Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part XIII - Assassin Season - Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Unexpected Friends and False Leads
The sun was barely up when the Knights of the Coach and their companions met outside Penwick manor in the morning. Lord Hightower had been outside to greet the group and provided them with fresh horses and supplies for their short, but important journey.
The older gentlemen walked over to Lloyd and Andrella as they packed their belongings in their saddlebags and prepared to leave. The noble placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder. As Lloyd turned around Hightower said, “Good luck my boy! Next time I see you I expect to see my good friend Grellus by your side.” Then he turned to Andrella who without prompting practically leapt into the nobleman’s arms. She hugged him tightly and then kissed him firmly on the cheek. “Thank you Uncle Hightower,” she said graciously. Lord Hightower blushed a bit and turned to Lloyd saying, “Keep an eye on this one, will you? She has become very dear to us.”“I will your Lordship,” the big warblade promised. Then he and the other companions swung up into their saddles and trotted to the manor entrance. Lord Hightower strode beside them down the path to the gate. “We will be in touch as soon as we know anything concrete,” Aksel told the nobleman. “Very good,” Hightower replied. “And I will do the same. I will inform you if anything that concerns you occurs either here in Lukescros or out on the high seas.”
The party reached the entrance. They all turned one last time and thanked the Penwick noble for his hospitality and support. Then the entire party exited through the gate and headed north up the road. Within fifteen minutes they had left Lukescros and were on their way to Garrotten. It was a short ride, and they would reach the home town of the Assassin’s Guild by mid-afternoon.
It was a clear day and the ride was uneventful. The party did pass a few folks traveling to Lukescros for the impending Fair, but did not stop to talk to anyone. And no seemed to take any interest in them. The group was careful, however. With all the strange occurrences over the last few days, they decided not to take any chances. Therefore, Glo had Raven flying up ahead scouting out the road and surrounding countryside. And Martin also road ahead looking for any signs of potential ambush; but there was none.
The only regret any of them had at this point was that neither Ruka nor Maya had shown up at Penwick Manor. The dragons were probably not in any danger, however, except from the Princess Anya. So maybe it was best that they stayed in hiding Glorfindel thought. He and Elvisda discussed the matter at some length on the journey. The bard was convinced that the blonde woman they saw in Lukescros was actually Anya’s shapeshifter, Deri, and not Ves. The wizard was not as quick to jump to conclusions, but Elvisda did bring up some good points. Seth stayed mostly out of the discussion, except for stating he agreed with the bard. Aksel, having seen the entire exchange, felt that either it was as Elvisda had surmised, that it was Anya’s shapeshifter, or something was extremely wrong with Ves.
As they proceeded along the road, the conversation eventually turned towards what they would do once they reached Garrotten. Elvisda thought that they should disguise themselves this time before entering town. After all, this would be the second time they had been in town in the last month, the third for Aksel, and the last time they were there, a lot of things happened that would be best forgotten including the red dragon attack, the death of the farmer, the assassination of the Bard Balmarrow, and their repeated failed attempts to infiltrate the Assassin’s Guild.
The little cleric agreed that caution was advised. He also added that perhaps they should enter in groups of two or three so no one would see a large group entering the town and get suspicious. Once everyone had entered the town, they could rendezvous at the burnt down cottage which had briefly been their home. Lloyd and Andrella would enter town pretending to be married. Seth would accompany them disguised as their son. Glorfindel and Aksel would pair up and then Elvisda and Martin would follow last.
It was only a short time later when they came in sight of Garrotten. They were on a rise on the road south of town before the bridge that crossed the river on the southeast side of the lake. The midday sun shone down on the community, and the blue waters of Lake Farmin look calm and peaceful. “Garrotten actually looks pretty from here”, Andrella commented. “Until you enter the cesspool,” Seth said derisively. “There are some nice spots in town,” Aksel contradicted the ninja. “Really?” the halfling shot back. “Were we in the same town?”
“Aksel is right,” Glorfindel interjected. “The Inn wasn’t half bad, and that little cottage was rather nice from what I remember. But Seth is right too. The town in general does look like it’s falling apart. And the seedy characters around town make a lot of the areas uncomfortable in general.”
“Okay, okay, can we not overanalyze this,” Elvisda said suddenly. “We are here for one reason…to find the Baron’s heart. I say we get to it.” Everyone stopped talking and nodded their agreement. Then Seth spoke up. “I think I should go into town first and get us some black robes. It is a fairly common form of dress around town, which by the way speaks to the seediness of the place.” Aksel and Glorfindel looked like they were going to say something in retort, but the ninja held up his hand and continued. “But…you have to admit if we all were wearing them it would be a good disguise and no one would question us.” No one argued with the ninja on that point.
As Seth was talking, he had dismounted and reached into his saddlebags. He pulled out a black robe and put it on. “Where did you come by that?” Aksel asked. “Oh…just a little souvenir from our visit to the Thieve’s Guild,” the ninja replied. “Not that I’ll need it to get into town, but you never know.” And with those parting words the halfling turned invisible and disappeared.
“Let’s move back out of sight and into the woods,” Elvisda suggested. “Excellent idea,” Aksel concurred. “We can grab a quick bite to eat while Seth retrieves our robes.” The group moved back off the road and a short ways into the woods. Martin stood watch at the edge of the woods until Lloyd came and spelled him so the archer could eat as well.
Forty five minutes later, Seth returned with a black robe for each of them. As the group looked them over, the ninja said, “Don’t worry, they’re all clean. I got them from the tailor’s shop. There were tons of them there so they won’t be missed.” They all nodded and each took a robe to try on. “Did you run into any trouble?” Aksel asked. Seth looked at the cleric sideways and laughed. “Are you kidding? These folks are mostly amateurs. There were two guards at a checkpoint on the road just across the bridge, but it was child’s play getting past them.”
“Guess all that training with Ruka paid off,” Glorfindel commented. Seth stared at the wizard deadpan and finally said, “Whatever. I was just being polite with her back then. If I really wanted to she would never had heard me coming.” It was Lloyd’s turn to laugh. “You do remember she is a dragon?” the warblade said as he donned his black robe. “So what?” the Seth responded. “You do remember that I’m a ninja. You know…silent but deadly.”
“So are farts,” Elvisda countered. Everyone lost it after that. A minute or so later, when the laughter died down, the group broke up into the predetermined pairs and headed back onto the road south towards Garrotten.
Lloyd, Andrella and Seth went first. The two guards at the bridge let them through without any questions. Glorfindel and Aksel waited about 15 minutes and then also went through the checkpoint with no problem. Elvisda and Martan decided to wait a full half hour before taking to road. They crossed the bridge and were stopped at the gate. “Lot of folks traveling north this afternoon,” the one guard commented. “Yeah,” the other guard answered. “Most folks are traveling south this time of year to the Fair in Lukescros.”
“Yes, friend” Elvisda replied, “that is very true. In fact, we were just in Lukescros. But the Fair doesn’t start for another few days, and we just received word that an old friend has died if you must know. We are now headed to pay our respects to his grieving widow and daughter.”
“Sorry to hear that,” the one guard replied. Both men backed off and they lifted the gate. As the bard and archer began to ride through, the other guard suddenly asked, “Is she pretty?” Elvisda stopped to look at the man. “The widow I mean,” the guard explained. Elvisda regarded the man for a long moment and then said, “The man was my friend!” The guard’s face took on a look of shame at the bard’s response. Then, to the guard’s surprise, Elvisda winked and added, “But she is pretty!”
Both guards laughed after that. As the bard rode off, the guards called after him, “Good luck!” Martan turned to Elvisda and whispered, “You were talking about the Baron, back there, weren’t you?” The bard nodded, “Yes, I was.”
As the two men road on, Elvisda said, “I want to take a slight detour past the theater.” But when they reached The Theater Of The Mystic Celebration it was boarded up. Martan motioned to the bard, and pointed behind the building. Elvisda looked and saw smoke rising from a house behind the theater. “Wait here,” he told the archer, and the bard slid down from his saddle and walked over to the house.
It was a quaint little place, white with green shutters, a porch out front with a swing, and gables with windows on the second floor. Elvisda walked up to the door and knocked. He heard a woman’s voice yell from inside, “Willis! Can you get that? I’m in the kitchen!” He heard some footsteps coming towards the door, and then it opened. Standing in front of him was Balmarrow’s Illusionist, Willis.
“Can I help you?” the thin man said. The bard pulled back his hood to reveal his face. “Elvisda!” Willis cried in recognition. The elf put a finger to his mouth. Willis clamped his hand over his mouth. “Can I come in?” Elvisda whispered. “Sure…certainly,” the Illusionist responded, backing out of the way. The bard walked in and Willis closed the door behind them.
As Elvisda removed his hood, Phyllis walked in from the kitchen. “Who is it…” she trailed off when she saw the bard. “Elvisda,” she said softly. “It’s Elvisda!” she yelled loudly. The bard was about to say something when he heard footsteps coming down the stairs from the second floor. He turned and saw a Kobold standing on the landing. The creature was staring at him.
“Who is this?” Elvisda asked Willis. “Oh, no one of consequence,” the Kobold replied coming down the rest of the stairs and walking past the bard. The creature threw himself into a chair and sat there watching the elf. Elvisda continued to stare at the kobold until Phillis said, “Oh, don’t mind him. He’s an old friend of our boss.” The elf stared at the kobold who in turn stared back at him. Then the kobold reached behind the chair and picked up a lute! It put the instrument on its little lap and started strumming the strings. Elvisda watched amazed as the kobold began playing an incredible tune on the lute. He stood there fascinated as the little creature continued to play. When it was done, Elvisda clapped. “Bravo, little maestro,” he said to the kobold. “That was a masterful tune. I can indeed see why Balmarrow considered you a friend.”
The kobold nodded his thanks. Then Phyllis said, “What brings you here Elvisda?” The elf turned to look at all of them and said, “We are taking down the Assassin’s Guild.” The kobold slammed down his little fist on the table next to him. “Well it’s about time!” it yelled in its high pitched voice. Elvisda looked at the creature for a moment, a strange thought crossing his mind, then shook his head and continued. “The rest of the KOTC is here. We are meeting up at the burnt out cottage at the north end of town after sunset. If you can think of anyone in town you can trust, have them meet us there.”
The kobold stood up on the table and yelled, “The three of us will be there.” The bard looked at the creature again. There was something very familiar about him, but Elvisda couldn’t place what it was. He shook his head again and said, “Okay then. See you soon.” He got up, and walked to the door. Willis followed him. The bard nodded, pulled up his hood and walked out.
When he got back to Martan, he had a strange look on his face. “What’s the matter?” the archer said. “I’ve got the strangest feeling I’ve seen a ghost,” Elvisda replied mysteriously. Martan just looked at the elf, but Elvisda shook his head and said, “Let’s get going. The others are waiting for us.”
The rest of the KOTC had made it to the cottage a half an hour earlier. Though the place had burnt down, there were still two walls standing. They provided enough cover that the group could comfortably camp out between them. Lloyd stood guard while the others set up a makeshift camp. Glo also had his Raven patrolling the surrounding area.
Once they were settled in, Aksel decided to take the opportunity to follow up with Shalla. The bard-ess had left him hanging with her cryptic message about the Princess Anya the night before. He sent her a message and in a few minutes received a response. It seems that the Princess was already in Lukescros! Well that explained a few things the little cleric thought. If Anya was already in Lukescros, then that pretty much confirmed that the Ves they met was indeed her shapeshifter, Deri. Shalla also replied that Ignar had taken his iron golems with him when he left. The real question then was where was Ignar going. But Shalla did not know.
Elvisda and Martan arrived a short time later. The bard related his meeting with Willis, Phillis and the strange little kobold at the house behind the theater. “You don’t think that kobold could be Balmarrow?” Glorfindel asked when the bard was done. “Well,” Aksel added, “if he couldn’t be raised then maybe they might have tried to resurrect him. Then he could have come back as any race, even a kobold.” Seth sat in the corner and remained silent.
Martan went out on watch with Lloyd. Just as the sun began to set, a voice sounded behind Seth. “You’re not very observant,” it said. The ninja didn’t move a muscle. He replied in an even tone, “Why should I be when it’s only you Winky.” Seth hadn’t actually heard anything. He guessed it was the bard Balmarrow’s blink dog. It must have teleported in behind him. If anyone, or anything had moved up behind him, he would have heard it. He was sure of it.
“Nice guess,” the voice said. Then the dog walked into view beside him. “You’ve got friends coming.” Two seconds later, Glorfindel’s raven contacted him. The elf confirmed that there were 11 people coming up the road from the direction of the town. When the group arrived, it turned out to be Willis, Phyllis, the Kobold and their three stagehands Marvin, Wilbur and Arthur. Along with them were the folks from Abraham’s tavern! Abraham himself was there as well as Glami the barkeeper, James and Balmar, the serving boys, and Falpir the stableboy.
“Never in a million years,” Glorfindel commented. “I thought there was no Assassin’s Guild in Garrotten,” he said to Abraham. “Umm, yes…well,” the innkeeper replied, “better safe than sorry. I had no idea who you folks really were back then.” The wizard smiled then and said, “That makes sense.” Abraham continued, “But when we heard you were all back and ready to clean up the town, I closed up my Inn and headed right up here. My whole staff, except the cook that is, headed up here with me.” The other innsfolk all said, “Here, here.”
“Very good,” Aksel said stepping forward. “Tell me, have there been any suspicious folks hanging around the tavern?” Abraham thought for a moment, then replied, “Well…there was that pompous ass from Dunwynn. Flew in on one of those overgrown chickens. Was asking about the Baron of Restenford’s heart.” Aksel nodded and said, “What happened to him?” Abraham snorted and replied, “I told him I didn’t know nothing about it. So he got back on his chicken and flew off south.”
The others laughed, but Aksel cut them short. “Anyone else acting strange?” Abraham turned to talk to his folks. Then he turned back and said, “Wilfong and Philmar. They both stay at the inn. And they peddle potions and some not so nice stuff out of their room. And of course the Mayor herself is dirty. Either she’s a part of the guild or they’ve paid her off. And same goes for her four apprentices. They all stay in the keep with her. Anybody starts asking questions about assassins, and they shut them up real quick.”
“We figure the Mayor is head of the Guild,” Aksel told them. Everyone nodded in agreement. “That figures,” Abraham said. “We may have discovered an entrance to the guild under your tavern. If what your telling me is correct, it would be in Wilfong and Philmar’s room where the entrance is. We need to capture those two and get them out of the way. Can you go back to the inn? We’ll disguise ourselves and come there in about half an hour. Once we take care of Wilfong and Philmar, then we can find that secret entrance and see where it leads.”
Everyone agreed. The theater and tavern folk left to head back to the inn while the KOTC members began working on their disguises. Lloyd and Andrella would go as a couple. This time Seth and Aksel both disguised themselves as their children. Then Elvisda and Glorfindel used some spells to make themselves look like humans. Martan would stay outside the inn and keep watch from there.
Once their plans were set, the group split up and made their way separately to the inn. Lloyd, Andrella and the “kids” went first and found a table away near the back of the common room. As Elvisda and Glorfindel made their way to the inn, they ran into Winky, the blink dog. “Philmar is at the tavern, but we can’t find Wilfong,” the animal said. “We’ll handle Philmar,” Glo replied. “Can you see if you can find Wilfong?” The dog nodded and said, “Sure thing.” Then it winked out of existence. “Handy pet there,” Elvisda said admiringly. “Yes,” Glo agreed.
The two continued to the House of Abraham, entered the common room and down at a table near the front door. Checking out the bar, the saw Glami standing behind it with a man sitting in front of him, drinking ale. The barkeep nodded to them. Then the barmaid came over and said out loud, “What can I get you gents?” Then softly she said, “That’s Philmar at the bar.” Elvisda nodded and said aloud, “We’ll have some ales.” The he added quietly, “And send some to our friend at the bar. Tell them it’s from us.” She smiled and said, “Will do.”
As the two companions sat there, they noticed a familiar face at one of the tables. It was Captain Basmar. He must have noticed them too. The sailor got up and sauntered up to them. “You two look familiar,” he drawled. He looked closely at Elvsida and said, “You look like an elf!” Elvsida threw his chair back and stood up, putting up his fists. “Them’s fighting words,” the bard replied in mock anger. Then Glo stood up and put his hand on his friends shoulder. “Now, now there. I’m sure this fine sailor meant no disrespect. Why don’t you join us for a drink…ummm, what was your name?” The man replied, “Basmar. Captain Basmar. My ship is the Rusty Nail.”
Elvisda lowered his hands and sat down saying, “Well then Captain, as my friend here said, sit down and join us.” Basmar nodded and grabbed a seat. Elvisda raised up his hand and shouted, “Barkeep! Another round of ales here please!” Glami nodded and sent Rillis over with three more ales. Then he poured another one and set it in front of Philmar at the bar. Philmar was beginning to slump a bit on his stool the bard noticed.
The two elves were doing their best to keep Basmar busy and away from the topic of elves, when the front door to the tavern opened and in strode another elf! It was Donatello! The swashbuckler had a beautiful blonde on his arm dressed in a warrior’s outfit. “Now there’s an elf!” Elvisda said pointing. “Where?” said Basmar. “All I see is a gorgeous blonde. Oh, next to the blonde. Hey, I definitely know him. That’s Donatello! He and his friends killed the lake creatures a few months ago.” The Captain yelled, “Hey Donatello! Over here!”
Donatello had walked into Abraham’s and took in his surroundings immediately. This was typical of the artist as he never knew when he might run into a potential customer or a jealous husband. He saw Lloyd first then recognized the Lady Andrella with him. They made a cute couple was his first thought. Then he spied the two kids running around their table. The kids did not look familiar, but something about the way they bantered as they ran reminded him of Aksel and Seth. Then he heard someone yell his name. He turned and saw Captain Basmar, the skipper of the Rusty Nail waving him over to a table.
He turned to his lady friend and said, “This way my dear.” The Amazonian warrior turned with the swashbuckler and moved over to the table. Donnie immediately recognized Elvisda and Glorfindel, even though they were disguised as humans. The elf quickly put two and two together and figured his friends were in disguise for a reason. So he decided to play along and ignore them for now.
“Captain Basmar, my good man! It is nice to see you again,” Donatello began. “How fare’s the waters since we’ve been gone?” Basmar and Donnie got into a conversation about the Captain’s business on the lake. Though Basmar seemed far more interested in Donatello’s companion. “Oh, where are my manners,” Donnie said reproachfully. “This is my friend, Kara.” Basmar bowed deeply and said “Pleased to meet you.” Kara regarded the swarmy sailor somewhat disdainfully. “I’m sure you are,” she replied coolly.
Donatello’s friend Kara was easily as tall as he was. She had long blonde hair and electric blue eyes. She looked to be in her early twenties and was in peak physical condition. She wore a female warrior’s armored leathers. She had a longsword on her belt and a quiver and bow slung across her back. And she moved with a lithe grace that exuded both beauty and strength. This was obviously a woman that could handle herself both in and off the battlefield.
Elvisda nearly spit out his ale when he heard Kara’s reply to Basmar. Glorfindel had not been drinking, but had to put his hand to his mouth to stifle his laughter. A warrior like Kara would only appreciate strength and power the wizard reasoned. Basmar had neither of these and she showed little to know interest in him.
Donnie quickly redirected the sailor and artfully led him away to another table leaving Elvisda and Glorfindel alone. The two were still watching Philmar who looked like he would tumble out of his seat any minute. But Elvisda got tired of waiting. He signaled Seth. The ninja, obviously waiting for this, nodded back and then took out one of the sleeping darts he still had. He aimed for Philmar and caught him in the side of the leg. Philmar slumped further down in his stool and then keeled over and fell to the ground with a loud thud. As everyone in the room turned to see what had happened, Seth skillfully ran by and removed the dart without anyone seeing it.
After Philmar fell, Elvisda and Glo got up and went over to him. Strangely, so did Captain Basmar. The bard and wizard where kneeling next to the passed out man when Basmar came up to them. “What happened to him?” the captain asked suspiciously. “Looks like he had a bit too much to drink,” Elvisda replied casually, “but don’t worry, we’ll see him to his room.”
Basmar gave Elvisda a suspicious look and then knelt down reaching for the fallen Philmar. “No,” the Captain said firmly, “I’ll do it.” Elvisda shot a quick look over to Glorfindel, but the wizard was already taking action. He softly cast a spell of sleep on the sailor. Basmar suddenly yawned, but then shook it off and continued to gather up Philmar. Glo, now also worried, looked back at Elvisda, but the bard was in the middle of casting a spell of his own. As it let loose, Basmar, who had started lifting Philmar, dropped the man back down. Then he fell back on his butt and started to giggle. A few seconds later he broke out into loud laughter. “Yo…you idiot…Ph…Philmar,” he managed inbetween giggles, “ge…getting sm…smashed like that. Yo..You should…know better.”
Then Lloyd was there. He reached down with a huge hand and conked the captain on the head. Basmar slumped to the ground out cold. As Seth came over to tie the men up, Abraham went and closed the front door. Then the innkeeper led Lloyd to a back room where he unceremoniously dumped the two incapacitated men.
Meanwhile, the rest of the companions went over to greet their old friend Donatello. “What happened to you?” Glorfindel asked. “I’ve been trying to reach you for weeks,” Aksel added. The swashbuckler glanced at Kara and then looked back at his friends. “It’s a loooong story,” he finally said, “and we seem to have stumbled upon you in the middle of something. Maybe you should fill us in for now and I’ll tell you my story later.”
“We’re raiding the Assassin’s Guild,” Elvisda said conspiratorially. “We found some evidence that they have the Baron’s heart,” Aksel added. The swashbuckler immediately replied, “Well you can count me in.” Then he turned to the blonde warrior at his side and quickly explained about the Baron of Restenford. Kara smiled grimly and replied, “Sounds like fun. Count me in as well.”
They joined the other’s who were already in Philmar’s room. Seth had found a trap door under the bed with a ladder going down into a dark corridor. The little ninja led the way as the party along with the theater folks followed him below the Inn. They left the inn folk behind to keep an eye on Philmar and Basmar, and to watch for Wilfong.
The corridor ran underneath a number of rooms that also had ladders and trap doors. The companions continued to follow it as it twisted this way and turned that way under the inn. But eventually they found the end which led to a grove of trees about 50 feet away from Abraham’s.
It was late in the evening, and the stars glowed brightly in the moonless sky as the companions and their friends stood in the grove. Seth was the first to speak up. “Well that was a waste,” the ninja declared. Glorfindel turned to the Kobald, who they were now certain was actually the reincarnated Balmarrow. “Do you have any idea where the actual entrance to the Assassin’s headquarter’s might be?” The kobald put his hand to his chin and thought for a moment. Then he replied in his high pitched voice, “There are any number of rumors. But if the Mayor actually is the head of the guild as you say, then it may very well be under the keep itself.”
Suddenly, Winky appeared in their midst. Balmarrow turned to the dog and said, “Did you find something?” The blink dog replied in its gruff voice, “Yes. You asked me to find Wilfong. Well I did. He went up to the keep.” There were murmurs all around at that bit of news. Then Aksel spoke. “Well if there were any doubts before that pretty much clinches it. We head to the keep. Seth, you search the outside walls, while Martan and Lloyd check the surrounding woods. The rest of us will follow but let’s all keep to the trees and out of sight of anyone on the walls.”
They all agreed with the little cleric’s plan. Seth turned invisible and headed straight for the castle. The other, led by Lloyd and Martan, took the more roundabout route staying under the concealment of the forest. In less than fifteen minutes they were in sight of the keep. Guards could be seen patrolling atop the walls of the fortress. But it was dark and the party was keeping well behind the treeline.
Lloyd and Martan fanned out and made their way through the woods looking for any signs of tracks or anything that might point to a secret entrance into the keep. The time seemed to pass slowly for the group. They stayed hidden in the woods and kept silent while the search was going on. After what seemed like forever, but was really only about half an hour, Seth reappeared in their midst. “I found it,” the little ninja whispered. “It’s in the back wall of the keep.” Aksel let out a sigh of relief. “Excellent. Did you have any trouble?” Seth scoffed, “There was a mediocre trap and a lock, but I took care of them.”
Aksel couldn’t help smiling. The ninja was incorrigible, but he was also that good. “Very well,” the cleric replied. “Seth, Donnie, go get Lloyd and Martan and meet us by the back wall. Everyone else, we’ll make our way over there in small groups. Luckily is quite dark and the moon is still not out yet.” Everyone agreed. “Okay then,” Aksel said, “let’s move out.”
The group slowly made their way through the woods to a point where they were closest to the castle walls. Then, one at a time, they snuck over to the wall and flattened themselves against it. Seth was waiting with Lloyd and had the secret door open when they started arriving there. The companions quickly filled in and found themselves standing on a dark staircase leading downward under the keep.
When everyone was gathered inside, Aksel had Seth close the door behind him. Glorfindel lit his staff with a dim light allowing them to see a few dozen yards around them. The stone stairwell continued downward below the keep and out of sight. “Donnie, care to lead the way?” Aksel asked the swashbuckler. “Sure, why not,” Donatello replied. “I haven’t been in harm’s way in at least a week or so. Life was starting to get boring.” Kara shot the elf a look. “Well, not that boring,” he tried to recover. The warrior just raised an eyebrow. “Sometime today please?” Elvisda whispered from the middle of the line. “Alright, I’m going,” Donnie whispered back as he began the slow decent under the keep.