Thokk bound him, and tossed Tsuto over his shoulder.
They found Ameiko in the next room down, beaten and bound. Zhakar freed her, and offered her a shoulder. As they left the basement of the house of horrors, they noticed an old, brick wall. It had been smashed down, revealing an older tunnel that went... somewhere. Somewhere that the two friends would need the rest of their allies to explore, if they wanted to return alive.
That's all for chapter two, but the Sandpoint has plenty of troubles that are just being discovered. Will the town's heroes be enough to stand against it?
I hope you all enjoyed this installment of Table Talk. For more content from me, check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I help out from time to time. If you want to stay on top of all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support Improved Initiative, then go Buy Me A Ko-Fi, or head over to the Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. A little donation goes a long way.