I awoke chained in a strange room. My master Handreaux sat before me. I felt a great burden of conscience. What had become of the others? Handreaux questioned me about these newcomers. I realized that lying had gotten me into this situation so I was honest with him about all I knew and had deduced. He listened and left. He returned with guards and Argathiel, the leader of the Council. I grew nervous. What could the leader of the Ardanyan Council want with me? He bade me follow him and he led me through the council house to the tax collector’s office and then down some stairs. There were two guards and a heavy door protecting this carved out chamber. I noticed two doors but only one of them did Argathiel order the men to open. He then led me in, told the guards to leave and removed my shackles. In this room lay tons of treasure in raw materials, money, weapons and other items. Argathiel called it the riches of Ardanyan.
He then laid out for me the history of Ardanyan in brief which I record here for purposes of sharing with my brotherhood at my next communion:
“Even before the Scourge, Ork Scorchers attacked this area when it was nothing more than a settlement – when this area had far less to offer than this. Before that, this crossing was the site of a shrine devoted to Rashomon – a place where the questor Ardan Yan blessed travelers with courage and endurance for the rest of their journey. Ork Scorchers became interested in this site when it became palisaded.
“On a clear night, they attacked, razing the place without mercy, and slaying the few warriors brave enough to take up the fight. Ardan Yan died along with them. The scorchers took everything they could upon their massive thundra beasts.
“After the scourge, history has repeated itself. Ork Scorchers became interested in Ardanyan again. In the early years, they harassed villagers in a small raid. They took lives, gold and food. Full of pride, they even announced their return.
“I had little time to prepare. I managed to hire a coven of Elementalists to erect a protective wall encircling the village. Still, the fortification was too small to prove a hindrance to the ork chieftan at the time. His men were hungry for battle and he called upon them to raze Ardanyan to the ground. But you know what I did? I had another surprise for them. I had earth elementals buried in the ground which emerged during the attack, throwing those scorchers right off of their mounts and forcing them to retreat.
“For a time, nothing happened. Soon, settlers returned and Ardanyan began to prosper again. I knew the ork scorchers would try something again someday. I bought the fire cannons that are on this building’s very roof from the t’skrang down river. When the scorchers did finally attack again, and they DID attack, Ghatz Bloodeyes, the ork chieftan, was the only target. Once he was dead, the ork scorchers fled never to return.”
He then offered me a deal. I would be pardoned for my involvement and possibly get some of the materials to make my own armor. In exchange, I have three days to find this group of new comers and lead them to the other room behind the other door. He said I needed to do it, to prove my loyalty to this city.
I truly felt that these Name-givers were not a threat despite their assault on the guards. They seemed earnest in their quest. Even the windling, despite his ego. But I would be of no use to them or to Lerod and Mary locked up here. Even though I would outlive Argathiel and could be freed later, my consolation would only be that I knew whoever had killed then would be dead also. But I could not stand the thought of more innocent lives being lost. So I agreed reluctantly to the deal with a resolve to inform them of the plot before it happened to give them a chance to flee should they choose.
Argathiel gave me documents and maps of the council house to enable me to assist them getting inside. To help me locate them he also spread word on the street that I had been released and would return to the forge. I left with a heavy heart. Argathiel seemed genuine but I felt like I was being used in ways I could not agree with. I returned to the little room off the barn behind the forge to rest and recover from my wounds.
I was awoken at dusk by a human. I pinned him to the wall until he produced a note from Benoni, the elf with the new comers. He asked for help. I knew we needed some privacy to plan and I wasn’t sure I liked the look of this human so I sent a note back for them to join me and we could talk. I could not believe my luck.
Shortly after that Benoni, Eramus (windling) and Gerneck (one-eared ork), arrived at the forge in disguise. They had acquired more updated clothing which I took for a good sign. The troll was not with them and they did not mention him so I presume he was killed, captured or abandoned their quest. The three informed me of their plan to break into the council house tonight. I could tell from their determination that I could not dissuade them. Still unsure of the human named Titoo’s intentions, I suggested he keep watch while we plan our assault. I then revealed to them that this was a trap but they remained determined to find their masters. And I decided to help them.
During our conversations they mentioned stories that the council had been unjustly imprisoning those that seemed to succeed in the city. That many were executed without trial. I began to suspect that the group Argathiel had claimed were Theran spies and slavers, may indeed be these masters. If indeed they were, I could no longer throw my lot in with Argathiel, Handreaux or anyone in authority in Ardanyan. I also learned that Argathiel may actually have come from the Kaer as well on an earlier expedition and duped those inside into believing they had all been wiped out.
We made our plan to have the three most agile, climb to the roof and go down the trapdoor there, to the ground floor and let Gerneck and I in through a window. This worked almost flawlessly except I was too big for the windows. I helped Gerneck in, told them I would keep watch and wished them luck. Then I waited. I’m not sure how much time passed but I was startled by a guard walking around the corner of the building. At first, I was tempted to bash him but he seemed to recognize me and before I could stop him, he called the other guards over. They apparently had been let in on the plan.
They asked me what I was doing there. Going against my nature, I lied and told them that I was waiting for the group to arrive but they were running late. Sadly, I’m not a good liar and they dispatched one of the guards to get Argathiel who was still in the council house. I continued my bluff and appealed to their logic to get most of them back to the entrance. They did post one guard on the corner but I knew we could handle one guard.
Argathiel came out and I repeated my story to him. He invited me inside and I protested feigning concern that this whole plan could fall apart if I am not there to meet the Name-givers. He assured me they would warn me of the coming and I should go inside. I agreed and followed. He then instructed me to go down to the treasure chamber and he would join me shortly. Still I held to my story in hopes of buying them more time and then went down the stairs to warn them.
They had handled the two guards left to guard the chamber. They were busy in the other room but Benoni saw me and came over. I told him that Argathiel was coming and possible some more soldiers. He told me of a secret passage in the treasure room he had seen and asked me to go check it out. I did so to discover it led to a shrine to some passion or god and a tunnel. I came out to inform Benoni of the tunnel to see him up against the closed door. I could hear the sound of people on the other side. I knew he alone could not hold the force of many guards. But I could. I walked over and put my weight against the door to hold it shut. Benoni shoved the key in and broke it off. It was then that I saw Titoo come out of the prison area with his friend that he came to rescue. And as Eramus and Gerneck escorted their badly wounded masters out, I knew that Argathiel could not be trusted. I waited as they all moved into the treasure room.
I could not tell if others would come but I knew we needed to go and that I could help carry the wounded if I needed to. So I left the door and followed them into the treasure room. I felt no love for those who had horded this treasure and so I grabbed some silver coins and a bunch of precious ore while Benoni broke off another key in the door to the treasure room. I followed them into the shrine.
There was only one way to go now. Wherever that tunnel led would be our fate.