Chapter Fifty-Six

June 16, 2012


5th of Haymonth


                That evening, I have an interesting conversation with a man I can only assume to be the master of the thieves' guild, and he lets me know that he has become aware of a traitor amongst our retinue.  He tells me that he is not certain who the man is, but that he is using a magical stone hidden amongst those in the road to communicate with someone in Nevers.  I report this information to Ulric and Briggette, and I watch the area to discover who the bastard is.
                Over the next three days, we make preparations for the battle with the rat men.  We dig tunnels that we can easily collapse as we will.  We can hear them building siege engines outside our walls.
                On the fourth day, a guardsman approaches Ulric to tell him that a large ratman, nearly ten feet tall with vicious-looking chains and piercings, is outside the gate with a flag of surrender.  Ulric climbs to the top of the gatehouse, "I'm Sir Ulric.  Can I help you?"
                "Are you captain of this army?"
                "I am."
                "My mistress offer you last chance for surrender.  Leave with all people and cede her six miles land from edge of marsh."
                "Well," Ulric replies, "I will offer you one last chance to surrender as well.  We will not cede."
                The ratman turns to leave, and about fifty yards out, he turns.  "Sir Ulric?  You know what will happen here?"
                "Yes," Ulric replies with an incredulous look on his face, "I'm going to kill a bunch of rat men."
                The rat shakes his head and returns to his people. 
                The following morning, very early, horns begin to blow.  Gustav lets us know that it appears to be Zelcos men, including knights.  Ulric opens the gate to allow the men to enter.  There appear to be around thirty horse with the two knights.  The lead knight introduces himself as Sir Stefanos, and tells us that on the way in, they killed some of their numbers.  He also tells us that they appear to be using undead for a large portion of the labor.  He asks for a private audience with Sir Ulric to discuss this and other matters further.
                "You are Count Zurwald's son, correct?"
                "I have been sent by my lord as his representative in this matter.  We went through Brasov a few weeks ago.  At that point, your father had been in six battles--small and scattered--but still six.  The enemy appears to be purposely running him around the county to protect his people and weaken his stance.  It appears to be a tactic they are using to exploit your father's reputation for caring for his people.  The count has not been able to raise an army to help break the siege to the south, but the ratmen, goblins and orcs have not yet laid siege to Brasov--at least not when we came through."
                Ulric is concerned, but Sir Stefanos continues, "Additionally, the Neverese army has attached the capital before the Duke was able to raise a significant army.  I do not know if it's under siege."
                Ulric sends me out to get a count of their numbers, and the knights remain to make plans for the coming battle.  In order to ferret out the traitor, they plan to disseminate false information about what is to come.
                Sir Stefanos then changes the subject, awkwardly asking Ulric if one of his men may speak with Briggette privately.  The man claims it is on the orders of his billet, but will say no more.  When she leaves the tent, Boian is talking with the man.
                She approaches, and Boian says, "This is Johanne.  He needs to speak with you in . . . in a concealed location."  Briggette looks at him askance, and he elaborates, "The tent should be fine, but we do not need to speak of this in the open."  As they enter the tent, Briggette glimpses ink on Johanne's arm, but can't make out the subject.
                Once inside, he pulls out a piece of a flag and tells of his city being attacked by the men to whom it belongs.  "They are the Vara'shan."  After a moment of stunned silence from all of the people in the tent, he continues, "As far as we know, there were no Vara' shan survivors after they attacked, but their mere presence is a terrible sign.  We are afraid they may send others to land on the isle."
                Briggette speculates aloud, "I wonder if they've made some sort of treaty with Nevers?"

                As I sneak into the ratman camp, a group of four of them seem to spot me in the woods.  I use my shadow jump ability to pop out of a shadow twenty feet away from them.  I continue on toward the larger encampment, and suddenly come out of the woods into a large clearing that is completely covered by the canopy.  Before I get the chance to hide, I briefly lock eyes with one of the females.  I quickly duck behind an adjacent tree, and when she comes and spends an entire five minutes looking for me, she still can't find me.  After she returns to her camp, which seems to have about sixty ratmen, I move on through their numbers, keeping count as I go.
As I continue to explore, I find another group of 60 or so ratmen, followed by a group of about 20 or 25 orcs.  The orcs are dragging logs around to build something, but it looks more like a hut than a siege engine.  I finally reach the main area of the ratman camp, where undead creatures are working to plane wood and erect siege engines of various types.  I am standing there counting quietly and silently as I hide. Suddenly, a lightning bolt bursts forth next to me.  I manage to dodge its damaging effects, and roll into a shadow to hide.  As I crouch there, these ghoulish-looking things start to crawl out of the ground around me.  I reman still, and they don't seem to notice me.  After that, locusts begin to crawl out of the ground around me.  I tumble to the next tree over, and they follow me, but I run.  I see a large rat woman with pendulous boobs point right at me and yell.  Several large rat men follow her lead and start to run toward me.  I break toward the walls of Reghin.
As we run, one of the ratmen grapples with me and rolls me up into his belly in a strange near-fetal position.  I struggle to get my weapon drawn, but I cannot.  I hear the vague sound of a horn blowing far away.  He stands up and pins both of my arms behind my back.  He slams me into the ground.  I manage to wiggle free, and try to tumble away, but he tackles me again.  Once more, I escape but he pins me.  I stab at him, but I cannot get free.  About that time, another one of them puts shackles on my wrists, and they start to drag me back to their camp. 
I hear a horse coming toward us, and I nearly pass out as my arm is ripped from its socket.  Suddenly, something grabs the chain that is holding me, and I am drug across the field in the opposite direction.  I am beginning to be drug back toward town.  I see the ratmen chasing me, and struggle to maintain my consciousness.  The ratmen start to shoot at me, and I am finally knocked unconscious.
Finn rides back into town with my chains caught up on his gruisarme.  Briggette has since heard the alarm raised, and heals me to consciousness.  I have never felt pain like this in my life, and I struggle to get my footing.  Later, I learn that Finn vaulted from the wall to come after me on his own, and I send him a flask of fine brandy, along with a note saying, "Finn, Thank you for rescuing me.  I can never repay you.  G."