The cave was cramped and tight, the pair barely able to walk beside each other. Even with their torches they could barely see ahead of them. They pressed onward through the hall that slowly led downward. The only sound around them was the soft dripping of water on stone.
Deeper they delved, trying to keep their footsteps as quiet as possible. Xylia moved almost without a sound. Argarin did his best, but frequently fumbled his large feet over the uneven ground. They took a few more steps when they heard a sudden shout. A goblin burst out of a trap door beside them but was unprepared for their skilled reaction to the surprise.
Argarin, without missing a beat, lashed out at the goblin. He punched it square in the chin and sent it to the ground. Following up with a clean stroke of his axe, he sent the monster off to the afterlife. Xylia blinked down at the mess, her hands on the hilts of her blades, and shrugged.
“That is one way to do it,” she commented before they resumed their careful trek.
Eventually the long hallway ended and in a two-way fork. The two briefly discussed their options and, finally, went right. With Argarin in the lead he walked into the darkness until he bumped into a door. Giving it a mighty shove, the dragonborn took it off its hinges and into the room behind it. On the other side sat three goblins in what appeared to be a barracks. They stared at the intruders with dumbfounded shock on their distorted faces.
Xylia leapt into action immediately, thrusting her short sword into the chest of the nearest goblin and whirling around to slash another. Argarin charged behind, bringing his axe down mightily on the third. The pair dispatched the three rather swiftly. Xylia looked up at the large dragonborn and just shook her head.
“What?” he asked, keeping his voice low.
“You make such a mess.” She finally said with a sigh.
Turning back the way they came, the pair took the other way of the fork. This time Xylia took the lead and relied on her stealth to carry the way. They wound through a few hallways until reaching another door. Pressing her ear against it, Xylia listened. She motioned to Argarin that she could hear girls crying inside. He nodded and lifted his greataxe, preparing to charge. Xylia, having had enough of his brute force tactics, shook her head and silently crept through the door.
Inside, she found a large goblin talking to one of its minions. Slowly she snuck up behind them, but luck was not with her this time. Her foot caught a stone and sent it skittering across the floor. The goblins turned, alarmed, and shouted for help. From a door in the back of the room another pair came out and immediately they all set upon Xylia.
Their crude blades whirled clumsily but they managed to land several solid blows against the ranger. She held her own long enough for Argarin to burst in and join the fray. The battle was a pitched one with the goblins blades finding the flesh and armor of the heroes many times but, in the end, only Argarin and Xylia remained standing. After ensuring the goblins were truly deceased, they took a moment to carefully tend to each other’s wounds.
Xylia pointed to the back room. “The cries were from there but now, they are silent.”
The two crept to the door fearing the worst. Pushing it open and rushing through with weapons readied, they were relieved to find it empty of goblins. More importantly ,the room had a large cell in it where a group of village girls were being kept. They looked at the pair with uncertainty clear on their faces, but Argarin assured them that they were there to help. While he worked on breaking the lock Xylia looked around the desk that was opposite the cell. On it she found a piece of paper though she could make no sense of it.
Argarin finally forced the lock and asked as the girls climbed out, “Is this everyone?”
One of the girls shook her head. “No… a few days ago they sold Leona to a half-orc. They were going to sell Ashley but she was so scared… Leona volunteered.”
Argarin nodded. “Follow us and we will get you home.”
The pair of heroes led the girls out from the cavern and back to the village of Kent. A cheer erupted from the peasants that noticed the group emerging from the forest, alerting the others and gathering a crowd. The girls ran to their families, arms outstretched and tears streaming down their faces.
One by one, the reunited families gave their heartfelt thanks and left until there was only a single woman left, grief in her eyes and pain in her face. Walking slowly closer to Argarin and Xylia, she asked, “My daughter Leona… where is she? Where is my daughter?”
Argarin stated plainly, “I’m afraid she was sold to a–”
Xylia elbowed him and interrupted, “She is alive and we are going to find her.”
The woman nodded and turned away, heading to her hovel just as one of the village guards came up.
“You lot, Sir Kendrick would most certainly like to meet with the pair that saved all those girls.”
Argarin nodded and said, “Lead on, but make haste. We have another girl to save and the trail may grow cold.”
Sir Kendrick was sitting in his throne and clapped when the pair arrived, “Great job, my good adventurers! My guardsman tells me you found the girls. You should be rewarded!”
An assistant approached the old knight with a chest and opened it. Reaching into it he pulled out a small flask and offered it to Argarin, “For you, this. May it serve you well.”
Argarin looked at it curiously, but thanked the knight regardless.
“And for you… this.” Sir Kendrick went on, offering Xylia a bracelet made of gold. “It will be pretty on your arm.”
Xylia did not hide the discontent on her face as she turned the bracelet over, but Sir Kendrick hardly seemed to notice. She obliged him in putting it on, at least for the time being. “Sir Kendrick,” she started, reaching into her bag and retrieving the note she had found. “can you read this?”
The old knight took it and peered at it. Slowly, he shook his head. “No… I’m afraid not. It is written in orcish. Mine isn’t so good, at least not since the time I invaded an orc camp. It was just north of here – covered in the filthy things, you see, and–”
“Orcish?” Xylia interrupted. “How can we find someone capable to read this?”
“Huh? Huh, hmm. Perhaps someone in Devon. It is not far from here.”
Time was of the essence, and before he could get lost in another story, they bade their goodbyes and left the keep to plan their trip to Devon.
Heroes of Vallhyn