Tallavanor’s Tales – The Next Fork in the Road

Tallavanor’s Tales Resume! The next fork in the road.

Last week, Tallavanor discovered the secret of the late Count – or rather, the late Counts. We’ve got some choices to make, and Tallavanor will have to decide where the wind will take him next. With that, I’ll turn it over to him, and let him explain what happened after the last few moments with the Count.

galleon ship photo under the cloudy sky
Photo by David Jakab on Pexels.com

After spending another night in the Count’s Castle, we took the horses and the wagon full of alchemy supplies. We also discovered the body of the blacksmith, hung in the stables. The mob had enacted public justice on the man. I was torn – the priest was one of the handful of authority figures, and if he had given the order to kill the man…well, it was out of my jurisdiction. The law out here was limited at best, and with the Count dead, one of the villages given over to necromancy and the other one stringing up said necromantic supporters, it was not something that I wanted to get in the middle of. Tres Abellies had been involved in it’s own war for over a decade, and there wasn’t a single thing I could think of wanting to get involved in less.

The man was guilty of at least a dozen crimes, and while I did not like who had done the lynching, it was, at this point, a smaller issue than the other ones we faced.

So we took the horses, the wagon, and the prisoner to the town of Cludge.

“I thought you were going to release me?” The alchemist asked. A supporter of the Count’s plans, certainly. A key component of the Count’s goal to achieve immortal life, and someone who played a part in all the necromantic behaviors impacting this land yes. Was giving him over to the town authorities who had already hung one criminal right? Was it, lawful. In the end, I decided to let the cards fall when they may. It was truly in the hands of the gods now.

We pulled into Cludge, a smaller town than Usher, the people who had provided the manpower for the first mob. The town was an anthill kicked over, men running this way and that, gathering up old weapons and strapping on what bits and bobs of armor they could find.

We ended up at the Frolicking Kid, an inn with the swinging wooden sign of a dancing child creaking out front of the two story wood and daub building. The familiar priest, who finally introduced himself as Lorentio, bid us upstairs to talk with himself and the Mayor. We brought our prisoner with us, and told them the story of what had happened in the crypts under the Count’s castle.

“It is good we’re preparing for war, then. We must wipe out the necromancer’s minions. They are an unholy abomination to Paylor.” Lorentio said. We understood, but the matter remained tricky. No one wanted to see a war.

“Did you send word to the Free Prince Valdimar? Surely he can bring the army in so that you don’t have to sacrifice your lives against the other village. Usher was well defended the last time we encountered them. Their village is bigger than yours. They will be a tough nut to crack.” I warned. I had seen such look in men’s eyes before. It was the light of madness.

“I have already sent word to Orsund, and we expect word back from them in a day or two. Regardless, we will triumph. Paylor is with us, and their leaders are gone. You have opened the way and delivered the conspirator to us. We will see justice done.” The mayor said. I unlocked the manacles, and the mayor’s guard took the man into custody.

I didn’t like it, but orders were orders and at this point I had none.

Before we left, the priest pulled me aside. “Here” he said, pushing a hefty sheaf of papers into my hand. “Before I escaped Usher, I found these papers in the temple. I was going to hand them over to the proper authorities, but you seem to be the closest thing this place has to an authority. I appreciate your help in dealing with these… misguided… simpletons.”

So we left.

They were already building the gallows behind us.

The ride back to Orsund was cold and lonely. Some of us rode in quiet self reflection. Others busied themselves examining the mysterious ciphered letter. I spent the time looking over the shipping manifests. Names learned on the docks of Tres Abellies jumped out at me from the manifests. Acosta, Narbonne, Mulhussen, Shagosin. Names of places familiar to me. In particular, Narbonne was the strangest name to see on that list. Nothing useful was made there, unless it was wine, and yet here was a signed manifest from the Lord of Narbonne himself, signing over a shipment of alchemical supplies. Did this conspiracy go deeper?

As I shared this information with the group, Gregario’s eyes widened. “I know about Mulhussen. I’m thinking we may want to go there next. If what I remember is correct, we may find some answers there.” I nodded. Did I want more answers? Was I going to truly find them there? Only time would tell.

We reached Orsund and, barring a better plan, returned to the Black Goat Inn. I took my leave of the group for a bit, stopping off at a herbalist shop to buy a healer’s kit. If we were going to be fighting together for longer, it would be best for us if we had a back up way to keep all the party members healthy. Then I took the hopefully intelligent step of finding passage for our horses, wagon, and party members on a ship to Mulhussen. While we hadn’t yet made the plan to go, I knew it would be better to secure passage, or at least know our options before hand.

I quickly found a ship heading for Mulhussen, and negotiated passage. Cheaper than I’d expected, but looking over the ship, I knew it wouldn’t be an exceptionally fast voyage, but it would do the job. My first estimation of the man didn’t disappoint me.

I returned to the inn, and spent the rest of the afternoon looking over the cipher with Gregario and Alastair, as Claudia played music in the tavern. Drinks and food aside, the afternoon and early evening passed uneventfully. The bar filled slowly, patrons brought in by the drinks and music, until every seat in the room was full and then some. It was then that a man in a dark cloak and wide brimmed hat entered. He looked around the room, obviously searching for someone, until he spotted our table.

The man walked over and sat down. He looked each of us. The music stopped as Claudia spotted our visitor and excused herself, making her way over. “I was sorry to hear that the Count did not give you what we asked for.”

“It was a messy situation.” Gregario replied. So being mysterious was the order of the day.

“The count is dead.” I confirmed. I didn’t say how he died, nor did I add extra information.

“That is regretful, but you have completed your task.” He placed several bags of gold on the table. One for each of us.

“We left a right old mess though. There’s an intervillage war about to break out.” The man leaned back.

“I know. That is not our business. Nor yours, now. Be safe.” He stood up and left without another word. For a moment I was tempted to follow him and discover more information about this mysterious group that seemed to know everything about our goings on before anyone else did. The money he was throwing around was not inconsequential, and the sheer callousness of ordering the four of us to kill someone for refusing their request smacked of power. Serious power. Our next steps would have to be planned. Carefully.

Time for a serious night of feasting and drinking.

Here’s the NEXT installment!

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Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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