The Whisperer in Darkness

Day 15: The Imperial Skullfinder

Euven lives to regret joining the Empire.

Euven leaves the building and heads west through the campus. Much has happened in the last hour, none of it good. Sir Richard Fenn is dead after apparently having gone rogue. The pair of Knights who might have provided instructions in his absence are acting strangely and have strange companions. The Necronomicon is gone. And the academic who held it is dead. Uncertainty hangs over this mission and Euven shivers at the thought of it.

At the edge of the campus is a secondary entrance with space for unloading goods from supply carts. Currently this area is occupied by elven tents though and the soldier heads straight for that of the Prelate in charge of the company. They exchange salutes and Euven makes a full report of everything that happened. His commanding officer receives the news impassively and dismisses him. The soldier goes off to find his friends, glad that the uncertainty of the day is now someone else’s responsibility. The Knights and their companions behaved rather oddly around him and not having to think about their actions any more is a welcome break for Euven’s brain. After a few drinks with the unit he heads back to his own tent and rests for a while.

Some time before sun up he is summoned to see the Prelate again who briefs him on his new objective. Sir Norman and Gravilla are now the best link to finding and retrieving the Necronomicon so someone needs to find them, ascertain their plans and ensure that the two groups work together. Since Euven has met them, he should be the one to do this. The task does not please Euven, who sighs inwardly, and his commanding officer berates him for thinking badly of the mission.

The first port of call is the city guard. Unfortunately the watchmen tell him that the party are a group of wanted fugitives (unsurprising in retrospect) and run off to their superiors without assisting in the slightest. Euven speaks to other elves he encounters on the streets in the early morning and is eventually pointed to the shop of Findel Merselli, who is described as a great source of knowledge about events in the city. After Euven displays the ring upon his left hand, the Alban elf quickly gives a full account of some of the actions of the Capital Punishers whilst they’ve been in the city. Their last sighting prior to the battle at the university was a healer’s surgery where the dragonborn of the group attempted to sexually assault a receptionist. Inwardly sighing, Euven sets off to see if he can gather any more insight from this location.

He is only halfway there when the people in the street around him begin to panic. From further along the road comes the sound of intermingling screams and roaring. A huge, rapidly-advancing mass suddenly looms over Euven, forcing him to jump clear, before skidding to a halt. An enormous werewolf skin-clad dragonborn, last seen in Professor Finnigan’s office, looks down on him and says: “Have you seen Skulldweller?”

Euven has no idea what a skull dweller is, nor what reason there is for tearing around looking for one, and says so. The dragonborn may or may not be about to explain but at that moment a group of city guardsmen turn up to deal with the cause of all the mayhem. Grimlock makes ready to charge off, or perhaps just murder the guards, but Euven convinces him to wait while he solves the problem diplomatically. The guards are keen to deal with the troublemaker but keener still to have the elven army out of the city, so when Euven promises that allowing Grimlock to remain with him will lead to faster completion of their mission the pair are allowed to go on. With a heavy heart the elf consents to being hoisted onto the back of Komodo and the rage drake tears off again, crashing through the crowded streets in no discernable direction.

They come to a market which the vicious reptile rider recognises as the one from which Skulldweller was originally stolen. He dismounts and heads over to the pet stall. The owner is surprised (and unnerved) to see the hulking dragonborn again, but answers his first question despite it being delivered immediately without any kind of greeting, “No, the parrot has not returned… why?” Grimlock ignores the question at the end and moves on, demanding to know if the parrot ‘answers to anything’. “Well… I called him… Chirpy”. Leaning in quite close now, Grimlock asks, “Do you have any parrot food?” The merchant is fortunately too intimidated to follow the dragonborn’s train of thought. Instead of realising that the original parrot thief stands before him, he continues to answer truthfully as quickly as he can, “That bird was a one off. This isn’t usually a pet stall.”

Dispirited but equipped with a new name by which to search for his property, Grimlock returns, mounts Komodo and sets off. He continues to shout for Skulldweller and manages to convince his reluctant passenger to loudly call for “Chirpy” as the trio continue to cause carnage around the streets of Gerelden. Euven tries to get something out of his otherwise humiliating day by asking the dragonborn where the other Punishers are headed. Grimlock stares into space for a while before replying slowly in broken pieces, “Ro.. woo… worren oak… ? Rrrrggghhh… Wormword… Wormwood Rock”. This is clearly a complete guess, but at least ‘Wormwood Rock’ sounds like it could be a place, albeit one that Euven has never heard of.

The destruction does not go unnoticed by the city guard who make every attempt to catch the fugitives. On the verge of being cornered, Grimlock hears a sharp bang and sees a firework in the sky to the west of Gerelden. The brilliant burst resolves itself into the unmistakable shape of a lizard’s head with a line through one eye. While Grimlock’s brain turns this development over, Euven sees armed figures approaching and dismounts to meet them. Having gradually lost his patience during the day he makes no attempt at being pleasant to the guard, instead advancing coldly upon them under the sudden illumination of a second firework, this one the shape of three skulls, and repeats his demand that his mission not be impeded in order to speed the elven departure from Gerelden.

The argument does not carry as much sway this time due to the casualties of the rampage, which have not abated with the elf’s involvement. Despite him then repeating that the army is in the service of the Knights of Arcelor who should not be impeded, some of the men look ready to risk the consequences of an arrest attempt. Very much on the verge of losing his temper, Euven decides that he has done more than enough talking, turns his back on the humans and strides off. Though he prepares to draw his sword if attacked, his confident disdain unnerves the other guards and they make no move to stop him. Grimlock offers a hand which Euven pointedly refuses, swinging up onto Komodo’s back unaided and telling him: “I am sick of this shit. We’re finding the rest of the fucking party. Now.”

Though Grimlock is not known for his obedience (and probably isn’t even listening), he is swayed by the third airborne pyrotechnic, a parrot. Deciding that the message must mean that Skulldweller is in that direction, Grimlock sets off towards the fireworks. Moving through the centre of the city at full speed and guided by a fourth firework in the shape of an axe, the missing Punishers and Euven eventually link up with the source of the rockets, Wistark, along with Sir Norman and Gravilla. Euven explains to the professor and the two knights his orders from the Prelate to join their company for the time being. Though they fail to leap for joy at this prospect Euven simply doesn’t care any more. The Empire has spoken and that’s that. Hoping to get a better answer than Grimlock’s earlier guess, he then asks Wistark, “This dragonborn says we’re going to… Wormwood Rock?” The wizard smiles slightly beneath his moustache, “Yes… Wormwood Rock… shall we be off, then?” Now, thinks Euven to himself, everything can become a whole lot more predictable.

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Wistark

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