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nijineko's world

chapter fifteen: freedom rings silently....

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Sometime during the night of Waterday, 6th month of the Year of the Emberhound. I have been unable to write, so much has been happening. We waited til the guard had dwindled due to the search for us speading out through the fortress. Then we emerged and attacked. But perhaps we were too soon. It seemed that every time we finished off one group another group was just one room over. Finally the leader of the bugbear guards we had been fighting surrenders. After all of the giants in the area were slain. I think it was the killing of the stone giants which interrupted our hasty negotiations which did the trick. Nadem immolating himself and that disturbing mask of his didn't hurt our efforts to intimidate the more resistant underlings into submission. We manage to get them out with the understanding that they make themselves scarce for a week. Sabriel sweetens the deal with some gold, and that finished off the last of the resistance. Waiting in the courtyard, shielded with my powers of obscuring vision, Gramblin does a quick run-about. He finds that the giants are very alert, and a massive hill giant accompanied by a cloud giant lead the search parties-in groups of four. Furthermore, he found some prisoners! That can't be allowed. We plunge back into the stronghold, this time by the main stairs. We figure that they have caught on to our usage of the "secret" stairs.

The leader is much more canny than others of his kind. Even the main stairs were guarded. But as we travel silenced, the alarm gong that he was carrying becomes useless, and we swiftly remove their threat. We travelled directly to the prisoners area, and free them. Some required curing as they had apparently left their heads from captivity. We can't bring ourselves to free the orcs at this time. Too many bad experiences with orcs. I'm not going to leave them there. (The heavens forfend that my first or second kin read that... Pik understands, but absolutely does not agree with me. Despite that even he won't eat orc. After the successful conclusion of this foray, I will insure that they are released before we depart.) We manage to find a storeroom elsewhere with various equipment and foodstuffs. It would not be wise to hide where the orcs might reveal our location. As we cannot all fit in the pocket with the rope, we are forced to leave the rope hanging out, but well disguised with some other ropes in the storeroom. Using the smallest rope possible-well below the eye level of the average giant-will have to do. We kept a watch to insure our ability to rest.

Once we are able to talk with our liberated prisoners, we discover that one of them is a woman. An elfmaid of surpassing beauty, a singer to be exact. And like most of my second-kin, inclined towards affinity with arcane magics. For the first time since we began this expedition, i need to use the small magics that are necessary to make myself look like the others of my second-kin. The dead pale white of my skin, brightened to a more natural hue. The ruby eyes blurred to another color. The alabaster of my hair softened to more normal colors. I am somewhat amused at my almost instinctive desire to appear attractive to such a vision of grace and poise. But I cannot help it nonetheless. I just hope she has not yet mastered those magics of penetrating such minor deceptions. Perhaps it is due to being freed and restored to presence of mind, but even the humans have none of the reactions so common to their kind towards my first-kin, Pik. I am fortunate in that I am a curiosity, not a wholly different race. It would be much more difficult to disguise Pik effectively, for example.

One human is an engineer, the other a merchant. During the course of our conversations, an idea takes me. I take aside some of the others to discuss it, and they like the idea, each for their various reasons, but it is a good idea nonetheless. I won't share Pik's assessment with them. Not too many would understand that he meant, "breeding the herd for future culling and insuring the food supply" in the light in which it was meant. It is agreed and decided that we shall escort them back to the nearest town. Of course, that was never in question. But, we shall also supply them with sufficient monies to see them back from that town to their homes. We also supply them with clothing from our spares. They are so grateful that they pledge their services to us whenever we might have future need. Having a merchant ally will be most beneficial, especially in the way of contacts for when we need to purchase or sell unusual items. The elf maiden insists instead that she will accompany us, claiming life-right. The old custom... I had not thought to find one who would invoke it in this day and age, most charmingly antiquated. She binds herself to fealty to Gramblin, the one who freed her specifically. We cannot do but to accept, but we need her armed. We found her sword and spellbook among the bugbears abandoned possessions, but she is going to need armor and materials for her arcane abilities. Sabriel will escort them personally to the town while we continue to harry and weaken the giants here. Then she and Arielle will return to join us. A diversion should do the trick of getting the four of them out. But for now rest.

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