The Return

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The Return

“Are you ready?” Wyanet asked Katerina.

Katerina huddled close to Kalista, her tattered gambeson wrapped around her lithe frame. Katerina looked at Wyanet with puffy red eyes. “Yes.”

Wyanet lead our party down the moonlit path from the edge of town to the Baronet’s manor. Kalista supported Katerina, I walked beside Wyanet, and Phebes lagged at the rear.

“You do all the talking,” I whispered to Wyanet. “You’re in charge.”

We approached the front gate. Two lanterns hung from poles on either side of the iron barrier. Baldrick stepped out of the shabby guard shack. He held out a fresh glowing torch. “Who goes there?”

I outpaced Wyanet and grabbed the torch in Baldrick’s hand. “Nothing personal kid.” I shoved Baldrick back into the shack. The entire structure shuddered and the sod roofing sloughed onto the ground.

“You can’t do that!” Baldrick squealed. 

I tossed the torch into the dirt. “We don’t have time for your games.”

The others marched up to the gate. Baldrick’s eyes got large as Kalista shepperded Katerina past.

“The gate is locked,” Wyanet announced.

I extended my hand. “Keys.”

Baldrick pulled an iron key ring from his belt and placed it in my palm, his eyes never leaving Katerina. I tossed the keys to Wyanet who threw open the gate.

“We need to warn the Baronet of the Goblins first.” Wyanet turned to Katerina. “He will not listen if you are with us.”

“You’re right.” Kalista grabbed Katerina’s hand. “I don’t know how he’ll react about Killian.”

Katerina buried her face in Kalista’s chest.

Kalista wrapped her arms around Katerina’s heaving body. “Go ahead. We’ll wait here.”

Wyanet and Phebes started toward the front door. I grabbed Baldrick and pulled him to his feet. 

“Stay put and behave yourself.” I tapped the angry red cut on Baldrick’s face. “And watch out for Sprites. I hear they like to attack sleeping guards, and I saw a group of them up the road.”

Baldrick’s eyes got large. “You’re kidding right?”

I walked away.

“He’s kidding… Right?”

The Kresege Manor house loomed over Wyanet, Phebes, and I. The house stood dark except for the study window. Wyanet shifted her spear to her left hand and ascended the stairs to the front door. She pounded on the heavy door three times.

Muffled shouts and shuffling feet worked their way to the door until it eked open. Jasper, the Baronet’s manservant, scowled at us. “Do you have any idea what the hour is?”

Wyanet palmed the Halfling man’s face and shoved him backwards into the anteroom. “We need to speak with the Baronet.”

Jasper tripped and fell on his ass. “This is downright rude, and most irregular.”

Phebes and I followed Wyanet into the candlelit anteroom. “This is more important than your courtly rules.”

“Where is he?” Wyanet demanded.

“Jasper?” The Baronet called from his study. “Who is at the door?”

Wyanet thundered into the study with Phebes in tow. 

I hoisted Jasper to his feet by his fluffy robe. “There are two more people waiting by the front gate. Would you be so kind as to go and fetch them for us?”

Jasper gaped at me.

“What is the meaning of this!?” The Baronet bellowed.

I slipped into the study behind the two women.

“Your village is in trouble.” Wyanet declared.

The Baronet watched me slip into the study. “I’m certain it is honey, but the men will decide.”

Fire flickered in Wyanet’s eyes. I unbuttoned my cloak, threw it on the floor and climbed into an armchair.

“Have you found my children?”

“I’m not the one you’re talking to.” I pointed at Wyanet. “She is.”

The Baronet’s eye twitched. “Please, take a seat.”

Wyanet leaned her spear against the wall and sat in the armchair to my right. Phebes pulled over the chair from the writing desk and sat on the other side of Wyanet.

“We have found your children,” Wyanet said after we had all settled in the stuffy room. “But, there are more important things we need to discuss.” 

“What could be more important than one’s own children? As a woman, you would agree with that.”

Wyanet scowled. “There are Goblin slavers gathering in the forest a short distance from here. They work with the Dark Elves of Delara, beneath your feet. All of your people are in great danger.”

The Baronet waved his hand. “Your woman’s brain must be mistaken. We drove the Goblins off this land years ago, and I’ve never seen a Dark Elf around here.”

Phebes unbuckled her breastplate and threw it at the Baronet’s feet. “We took that from a dead Dark Elf captain.” She lifted her shirt to show her spiderweb tattoo. “They gave me this after I got caught trying to help your children. Is that enough evidence for you?” 

The Baronet’s face flushed and he crossed his legs. He focused on anything that wasn’t Phebes. “That doesn’t mean anything to me. How do I know that that isn’t some fashion trend amongst Elven youth?”

“Perhaps the three-hundred freed slaves in your marketplace will convince you.” Wyanet remarked.

“Dozens of which were sold by Goblin slavers.” Phebes lowered her shirt.

The Baronet’s lips thinned. “You brought three-hundred refugees to my holding?”

Jasper rushed into the study followed by a gust of cool air. Rivulets of sweat tracked lines down his pale face. Jasper stood behind the Baronet and whispered in his ear.

Katerina barged into the stuffy room, fury on her face, hand in hand with Kalista. “Jasper, you ridiculous old man, I do not need to be announced in my own home.”

The Baronet went white as a ghost, tears welled in his eyes. “Katerina?” He pushed out of his chair, his legs shook as he walked toward his daughter. “Is that really you?”

“Yes, Father.”

The Baronet clasped Katerina’s shoulders and beamed at her, tears trickled down his face. “My children are home. Where is my son?” The Baronet moved Katerina aside and looked into the anteroom behind her. “Where is Killian?”

Katerina wrapped an arm around her father. He pushed her away. 

“Katerina, where is your brother? This isn’t amusing.” The Baronet turned to the three of us sitting. “What have you done with my son?”

None of us met the man’s gaze. Wyanet shifted in her chair.

“He’s dead Clas.” Kalista blurted out. “We tried to save him, but couldn’t get to him in time.”

The Baronet stepped back from his daughter and acknowledged Kalista for the first time. “I should have known you had something to do with this. I bet you let him die, just to get back at me.”

Katerina attempted to step between the two. “Father, Kalista had nothing to do with this.”

The Baronet rounded on his daughter. “Take that filthy coat off and go to your room.”

“Please, Father, listen to me.”

The Baronet slapped Katerina. Her head snapped to the side. “I gave you an order, now obey it. We’ll speak of this insubordination in the morning.”

Katerina shrugged Kalista’s gambeson to the floor and fled the room crying. Wyanet leaped to her feet before Phebes and I could move.

The Baronet spat in Kalista’s face. “If I ever see your whore face around my family again…” 

Wyanet boxed the Baronet’s ears before he finished his threat. The Baronet stumbled back several steps. He caught himself on his desk.

Wyanet brandished her dagger. “If you ever strike a woman again, I will lead the entire Ghost Nation back here, and burn you from history.”

Clas looked at us, dazed. Jasper watched, petrified, from the corner.

“Get out of my house. All of you. Get out. OUT! NOW!”

My left hand curled into a fist. “We completed the job you gave us. Give us what you owe us, and we’ll leave.”

The Baronet glared back at me. His eye twitched. “You half-assed the job, you get half.”

“All.” Phebes and Wyanet flanked me. “An Elf died to avenge your son, and let us bring your daughter home. All, or you’ll have a different problem.”

The Baronet continued to scowl. “Jasper, pay them what we agreed to. Then tell the guards to kill them on sight if they ever come near the manor again.” The Baronet stormed out of the study.

“Wait here. I will return shortly with your money.” Jasper ordered with the dignity of a wet cat.

Jasper returned five minutes later carrying a small satchel emblazoned with the Baronet’s seal. He extended the bag to me in a shaking hand. Wyanet grabbed the bag. Jasper flinched.

“The master of the house has asked me to escort you from the property.”

“We know the way out.” Wyanet brushed past the terrified Halfling.

“Ineni’s next?” I asked while we walked down the road toward the village.

“I agree, he might still have a room for us,” Wyanet replied. “At the least, we can pay off our debt to him.”

Phebes pointed to a roaring fire in the centre of a half circle of wagons camped beside the creek. “What’s that?”

Kalista pushed Phebes along. “I don’t know and I don’t care, but it can wait until the morning. I want to sleep in my own bed right now.”

“For once,” Wyanet said. “I agree with Kalista.”

The story will continue, September, 26th.

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Written by: Sweeney

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