Welcome everyone, to another chapter of The Willowsbrook Chronicles.
In the last chapter, Gunther and company snuck into the kitchen area of the base. They spiked a keg of Goblin Grog with Grade A Yatuskian Rum.
Their plan was to increase the alcoholic content of the mix to incapacitate their foes.
Now, hidden in a nearby storage room, the group is waiting for the plan to go into effect. With enemies looking for them, what’s next? Find out as the Willowsbrook Chronicles continues.
The next thing Gunther knew, he was being shaken awake. Nate was squatting before him, a bemused look on his face. “Events of recent finally catching up with you?”
The big man rubbed his eyes, stretched, and shook the sleep out. “That, and all the crazy shifts Rier had assigned me, I guess I hadn’t realized how tired I was until now. Has anything happened yet?” The large man inquired.
The mysterious aide to the three shook his head. “Not yet, though chances are not much longer.”
The blonde man then answered the former cook’s unasked question. “You were out about a half-hour, by my best estimates.”
“Why have Helfgin, Rier, and that Bruno Valdivostov mot found us?”
“They looked in here already, and moving around kept us from them. This cavern complex is a big place.” Nate observed.
“How are we going to get anything on what’s going on and get out of here alive?” Gunther wondered.
Nate smirked in that enigmatic fashion. “As I said, don’t worry. We have to keep out of sight a little bit longer. Everything will get taken care of shortly.”
Gunther’s face furrowed. “Who are you Nate? And don’t tell me you’re a concerned patriot, because very few patriots I’ve met have the kind of resources or skill you do.”
Nate got up and turned to head back to the door, not saying anything. Gunther mentally grumbled to himself. Naomi and Quigsley were still asleep.
Getting to his feet, he woke them. “Gods, I must’ve been more tired than I thought.” Naomi commented.
“Aye,” Quigsley agreed. “Memorizing all those spells takes it out of a guy.”
The cook headed over to the door where Nate was and saw he had an ear against it. “What are you doing?” he whispered.
In response Nate shushed him and listened . Then a devious smile crossed the man’s face.
“Ah, fantastic! Sounds like the cooking crew are coming into the kitchen. Which means it’s almost meal time for our Hordling opponents.”
“Don’t matter how much food they eat, that Rum will get em’ good!” Quigsley whispered flashing a devious smile of his own.
Naomi’s face wrinkled in disgust. “I still don’t see how you can like that stuff.”
“It’s an acquired taste,” Nate whispered to her. “I’ve had a few drops of the Grade A stuff, so I can vouch for the potency of it.”
Footsteps passed by and the sounds of Orcs and Goblins talking in their crude tongue. The real fun started shortly after, as the foul-smelling food got served to the creatures.
At first, all seemed normal in the Mess Hall. Then drunken singing, the raucous howling, laughter, fighting, and finally snoring poured forth.
Chancing things, they peaked outside. Several Orcs and Goblins stumbled out, laughing and speaking with an evident slur. Then they fell over, eyes glazed over with the effects of alcohol, before they closed them and snored .
“Like I told ya’,” Quigsley reiterated. “Half a mug of that Yatuskian Rum has enough kick to knock out an ox!”
They waited until there was nothing but snoring coming from the Mess Hall. Opening the storeroom door they peeked in. The Goblins and Orcs were either on the floor or slumped against the tables. Some of them had bruises on them, but nothing looked too serious.
“Well,” Nate whispered. “The bastards look like not even a fire will wake them up, best we flee now. And best we not use the stealth cloaks, those things could be cumbersome.”
The group scurried away as Gunther wondered what was next. Sooner or later, Vladivostov and the rest would pick up on their trail. So that left the question, where were they to go?
Then they entered a large chamber with several sets of crates. The cook realized things were too quiet. That allowed him to pick up the crossbow firing. He dropped to the floor, as did the others.
“There you are,” An unwelcome and familiar voice called in triumph.
They got to their feet, and saw Rier, Helfgin, and their battalion of men. The Earl of Ansolar glared at them in annoyance. “You,” he growled pointing an accusing finger, “and your friends, are rather hard to find.”
“Why couldn’t you have cooperated like a good little plaything?” Rier growled.
“Because Kethwelt,” The former cook snapped. “I don’t like the idea of dying because you couldn’t stand that I’m a better cook than you!”
“For that,” The former owner of the Foamy Mug stated in a dangerous tone. “I’m going to make you and your friends’ deaths that much slower. As for you Naomi, I could’ve shown you things that a real man could do, but you rejected me!”
Naomi spat on the ground. “I’d as soon sleep with a lizard than you!”
“The Mage Academy may have exiled me,” Quigsley added, “but I have me morals. More so than a lying bastard such as you.”
“Well,” Rier huffed, “I see you’re not holding anything back now, are you?”
“Rier, old boy,” Helfgin complained. “Stop talking to these peasants! Kill them, then let’s catch up with Vladivostov and his lot!”
Nate then stepped forward. “I’d be more concerned traitors, about what’s going to happen to you.”
Helfgin burst out laughing in derision. “Uneducated plebeian. You must be desperate, to expect someone of my superior birth to fall for so infantile a trick!”
Gunther wondered was Nate trying to pull some kind of bluff, or did he know something?
The answer came when Nate’s voice changed to a more aristocratic tone. “Thank the Gods, Helfgin, you and your lot are so stupid!”
Nate snapped his fingers, and on cue, several crossbows fired! Several of the conspirator’s men dropped seconds later from the bolts in their sides. Gunther smelled the Craoltin powder on the projectiles. From out of nowhere dozens of men in grey cloaks appeared crossbows and swords at the ready.
One of the men took off their hood, revealing a clean-shaven man with a bald head, and an iron jaw. “Duncan McCallister, second in command of the Grey Cloaks. King Velstand’s special missions force!” Gunther exclaimed in recognition.
That revelation caused him to put the pieces together. There is no way, the cook thought, a single conclusion jumping into his mind.
“Warriors of Ansolar, lay down your weapons, you're surrounded!” The built man called, in a commanding tone that echoed in the cavern.
The other Grey Cloaks raised their crossbows in warning.
The traitors dropped their weapons and raised their hands, afraid.
The Grey Cloaks set down their weapons and moved to take the treasonous people into custody.
Duncan looked over the unconscious men, then pointed towards them. Some Grey Cloaks set to pick up the comatose warriors. “Do not worry about the ones we shot,” he assured the three. “They’ll have a wee headache when they awaken.”
Duncan then saluted Nate. “Your Excellency, glad to see you’re all right. As you can see, we got your signal and are going through this place.”
“Splendid,” Nate chimed in clear satisfaction. “Fantastic job as always Duncan, and your timing was perfect.”
The original trio watched as Nate’s hand moved to his belt and touched it. A ghost white diamond started to glow on his belt. He changed to a Half-Elf male with olive green skin, brown eyes and a permanent mischievous smile on his face.
The mouths of the three friends dropped open in recognition. “By the Gods,” Gunther swore feeling like an idiot. “Of course, Nate, which is short for Nathaniel, in this case Nathaniel Oakenford!”
“King Leo Velstand’s spymaster, the Master of Disguise?” Quigsley inquired.
“A man also known, as one of the most dangerous men on all Lavokia.” Naomi added.
The man chuckled and answered. “Guilty to most of it, but I’ve always thought that title of one of the most dangerous men was a trifle exaggerated.”
The Half-Elf shook the big cook’s hands. “I can’t thank you enough for your help in this Goodman Willowsbrook. Thanks to you, we’ve now, at the very least, got evidence of Earl Helfgin’s treachery.
"We’ve suspected that the Earl had an ulterior agenda for some time, but were never able to prove it. This will be more than enough to damn Helfgin, and Kethwelt too. So, we can now replace him with someone loyal to the Kingdom.”
A Grey Cloak ran into the cavern and up to Duncan. They whispered something to the big Northern Highland man. “Oh, by my ancestors’ beard, are you sure lad?”
The Grey Cloak nodded. Duncan sighed in frustration. “All right, you did good lad. Tell the others to switch over to searching this cavern for the documentation we need.”
The Grey Cloak bowed and headed off. Duncan turned to Nate a look of consternation on his face. “Apologies Excellency. Vladivostov and his Yatuskian Warlock lovers used a teleport crystal to slip away. Sneaky bastards!”
“Wait a second,” Gunther interjected in puzzlement. “I thought there was a protective spell against the Warlock Masters .”
“Aye, that’s true Goodman Willowsbrook,” He explained. “Fear not, we’ve known about you and your friends for some time, and we’re well aware you’re loyal to Velstand. The problem is, we’re on an Island off the Southeastern coast of Brekkin’s Duchy.”
Nathaniel’s face darkened. “Damn it,” he swore. “Vladivostov and his bunch were always cunning dogs!”
“Gentleman, why is there a glow from the pouches on your belts?” The former cook pointed out.
That got the attention of both King’s agents. They opened up the leather bags and pulled out crystals which glowed pink. The Northern Highlander’s eyes widened.
“Lads, heads up!” He shouted in warning, causing the Grey Cloaks to scamper out of the way of the cavern access points.
“Goodman Willowsbrook, everyone, We should et out of the way.” Nathaniel warned.
The former tavern cook’s face furrowed as he did as recommended. “As you wish milord, but why are we…?”
He never got the chance to finish. A streak shot past them, and a powerful surge of wind followed, almost knocking the large man over. It came to a stop, to reveal a pink haired young man, with blue eyes, dressed in messenger attire.
“What the..?” the cook asked,
“That bloke is a Quickling,” Quigsley explained. “They’re a race born of the result of trysts between Humans and Wind Sprites. They have incredible speed, and are often employed as messengers.”
Duncan and the head of the Grey Cloaks chuckled. “Sami,” they noted in open relief.
The Quickling looked at the two agents. “Yo, Excellency. Boss.” he called, “There you are. Got. important messages!”
The second in command cut him off. “Easy, I know what you have is important. But catch your breath first.”
“Duncan’s right,” the Half-Elf added . “You’ve proven reliable, but give yourself a chance to recover first.”
“Yo?” Gunther whispered to Quigsley, baffled.
“From the Quickling’s language, it’s their way of saying Hail or Greetings.” The Illusionist clarified.
“Duke Brekkin sent me to find you.” Sami explained once he'd caught his breath.
“I have some letters of the utmost urgency for you, Excellency. Also for some people named Gunther Willowsbrook, Naomi Kline, and Quigsley Starshatter.”
Who me? Gunther thought perplexed.
The leader of the Grey Cloaks took the offered scroll case, and opened it. Removing his letter, he unrolled the parchment, he muttered to himself as he read, then nodded. “I see, very good then.” He rolled up the letter. “Excellent job as always Sami. Duncan, see to the lad, will you?”
He nodded. “Oh aye, I will.”
The second-in-command then handed Gunther and the others their letters. Then he put an arm around the young man and led him off.
“Come on Sami, we’ll get you a teleportation crystal to send you back to the base. You’ve more than earned a bonus. As well as food and a night’s rest in the barracks.”
The three friends returned their attention to their letters. Good thing I learned how to read, the gentle giant of a man thought.
Then read the letter:
To: Goodman Gunther Willowsbrook of Ansolar,
King Velstand’s wife, Queen Miranda, has kept me appraised of the activities of your group. I request the presence of you and your companions at my estate in Kesolar city on the 3rd of Oriander, in the year of Divine Reclamation 746. This involves the matter of your reward for your recent actions in service to me and Velstand.
The seal of the Duke confirmed the letter was real.
The ramifications of the letter struck him. The Duke was requesting their presence in a week’s time, at the Duke’s estate in Kesolar city.
The large cook fell to the ground. Before he blacked out he heard, “Well, he handled that better than I expected,” from Nathaniel.
Earl Helfgin and Rier are in big trouble, but Vladivostov and his goons escaped. Somehow though, I don’t think this will be the last time we’ll be seeing them, hint-hint, nudge-nudge, nuff said.
But Gunther’s journey is far from over. The Willowsbrook Chronicles continues next time with Chapter 8: A seemingly generous proposal.
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