Discover more from Arjun’s Newsletter
Chapter Nine - The Attack on Grulhund Villa
Also Merry Christmas
The Trollskull Manor was in chaos; it was a busy night. There were a lot of important guests, and Ape had all of a sudden summoned everyone to her room as she had had an ‘epiphany’
She was standing in the living room and had kept a few fat tomes in front of her.
“I solved it!” She shouted as soon as everybody entered.
“You solved what?” Sir Reginald calmly asked.
“What mystery?” Prima asked.
“Who called for and who conducted the Blast on the Trollskull street?!” Ape shouted.
“Who?” Durm asked.
“Who?” Malora asked.
“They are a small noble household,” Octavius replied.
“What do they have to do with all this?” Durm questioned.
“Sit tight, you all,” Ape smiled, “And let me explain everything.”
“Our main guy was Dalkher, an agent of Lord Octvener, who was following Robert. He had something valuable to give to Robert, presumably a part of the key to Octvener’s vault, but then he got followed and subsequently killed. He was killed in a fiery blast caused by an oversized fireball. I checked out from Octavius, that fireball can be converted to beads which can be thrown, and then Emberic, that red guy who runs the steel shop, during the evening discussions on the day of the blast had said about a puppet-like creature throwing something which caused the blast to happen. Octo, is there any difference between a fireball caused by a bead, one cast by a spell caster or one cast using a wand?”
“Not by a single strand of hair,” Octavius replied.
“So that's that. However, that won’t matter much to our solution. Based on descriptions by Emberic and Dracoroft, It was clear that a pencil bearded automaton similar to one owned by the temple of Luxon was responsible for the blast. From Octavius’s and Vajara’s wizardry, we found out that the blast was not done by Victer, the man I had seen out of the window. He however had intended to do one such blast but was beaten to the post by a Nimblewright.
The next day, Prima and I went to the temple of Luxon and found that they had bought the nimblewright from a sailor, Captain Zord. We went to him and he gave us the leger of nimblewrights. It would be a loss however all nimblewrights have a defining feature. Through the ledger, we get that Lord Orond Gralhund has a nimblewright with a ‘fashionable beard’
Based on the fact that Emberic had wanted a pencil beard for a long time, we can assume that it is this ‘fashionable beard’ we are talking about. However, yesterday when Octo and Durm went to meet Krimlis she had said that Grulhund kept on sending some ‘pencil bearded automaton’ to ask about some key. Grulhunds think that a part of the key is with Krimlis and want to have it for they too are behind the vault and in the race to get Octveners ill-gotten gains!” Ape triumphantly concluded.
“Let's go and get those crooks!” Durm shouted, “They don’t expect us to let them get away with killing Jenks, do they?” He questioned.
“Well, Jenks is alive,” Malora interrupted.
“How?” Octavius asked, faking a surprised tone.
“Well, she said you resurrected her so you should know,” Malora replied.
“You resurrected her?” Durm questioned.
“Are we still going to the Grulhunds?” Ape confirmed.
“Malora, who was the person you talked about yesterday? when are we going to meet him or her” Sir Reginald asked?
Octavius stood silently. He then proceeded, “Malora and I shall go and meet the person who she talked about. The rest of you shall go to Grulhund Villa, before we tell anything to the watch, we need to know the reason for the Grulhunds involvement in the Great Game. Also, restrain the use of violence, I don’t want any of the Grulhunds dead.”
“What are we doing here?” Prima impatiently asked. Durm, Ape, Sir Reginald and Prima were all roaming sitting in an empty housing area.
“Observing.” Sir Reginald decisively replied.
“Observing what?” Prima interrogated.
“There are two other groups who are watching the villa.” Ape interrupted. “Two thugs with are on the rooves. They have a flying snake with them, perhaps to send messages.”
“Also a few drow’s are in the nearby manor. They too, I infer, are scouting the Grulhunds.” Durm added.
“And why are we not attacking?” Prima asked.
“Because when we attack, we risk all of the others attacking us back.” Sir Reginald said.
“So what is that?” Prima says pointing to a bunch of people in black armour.
“Oh, Lord!” Sir Reginald rushes out of the room and signals everyone to follow him.
Malora and Octavius had been climbing Mt.Yagrah for the last two hours. Malora had been moving steadily but Octavius had started to tire. He had started to move on less than half his speed.
“How much longer?” he asked gripping the branches of a plant. “It will feel much more longer if you don’t let go of that stinging nettle.” Malora said, “Or else we are just a few minutes away.”
“This is nettle,” Octavius asked.
“Why?” Malora asked.
“I have a cheat,” Octavius said plucking a few leaves. He pulled a lit cigarette from behind his ear and started burning the leaves. He muttered, “mfishty sthekps smokiste nettle.”
The leaves started producing a huge cloud of smoke. Octavius stepped on a cloud and ran up the smoke as if they were steps.
He stood in front of a wooden house. The house was not coloured and smelled profoundly of herbal tea. The air was soothing and one could hear the hammer meeting iron inside. Malora ran up the hill and was breathing heavily when she reached there.
“Knock on the door. Say Malora Myrahal wants to meet.” Malora said. Octavius walked up the courtyard and knocked. “Malora Myrahal wants to meet.”
The door was opened by an old man who despite having all signs of ageing stood upright and was incredibly muscular.
“Malora, dear girl, how may I help you?” He affectionately said.
“Sir Hiam, I need to ask you to take in a student,” Malora replied courteously.
“He is Hiam?” Octavius intrupted.
“Any questions?” Hiam asked.
“I have heard a lot of you and your combat prowess. I just didn’t expect you to be...” Octavius paused.
“You didn’t expect me to be?” the monk sternly interrogated.
“I don’t mean to offend you but old.” Octavius said, emersed.
“Punch me,” Hiam said.
“Punch me! I said punch me!” Hiam shouted.
Octavius reluctantly punched and the old monk dodged. Octavius tried again and missed. He tried again and then again till he was tired. He took a deep breath and tried once more and this time Hiam not only dodged the punch but also tripped Octavius down onto the wooden courtyard.
“My sources were correct,” Octavius said.
“That you, Sir, are younger than all of us,” Octavius remarked.
“Come on in. Have some tea. You both have a long climb downwards.” Hiam said.
Sir Reginald ran through the city block towards the Grulhund Villa. He signalled Durm to throw a rope over the villa’s massive walls. “Everybody doesn’t make noise. Prima, can you do something to distract the hounds?” Sir Reginald whispered.
Prima pulled out her bear from the backpack, made some symbols in front of him and threw him over the wall. Then they heard the dogs barking and the guard shouting, “Stop! Stop!”
Using this distraction, Sir Reginald, Ape, Prima and Durm sneaked inside the villa unseen.
An unlocked wooden door led from the yard to the mansion's kitchen, which was stocked with cookware and utensils. A large fireplace stood on the southern wall and was used for cooking meals. Prima whistled loudly causing her bear to run into the room and then she shut the door before the guard or the hound could enter. The kitchen had two other doors labelled as ‘pantry’ and ‘laundry’
“Captain, the pantry door it is jammed,” Ape called.
“It’s Commander.” Sir Reginald corrected.
He tried opening the knob and it failed. He slid one of his axes inside and ran it through the crevice, the door had been jammed using an iron pipe. The goliath kicked the door with all his might, it moved a little. He signalled everyone to move aside, he moved back and rammed into the door with full power. The rod as well as the hinges came apart as the door fell on the floor with a thud and cracked in two.
This pantry was lined with shelves containing edibles, spices, folded tablecloths, and jars of pickles. Casks of freshwater, ale, and wine were also stored there. On the floor lay the corpses of two creatures, an older male human and a younger male halfling. The intruders had killed them.
The tracks of footprints led to the eastern door. On opening the door they held witness to a horrible scene. The floor was strewn with bodies while two thugs dressed in black armour, armed with bloody maces stood over them.
The sound of fighting could be heard coming from the top of a wide staircase in the northwest corner, causing the two iron chandeliers hanging from the rosewood ceilings to move uncontrollably. A long dining table carved from red Larchwood was butchered by a crisscross of swords and had turned brown due to the flow of blood. Lining the wood-panelled walls were tapestries whose depictions were unclear due to huge spots of blood. The centrepiece was a fireplace with a granite mantelpiece holding a framed family portrait mounted above it. The portrait depicts Lord and Lady Grulhund, their three young children, and a family dog.
The thugs charged towards Sir Reginald, who had his back turned. An arrow pierced the armour of the one on the right as Durm shouted, “Attack!”. Prima hit her staff on the ground causing a pulsating sound to flow through the ground causing one of the thugs to lose his balance and the other to flinch. Taking advantage of the flinch, Ape moved to stab the thug on the right. He grabbed her leg and tossed her effortlessly and the other thug took a swing with his mace tossing Ape towards one of the chandeliers breaking it. By the effect of gravity, she fell on the floor and the chandelier crashed upon her, knocking her out cold. The thugs took the opportunity and ran upwards before anybody could react.
Octavius and Malora had been speaking with Hiam for half an hour. They were giving their regards before leaving when Hiam whispered to Octavius, “You seem like someone whom I can entrust this upon, provided that you deliver it to Vajara. Evil's twin hides its face for now. Expect that to change before winter's end.”
“What?” Octavius whispered back.
“You both shall figure it out.” Hiam heartily replied before sending them off.
The descent from the mountain was rather uneventful. What Malora and Octavius hadn’t realized before was that there was a cave through the mountain which was surrounded by underground rivers. This path was slightly longer however was much cooler and less tiring.
When they reached back into the city of Lumise they were greeted by the sight of many griffins flying over them.
“Wow!” Malora exclaimed.
“Something’s wrong,” Octavius was grim, “The Griffin Cavalry. They are only called upon when something is seriously-seriously wrong. And they are heading northeast, towards Grulhund Villa.”
Prima had pulled out a crystal which she embedded in the spherical weavings upon her staff. She opened the curtains to allow light to filter in and held the staff in the air. Prima’s body started glowing with power as a white starry light exited from the staff upon Ape’s slowly fleeting conscience.
A golden moon-like string became visible within the beam of light. It was broken. Prima uttered a few words causing the broken strings to join back and the glow to intensify. THUD! Prima fell on the floor with exhaustion as Ape got up. Sir Reginald and Durm sighed.
The relaxation was short-lived as the body of a guard in Grulhund insignia fell from the stairs. Its robes were stained maroon.
Sir Reginald signalled Durm to come with him. Ape and Prima were about to follow when he whispered, “You both are not coming. Go to the Trollskull Manor, Octavius and Malora must have returned.”
Prima and Ape protested, but their protests were thoroughly ignored and suppressed. They finally agreed and left for the manor.
Sir Reginald and Durm climbed up to find that a battle was raging on between several thugs and some of the house guards. The door to the master bedroom stood open with a lady wearing a breastplate and holding a short sword shouting, “The watch shall be here any minute now!”
The second exit off the foyer was ajar, however beyond that one could hear the sound of wood meeting wood. Lying on the floor were the corpses and weapons of six guards wearing House Gralhund livery over chain shirts and two Zhents in black leather armour.
“That door is important. The thugs seem to guarding it, Durm...” Sir Reginald ordered.
“On it,” Durm said rushing stealthily, out of harm's way towards the locked door. He pulled out one of his arrows and started picking the lock. Sir Reginald tossed his axe towards one of the thugs beheading him. Durm on the other hand had opened the door. He ran inside to find a square-faced man using a ram to break open the door. He was wounded and had his face bleeding. He turned to see Durm and pulled out his sword to deal with the halfling but Durm was prepared. He quickly converted his bracelet into a bow and shot the man on his elbow disarming him. Before Durm could pin him down, the man pulled out a powder and threw it blinding Durm.
He pulled out the arrow and ran out of the room. He signalled the one thug to provide cover but before the thug could oblige he was killed by one of the guards. And then gunshots flew from the window, bursting it into shards and killing the four guards. Seven drow ran from the balcony and pulled out their guns. There were four more drow, opposite the window on another building. Lady Yalah ran quickly into the children's room and locked it. Her bodyguard drew his sword and charged towards the gun holders and was immediately knocked unconscious by the drow who looked like the leader.
He cautiously walked into the room where Durm was. He looked at Durm who was rendered unconscious by the effect of the powder. He shot the lock open. He grabbed a well-dressed man in noble attire and pulled him ruggedly out of the room. “I’ll kill your Husband, Lord Orand Grulhund If you don’t hand me the key!” He shouted.
A suppressed sob came through the door. Sir Reginald wanted to help but he knew that any action he takes could cost the nobles their life. He had no option but to wait for the others to come.
“I’ll count till three and then I will shoot your husband.” The Drow Leader laughed.
“3,2,1” He was about to pull the trigger when suddenly it felt as if the gravity changed. He fell sidewards straight out of the broken window. He was in mid-air, 40 ft above the ground when gravity reverted back to normal causing him to fall to his death.
Octavius was standing outside with his wand in hand. Then with another bang Malora entered the foyer and took down one of the drows. Before he could aim his gun, she twisted her quarterstaffs and broke his neck, killing him.
The sniper drow were about to fire but before they could do anything, the Griffen Cavalry swooped down. Ape took the distraction and backstabbed another drow with her rapier. Sir Reginald pulled out his axe and threw them killed another of the drow. A rat jumped towards the final drow, as it jumped it expanded into a human woman wearing a wood fibre gown. Prima was on fire, quite literally. As soon as she touched the drow her flames transferred to him causing the gunpowder she was carrying to explode killing him.
Everybody was relieved and sighed. Durm was up from the effects of the black powder. He walked back dizzily into the hallway and asked, “Where is the square-faced man?”
“Not here.” Sir Reginald remarked.
“We, the square faced man, It looks like he escaped while we were busy fighting, the drow.” Lord Grulhund sorrowfully replied, untieing his hands.
Lady Grulhund opened the door and walked out. She was lethally stabbed near her abdomen. “Westin Jaklin took the key.” She said before she collapsed.