This took far too long to write up... my laptop doesn't seem to like it when I type lots of things into 750 words. =[
Longest entry so far though at over 1800 words!
Enjoy! Comments and crits welcome.
"Sons of... Who?" Gregory frowned as everyone stood around surveying the room they were in. It was dimly lit, with dozens of guttering candles dotted around the room. The air was stale and unpleasant, which Gregory reasoned was to be expected as they were in the sewers. But it had been made almost homely with small cots in one corner of the room, most of the algae and other plant life that enjoyed the dark and damp had been stripped away, a pair of long tables took up the majority of one side of the room and a small weapons and armour cache another corner.
"The Sons of Tralda." their brightly coloured host grinned widely, picking up a dark green bottle from the table and taking several mouthfuls of the liquid inside it, a trickle of crimson liquid escaping and dribbling down his chin. "We are - or were at least - the ones that had various... business interests down here in the sewers, but we've been evacuating people down here where we can since the Kryganites attacked. There's another few rooms back there..." he jerked his thumb behind him to a thick looking wooden door at one end of the room, "... with another couple of dozen survivors in, and we have several more people out looking for people like yerselves hiding..." Gregory glared at him, "... uh... Taking refuge, with those that can't protect themselves, in some of the other buildings that haven't fallen down yet."
Gregory glanced at Aylix, who's eyebrows were raised, obviously impressed. "Who are you?" the Crowan asked, his voice laced with suspicion.
"All in good time." the Traldan answered with a bow before calling over to a halfling sitting at the table playing cards. "Tella! Over here chap."
The halfling, in what must have been at once point fine chefs whites, came trotting over, notebook in hand, his bare feet padding on the cold stone.
"Your names please." he said, his voice unexpectedly low. "So we can keep track an' keep record, in case some of you decide to stay."
"Stay?"Josef said the word as if it was unfamiliar. "Elysium Above, why would we want to stay?"
"All in good time." the Traldan repeated, a little of the joviality lost from his voice. "Now, your names."
"High Father Gregory Chrace, of Crowa." Their host nodded with a measure of respect as Gregory answered, clearly and with pride in his voice.
"Captain Aylix Goth." Aylix toasted the room with his hip flask, which had suddenly appeared in his hand, taking a long hit of the whiskey inside it. "Mercia Militia. And don't worry - I'm not gonna try and nick you." he winked. The halfling laughed nervously, scribbling down their names as the rest introduced themselves - Josef, the merchant, John a blacksmith, Robin a barmaid from one of the finer restaurants in town, Daffyd - travelling minstrel from Sortho and Lucy the little girl, who was swaying on her feet, her eyes drooping and yawning widely as she said her name.
"The pleasure of meeting you all is mine. Lucy, go with Tella and he'll get you some juice to drink and let you sleep in a cot while I talk with the others." the Traldan said warmly, leading them over to a smaller table of the room as the halfling led the little girl away.
"Now, lady, gentlemen. I am Brother Minchin, of Tralda if you hadn't guessed, and we - Tralda willing - are likely to be Mercia's underground lifeline. I have a proposition for you, needless to say... we might need your help."
"I... how could I... What would you need me to do?" Lahsaa's words tumbled out of his mouth awkwardly, but the offer was there - without any real hesitation.
Leanna flushed, slightly abashed by his keenness. "I didn't think you'd be that keen to help... I mean, you don't know me from... well, anyone."
He shook his head in reply, "How can I say no when someone's life is threatened?" he returned, slightly embarrassed by his apparent over keenness.
Leanna smiled warmly, touching his hand. Lahsaa fought the urge to flinch, unsure of himself. "How can your father be ashamed of someone like you?" her voice was soft and sympathetic.
He gave a small shrug, his gaze falling rapidly back into his goblet. "It's what any decent person would do."
"You'd be surprised how hard decent people are to come across." he withdrew her hand, meeting her own just in front of her and interlocking her fingers. The was several beats of silence between them before she looked up at him again. "Are you sure you want to help? It will be dangerous."
He shrugged, and met her eyes. "How could I say no?" he replied, his voice shaky.
She smiled, relieved. "Okay, we have a couple of nights, this has to be done on the night of the new moon, but if we're successful, it'll foil most of the Kryganite plans and make it much easier for us to retake the city." she dropped her voice and leaned forward, checking they weren't being listened to. "Okay... here's the plan."
Grundown's hands went to his weapons and they were raised in a flash, scanning the treeline for each of their enemies. "This is the bloody woods, Elf, this is what your bloody woods hides. These grangusharik mortok kalacrishaks!"
"Hush, naugrim." Eliana hissed, dropping the crutch and raising her arms to show she was unarmed. "And put the weapons down, they'll do you no good anyway."
"They're just a bunch of big bloody wolves." the dwarf shot back, turning slowly, challenging the gaze of each wolf.
"They're werewolves you sislansa." Eliana fought to keep her breathing steady before calling out to the man in front. "We mean you or your forest no harm kin of the lunar lupine. We seek the human town of Netherthong."
The man sniffed the air, "One of the ageless, travelling with a child of the earth? What madness is this?" his voice was incredulous.
"I don't like it either." Grundown snarled over his shoulder, his weapons still raised, battle ready. "But it be true, fresh from killin' followers of the Great Beardless Mother of Monsters who were plottin' some nasty ritual in the woods, and then fallin' foul of some manling bitch who 'ad us all fooled and 'oo turned out to be a follower of the Great Beardless Liar."
The man stepped forward, away from the tree cover and into the dim light the moon and stars offered. He was dressed in furs and leathers and Eliana's keen eyes could make out a wolf claw threaded on a leather thong around his neck.
"Praise be to the Longstor, Lord of the Hunt." Eliana offered, bowing as well as she could. The wolves answered with a chorus of howls and the man returned her bow as Grundown whipped round to glare at the Longstorian.
"Aye, praise be to the Great Bearded God of the Mountains. Now, call off yer wolves before you get a 'ole in yer skull for calling me an 'eretic." the dwarf growled, raising his axe.
"Watch your tongue, earth child." the werewolf snarled, flicking his hand to order the wolves to depart and instantly they faded into the shade and undergrowth, noiselessly.
"Who are you?" Eliana asked, respectfully. "I am Eliana Leafwhisper of the Silverwood, and my short companion is Grundown Graknison of the great mountainhome Grungranaz-Karak."
The man bowed to Eliana again. "I am High Father Aston Fillion of the pack of the Fang. And I would appreciate it if you stopped destroying my wood."
After making sure that he wasn't helping her to heal anything life threatening, Crow knelt beside the man who had been struck down by the necromantic power from the wraith, watching the face of the woman who had been choked.
"Where did it come from?" he asked, his voice softer than even he had known it be capable of.
"The... the woods." the woman - who had introduce herself as Cath - replied shakily. "Will... will he be okay?" she asked desperately as Addy tended his wounds with liquid from various bottles of coloured liquid.
"He'll be fine. A tad sore, and a bit woozy when he wakes - cause he lost a lot of blood - but he'll recover righ' as rain." the Traldan replied, glancing up at her briefly. "What's 'is name, love?"
"Is 'ee your 'usband?"
Cath shook her head ever so slightly.
"But not far off?" Addy smiled, noting the thin silver band around one of Cath's fingers. "I bet that cost 'im several months pay."
Cath bit her lip, a smile almost appearing on her lips, as she played with the small ring of metal around her finger. "We're gettin' married at the end of Summereve." she said in a small voice. "Well... we were going to..." she glanced up at the wood, looking in the direction of Mercia. "... But... I'm not sure what will happen now."
"It'll all be fine love. A'soon as everything is finished at the Communion, the adventurers and the miltia's'll come on down and give 'em all a kickin' you'll see, and then we'll all 'ave our 'houses back." Addy said with a determined nod, finishing patching up the last of Benjy's wounds.
Crow looked between both women, slowly getting more agitated. "The wraith, did it say anything? Before it attacked?"
"Say anything?" Cath asked, confused. "Why would it...?"
"Sometimes they talk... the vestiges of the life they once had... did it say what it wanted? Or why?" he voice grew louder, more urgent, and Addy shot him a warning glance.
"I don't know!" the woman was getting flustered and scared. "It... it swept in and Benjy went for it with a poker... it raised it's arm and said..." she shuddered, "I don't know but... it rasped... it was a cold, dead voice and suddenly..." she let out a sob, reliving the moment in her memory and Addy quickly went to her side, putting a comforting arm around the shaken woman. "Benjy was on the floor bleeding from seemingly everywhere..." she let out a long, shuddering breath. "And then it turned to me... and it felt like I had an ogre choking me... and it kept repeating - 'they will be stopped, they will be stopped. Before it's too late I need an army...' And... and..." her eyes dimmed as she remembered. "It said a name... It said - it needed to protect its master... It needed to protect Lord Collins."
Crow's eyes widened. "What?" he exclaimed, eliciting a whimper of fear from Cath.
"It said Lord Collins! It said Lord Collins needed an army to protect him!"
Addy glanced between the Kharachian and the scared woman. "Who's Lord Collins?"
"He... he was a minor noble who lived in Mercia, he was a friend of my family and three weeks ago he was kidnapped..." he clenched his teeth. "By Vampires."