No sooner had they arrived in Kent, Argarin and Xylia already found themselves on a quest to locate missing peasant girls from the village. Presented with several opinions on the reason for the disappearances, the pair was also tasked by the lord of the village, Sir Kendrick, to investigate the construction of a temple to the north. Argarin and Xylia decided to tackle two quests in one: they would travel to the crossroads to meet with the Sodality, investigate their motives, and question their members on the possibility of girls spotted travelling along the road.
The Sodality Temple
Argarin and Xylia had little trouble finding their way to large crossroad north of Kent. The Kingdom of Grammen was renowned for its flat lands and any sort of building stood out against the rolling horizon. It was more than clear that a tall structure was indeed being erected at the crossroads.
The temple was still in the process of being built but was nothing short of awe-inspiring to anyone that saw it. It was primarily made of large, heavy blocks of a smooth, white stone that neither Xylia nor Argarin had seen before. The walls towered high above them and the whole area was heavily guarded by soldiers all wearing the same style and color of armor.
“I think I can now see why that old man was upset over this.” Xylia bristled some. “It looks like an invasion!”
“You should not judge them so quickly,” Argarin chided gently and pressed onward, giving her no choice but to follow.
At the sight of them, a couple of soldiers pointed. The more eyes that turned on them, the more Xylia shrunk behind the dragonborn, and soon they were met halfway by a tall soldier of clearly high rank, accompanied by two guards.
“Welcome, welcome! I am Knight-Captain Allen Crest,” he said with a warm and inviting demeanor, his palms visible in a sign of peace. “What brings you here from the village of Kent?”
Argarin, not one for beating around any sort of bush, said quite bluntly, “We are here under the request of Sir Kendrick of Kent.”
The Knight-Captain smiled. “Oh, I suppose he has yet another complaint to give against us?”
Argarin nodded. “That is correct.”
Xylia poked out from behind him and peered up at the tall human. “But that old man isn’t really our main concern!” She nudged Argarin with her elbow. “Right?” When Argarin stared down at her, she hissed through clenched teeth, “The girls!”
“Oh, yes.” Argarin looked back at him. “A more pressing matter is the disappearance of several girls from the village. We hoped you would be able to aid us if you or any of your men had heard or seen anything.”
“Missing girls?” This seemed to somber Allen’s amusement at the pair. “I have not heard of anything, no.”
“Perhaps your men might be able to aid us.”
Allen nodded, rubbing his chin absently. “I admit that with all of the activity,” he paused to gesture at the construction work behind him. “it is very likely things could happen without my knowing. You and your companion are more than welcome to come inside our walls, but of course, we will have to ask that you leave your weapons outside with my guards.” He smiled and gestured for them to follow. “I assure you they will be handled with care.”
Xylia followed alongside Argarin. “So many people,” she muttered under her breath as she looked around.
After dropping off their weapons at the gate and receiving a token of exchange for them back at their departure, the pair were led inside the complex walls to find the area to be in a constant state of activity. The walls had clearly been built first and secured as a priority. The only buildings currently standing within were the living quarters and kitchen facilities. A trading house was nearing completion that would be set near the northern gate to facilitate trade with the merchants that passed by with their caravans. At the heart of the complex was the temple itself, still in the process of being constructed. Made entirely of cut stone, its principal tower rose high above the landscape.
“First, before you address my men, I would like to clear something first.” Allen walked them over to a tent-covered area. He rustled through a pile of papers, pulled one out, and offered it for Argarin and Xylia to see. “This is a deed to this land from the King of Grammen himself. If your Sir Kendrick wishes to stop our construction, then he will have to take it up with the King.”
Xylia feigned looking at the document, nodding as if it made sense, then glanced at Argarin. When he nodded at her, she looked at the captain. “He is not really ‘our’ Sir Kendrick, so…” She shrugged.
“We were merely following a request,” Argarin said. ”I apologize if any offense was taken by our inquiry.”
Allen shook his head, chuckling as he put the deed back in its proper place. “Hardly! He sends one of his guards occasionally to check on us. We are quite used to it at this point. Now, on to the more pressing matter.” He looked at them with a serious expression. “If there is anyone that will have any knowledge on the subject, then it would be our senior paladin and cleric. You are welcome to speak with them. I presume you will be traveling back to Kent after you are done here?”
Argarin nodded. “We have no reason to go any further than these crossroads in our search.”
“Then please, allow me to extend to you a bed in our barracks so that you may rest well and begin your journey back with daylight.” He glanced Argarin from head to toe. “You are roughly similar in size to the vargan, so there should be some beds to accommodate you.” He nodded. “You are also welcome, when it is time, to join us for dinner tonight. If you’ll excuse me, I must return to my men.”
“We do not wish to keep you any longer, but before you leave, who are your two senior members that we should speak with?”
“Oh! Yes. The vargans, Gavriil and Nazar.”
“And how do we find them?”
Allen laughed and extended a hand to gesture in the direction of the temple under construction. “I am sure if you look that way, you will spot them quite easily. I wish you luck in finding the girls… How rude of me! What are your names?”
Argarin tightened his stance. “Argarin Letrah Bloodbane.”
When the attention was turned on her, Xylia ducked her head. “I am simply Xylia.”
“Well, Argarin and Xylia, I wish you luck in your quest. Please excuse me.” He bowed his head and departed to join a group of soldiers along one of the walls.
Once left alone, Xylia relaxed and pressed her palm against her forehead. “Argarin, you need to learn how to speak to people better.”
Argarin snorted a puff a smoke. “And you need to learn to speak to people.”
She bristled and looked in the direction Allan had pointed. She gasped and clamped a hand over her mouth, pointing with the other. “Argarin!” she cried, her voice muffled by her own hand. “Argarin, look!”
Argarin turned his head to spy what had caught her attention. A massive humanoid creature with the overall appearance of a wolf stood out from the crowd. He donned heavy plate, similar to what the other soldiers wore.
She looked up at him. “Do you think that is the vargan?”
“It is the easiest conclusion to make.” He started walking, eyeing the wolf-man as they moved closer.
Their approach was quickly noticed and the lupine head turned to look at them, ears forward and alert.
“Greetings,” Argarin said when they were near enough to start conversation. “We were informed by Knight-Captain Allen Crest that you might be able to aid us.”
“Perhaps I can.” The paladin vargan turned to face them completely. “I am Gavriil. What is it that you need help with?”
“Several girls have gone missing from the village of Kent. There is some talk that they perhaps came this way up the road. We wondered if you had heard or seen anything.”
Gavriil seemed to frown and shook his head. “No, I was unaware there was such a problem in Kent. I have not seen any girls travel across the road.” He inclined his head, looked past them, and gestured with a raised hand. “Perhaps Nazar has seen something I have not. Nazar,” he said to a clerical vargan that walked up behind the two. “have you seen any girls travelling up the road from Kent?”
“Girls? No. Only merchant caravans have travelled the road which always return from Kent empty, so none could have hidden from sight.”
“That is as I expected.” He looked back at Argarin and Xylia. “I am sorry we could not help.”
“On the contrary, you have helped eliminate one possibility.” Argarin looked between the two. “I have never seen your kind before.”
Xylia winced at the ever-blunt manner, but neither vargan seemed offended or surprised.
“If you are from Kent or somewhere nearby, then that is no surprise.” Nazar gave a toothy, wolfish smile. “Our kind is not common in this kingdom.”
“I see.” Argarin nodded. “It is an honor to meet you, then.”
“The same to you. I am not familiar either of with your kind.”
Argarin chuckled at this while Xylia did her best to go unnoticed.
Nazar cleared his throat. “However, we must return to our duties, if you have no more questions…”
“We do not wish to keep you.” Argarin gave a small bow of his head. “Thank you for your aid.”
Sir Kendrick’s theory that the girls were running off with men was now weakened by the watchful vargan. Both adventurers were quite taken with the Sodality, so they took the Knight-Captain’s earlier offer. They joined in for a hot meal with the soldiers, then retired to the barracks where a simple but real bed awaited them, a much welcomed relief from sleeping on the ground outdoors.
Heroes of Vallhyn