Sigthyme and Juniper stood motionless as they watched this unknown man holding a sword to Riffen’s throat. They had managed to scare off Krumb and take care of his helpers, but now they were face to face with a new enemy. Both Sigthyme and Juniper could see that Riffen was not in good shape. He was covered in a variety of cuts and bruises with a large slash across his right eye.
The man with the sword was standing near several large, wooden crates and barrels. Sigthyme guessed that these might be filled with supplies to be smuggled in or out of the city. He also noticed that there was a metal cage with some sort of creature in it.
Sigthyme then focused on the man holding the sword.
“We’re not looking for any trouble, buddy,” Sigthyme said. “We are just here for him.”
“The boss told me to stop anyone from getting him,” The man said.
“Your boss is gone. He left,” Juniper said.
The man’s eyes grew large.
“What? Where are Cassidy, Trix, Jace?” The man asked.
“We don’t know who those are, but I’m guessing they were your friends. Probably the ones that attacked us,” Sigthyme said.
“And the ones who poisoned Grace,” Juniper added.
“Yeah they’re dead,” Sigthyme said. “All of them. It’s just us and you.”
The man quickly glanced down at Riffen lying against the crates and then back toward Sigthyme and Juniper before glancing over at Tak who was holding Grace over his shoulder.
“And…and her?” He asked pointing toward Grace.
“Yeah our friend who was poisoned by your friends,” Juniper said, her fingers nervously tapping her bow.
“I…I…” The man stumbled over his words as the sword shook in his hands.
“Hey. Guy. Look here,” Sigthyme said as the man focused on his face. “We don’t want to hurt you. We are just here for our friend. OK? This doesn’t have to get messier than it already has.”
“I…I can’t. The Boss. He’ll be back. He’ll kill me,” The man said.
“We’ll kill you now,” Juniper said, taking a step forward, but Sigthyme stuck out his arm to stop her progress.
The man tightened his grip on the blade.
Riffen, who seemed to be somewhat conscious grumbled something that was muffled by the gag in his mouth and readjusted himself so the blade wasn’t as close.
“Just take a moment. No need to do anything rash,” Sigthyme said as he held out his rapier and made a display of setting it down on the ground at his feet. “Let’s just talk about this, alright? What is your name?”
The man looked down at the rapier, then at the group, and then back at Sigthyme.
“Uh…Ralph,” The man said.
“Ralph. Great. Well Ralph, my name is Sigthyme. I’m not really a fighter, you see. I’m more of a conversationalist. I like talking. Do you like talking?”
“Uh….uh….yeah,” Ralph said with a slow nod of his head.
“Great. We both like talking. You don’t really seem like the stabbing and fighting type. So what are you doing with a man like Krumb?” Sigthyme asked.
“The Boss. Oh. Well he uh… he saved my life and I work for him. He takes care of us,” Ralph said.
“What do you mean take care of us?”
“He made sure we were fed and had a place to sleep and he bought us things,” Ralph said.
“And what did he get out of this?” Juniper asked.
“We…uh… We would do missions for him. Sometimes taking supplies in and out of the city through these passageways.”
“What about murder?” Juniper asked, her brow furrowing.
“I…I never hurt nobody,” Ralph said.
“That girl who punches things. She attacked me and Tak in the city. A Dwarven man burned down The Pilgrim’s Rest. Were they sent by Krumb?” Juniper asked.
“That would be Cassidy and Kingston. Boss would sometimes send them to hurt people,” Ralph said as he nodded his head.
“But no you. Not you Ralph. You don’t hurt people, right?” Sigthyme asked.
“Uh…right,” Ralph said.
“And that’s why you are going to drop your weapon and let our friend go,” Sigthyme said, this time he subtly waved his fingers and his words became tainted with magic.
As the words hit Ralph’s ears, his posture relaxed and his eyes glazed over.
“Of course,” Ralph said as he pulled the sword away from Riffen and there was a general sigh of relief.
“Now drop it at your feet,” Sigthyme commanded.
Ralph dropped the blade and it clattered across the stone floor.
Seeing this, Juniper rushed forward and knelt down to Riffen. She pulled out his gag and Riffen let out a cough.
“Riffen. Are you alright?” Juniper asked as she started on his binds.
“I knew you would come,” He said with a slight smile. “I told them that you’d find me.”
Sigthyme kicked Ralph’s sword across the room and picked his rapier up from the ground. Sigthyme then pointed the blade at Ralph who just stared ahead, not reacting.
“We got to move quickly. The spell was wear off soon,” Sigthyme said.
“Working as fast as I can,” Juniper replied as she cut through the ropes around Riffen.
“I knew you’d come,” Riffen said to no one in particular, seeming a little delirious.
“Riffen, are you alright? Are you poisoned?” Juniper asked him.
She turned to look at him and tears were falling down his face.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get you out of here,” Juniper said as she finished off the ropes. “They won’t hurt you anymore.”
Juniper helped Riffen to his feet and he leaned against her. They stumbled a bit as Juniper helped Riffen walk.
At that moment, Sigthyme’s spell ended and Ralph began blinking his eyes.
“Uh…what?” Ralph asked. “What happened. How did you?”
Sigthyme continued to point his rapier at Ralph’s chest.
“Sorry Ralph. But Riffen is far too important to us. Your boss is gone and he has abandoned you. We have no want to harm you, but if you attack us, we’ll have no choice.”
“I..I…” Ralph stood there confused as his eyes looked at the group.
“You can come with us and we can hand you over to the city guard. I’m sure they will want to talk to you,” Sigthyme said.
During this discussion the creature in the cage began to stir.
“What’s in the cage?” Juniper asked as she nodded toward it.
“The cage?” Ralph turned to look at the cage. “That’s Boss’s new pet. Dog he got from a jewler. Said it was special.”
“Right. Well I guess we should open it,” Sigthyme said.
“What if it attacks?” Juniper asks.
“Will it attack?” Sigthyme asked Ralph.
“I..I…don’t know,” Ralph said.
The dog looked mistreated and had backed itself into the corner. It’s eyes glared at Sigthyme, but it did not bark.
Sigthyme continued to hold the rapier toward Ralph but began to walk toward the cage. However his progress was stopped when a voice echoed out from behind them.
“Freeze! No one move!”
They all turned and looked. Standing between them and the entrance to this secret cavern were half a dozen people dressed in dark green. Two held bows pointed at the group. While the one at the front center stood there holding a wooden staff.
The Central person spoke again.
“All of you are under arrest by the powers given to us by The City of Xylon. If you resist, we’ll be forced to cut down each and every one of you,” The Woman spoke.
“Who are you?” Juniper asked.
“My name is Tol. Member of the Pact of Thorns. And I’ve been tasked to find him,” Tol said pointing at Riffen.
“We are friends of Riffen. We are not criminals,” Sigthyme said.
Tol’s eyes narrowed as she glanced at Grace, who was still being held by Tak.
“We have been told that you held an Ambassador at knifepoint,” Tol said. “Is that not true?”
“Ambassador?” Riffen asked weakly.
“It’s uh… complicated,” Juniper said.
“Hand the Prince over to us,” Tol said.
“He’s injured,” Juniper said. “And our friend was poisoned by the woman outside.”
“We can take care of his injuries,” Tol said. “We have healers. As for you, we will bring all of you to stand trial for your crimes.”
“We aren’t the bad guys, trust us. We killed the bad guys,” Sigthyme tried to explain.
“And what of him?” Tol looked toward Ralph who was still standing in the back, near the wooden crates.
“He’s one of Krumb’s people,” Sigthyme said.
“And where is Krumb? I didn’t see his body among the dead,” Tol said.
“He got away,” Juniper said.
“Right well we will continue our search for him,” Tol said. “Now my patience wears thin. Give us the Prince.”
“Fine,” Juniper said as she slowly stepped forward and one of The Members of The Pact of Thorns put their body under Riffen’s other arm, supporting him.
Juniper handed off Riffen and then took a step back to stand next to Sigthyme and Tak.
“Now drop your weapons and toss them toward our feet,” Tol said. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Right,” Sigthyme said before tossing his rapier forward.
Tak grumbled as he dropped his war hammer and Juniper followed suit with her bow and her hunting dagger. Sigthyme then kicked Ralph’s blade forward.
“There,” Sigthyme said.
“Now her,” Tol glanced at Grace.
“She’s poisoned. She can’t fight,” Juniper said.
“Well do forgive me if I don’t really trust that. You’ll give me her blades and then you’ll pass her over to us,” Tol said.
“Is that really necessary?” Sigthyme asked.
“That’s not really a question you get to ask,” Tol said. “If I say it’s necessary, then it’s necessary. We can do it the easy way or the hard way.”
Tol’s eyes lit up with a dark green magic and her staff glowed with a similar magic.
Sigthyme looked over at Juniper who was clearly upset about the whole situation.
“Yeah fine. Big guy,” Sigthyme let out a sigh.
Tak let out another grumble and took a step forward. Then he knelt down and let Grace down from his shoulders.
“Tak?” Grace looked at him weekly. “Don’t. Don’t.”
“Sorry,” Tak said.
Two members of The Pact of Thorns stepped forward and took Grace from Tak. They dragged her back through the crowd of people.
“Now let’s head back to the surface. I’m sure The Chief will want to see you all,” Tol said.
“What about the dog?” Ralph asked.
Tol looked at him and then toward the cage. She waved her hands and her eyes glowed with dark green magic.
“Remain calm and we’ll take you someplace safe,” Tol said while looking at the dog in the cage.
The dog kept their eyes on Tol and let out a few low whimpers.
“That man is not here. We mean you no harm,” Tol replied and the dog fell silent.
Then she turned toward the group.
“There. The beast will come with us as well,” Tol said with a sigh. “Any other things I need to worry about?”
“I don’t think so, no,” Sigthyme said.
“Great,” Tol said before turning around.
Two members of The Pact of Thorns went forward and picked up the metal cage and began carrying it out. Others kept their weapons on the group as and a few helped carry Grace and Riffen toward the surface. All together there were a dozen members all dressed in similar, dark green garb.
“Do you always move in such a large group?” Sigthyme asked.
“You never know what you’ll find down here in such a dangerous place,” Tol said before taking the lead.
The whole group, made up of Sigthyme, Tak, Juniper, Grace, Riffen, A dozen pact members, and Ralph, made their way to the surface. They made their way through the secret passage that led to Krumb’s hideout. Once there, Sigthyme, Tak, Juniper, and Ralph were manacled. One pact member ran her hands over Grace’s body and dark green magic transferred to Grace. Immediately she became less pale and her strength seemed to return to her.
“Thanks,” Grace mumbled before shackles were placed on her.
Then the group was led to the courthouse. There they were processed and put back in the cells. Lots of people’s attention was focused on Riffen who was quickly taken away from the group. The rest of them were put in the jail cells beneath the courthouse in a similar situation they had been in before.
However, this time the experience was not short. No Embassador came to break them out or free them. They just stayed in the jail, waiting for their fate.
On the second day, guards came down and grabbed Ralph from his jail cell and carried him out.
“What’s going on?” Sigthyme asked the guards, but they did not reply or even acknowledge him. They just kept on walking.
“Bye Ralph,” Tak waved his manacled hand as Ralph was taken away.
Two days went by and the group was restless. Grace paced back and forth in the cell she shared with Juniper.
“I can’t believe people spend years in these things,” Grace said.
“It is very confining,” Juniper said as she pulled her legs up to her chest.
“I’m sure we’ll be out of here soon,” Sigthyme said as he heard the conversation through the wall.
“Are you sure?” Juniper asked.
“Well we haven’t been brought to the gallows yet. That’s a good sign,” Sigthyme said. “Plus we saved Riffen. We did it.”
“If that Tol lady didn’t take all the credit,” Juniper said.
“I hope he’s alright,” Grace said.
“He looked awful,” Sigthyme said with a small laugh. “But at least he was alive.”
“Yeah,” Juniper said.
Just then six guards walked toward their cells and began to open them.
“What’s going on?” Sigthyme asked.
One guard just let out a small sigh.
“We are to bring you to the Soulon Embassy,” They said.
“Are we in trouble?” Grace asked.
“How is Riffen?” Juniper asked.
“Everything will be explained once you get to the Embassy. Just come with us,” They replied.
The group agreed and was led by the guards from the courthouse across town to the Soulon Embassy. The entire time it was a tense walk and the entire city seemed tense with very few people on the streets. Then came upon the Soulon Embassy and it’s complex. It was a large stone building with a large garden that seemed to wrap around the grounds. Walking around seemed to be a mix of Soulon soldiers and civilians that all stopped and starred as the group walked by.
Eventually the group was led inside to a large meeting room. The guards dropped off the group and excused themselves.
Sigthyme, Grace, Tak, and Juniper stood in the doorway looking around the room. In the center was a large table where there was one figure seated and one standing.
“Riffen!” Juniper yelled out as she saw Riffen sitting at the table.
“Hello, Juniper,” Riffen said as he gave the group a small smile. “Grace. Sigthyme. Tak. I’m happy to see all of you.”
Riffen sat in the chair wearing fresh clothes which were quite fancy. He still had some small bruises and cuts visible and he wore a dark brown leather patch over his right eye. To his right the black dog from the cage was laying down, asleep. Standing behind him was Ambassador Pria Selorn who had a strange look of exhaustion and happiness and anger.
“Pria,” Sigthyme acknowledged her.
Pria glanced over at Grace.
“Hello,” She said with a frown on her face.
Riffen extended his hand and gestured at the chairs on the other side of the table.
“Come, my friends. We have a lot to discuss,” Riffen said.
Header Photo Credit to Ivona Denovic on Art Station