Chapter 20: The Champion of Greenest

Two carved wooden chess pieces on a board. The queen has just taken the king.

“And he wants a champion,” Cyd says. “So, who’s it going to be?”
There’s an instant’s pause. Then Aleph, Gerard and Atone all raise their hands. The rogue rolls her eyes.
“Gods! You heroic types are all the same! Put your sword down and think for a minute, Alf, will you?” She shoots the Warforged a look. “You’re barely standing up right now—how are you going to fight a duel?”

Atone pulls his hood tight around his face as he approaches the door to the mill, wondering who he’ll find inside. He hesitates for an instant, then knocks.
“Cyd?” someone calls.
“Err, no,” Atone replies, suddenly embarrassed. “Cyd told me to tell you that she sent me, and that I was the one blowing the horn, although it was actually a conch. I’m a friend,” he adds, belatedly.

From inside, he hears scuffling and low voices. Then a blue eye appears at a hole in the door. It squints at him, then widens.
“Bahamut’s hoard—are you a tiefling?”
The door opens all the way, revealing an elf with long white hair. She smiles at him, then tilts her head to one side, trying to peer beneath his hood. Atone feels his face heat. He bows to her stiffly.
“My name is Atone,” he says. “That is also my mission.”
The elf’s features light up. “Did you hear that?” she calls over her shoulder. “He has a virtue name! I’d heard some tieflings adopt them, but this is the first chance I’ve had to confirm it.”

A bald human emerges from the dim interior of the mill. He’s wearing a similar expression to the elf. “Fascinating,” he murmurs. Then, as if remembering his manners, he makes a hasty bow. “Pleased to meet you, Atone. I am Gerard, monk of Oghma.”
For the first time since arriving in this town, Atone feels a little less alien. “It is good to meet a fellow monk,” he replies.
“Ooh! What order do you belong to?” the elf pipes up. “And what are you atoning for?”
Atone draws his hood down further over his horned head and shuffles his feet. “I… err…”

Luckily, at that moment, Cyd returns, melting back into view as she shrugs off her cloak of stealth in the doorway. She nods at Atone.
“Oh good, they didn’t attack you.”
A look of alarm flashes across Atone’s face, but Cyd doesn’t notice. She turns to the rest of the group. “Anyway, I don’t know how much Tony here has told you, but we’ve got a big problem up at the Keep: the raiders have taken a load of hostages, and now there’s some blue dragon-man at the gates saying he’ll release a few of them… if someone fights him one-on-one.”
“That sounds straightforward, at least. But can we afford to take him at his word?” Gerard asks.

“I do not think we can afford to do anything else.” Aleph appears at the top of the balcony, holding his side. “We lack the numbers—and the strength—to free the prisoners by force, and any scheme on our part could cost them their lives.”
“I don’t like it either,” Cyd agrees. “But Alf’s right. Dragon dude has at least thirty kobolds with him—if we tried anything, they’d kill the hostages in a heartbeat.”
“Then it seems we have little choice but to accept his terms,” the monk concedes.

“And he wants a champion,” Cyd says. “So, who’s it going to be?”
There’s an instant’s pause. Then Aleph, Gerard and Atone all raise their hands. The rogue rolls her eyes.
“Gods! You heroic types are all the same! Put your sword down and think for a minute, Alf, will you?” She shoots the Warforged a look. “You’re barely standing up right now—how are you going to fight a duel?”
Gerard opens his mouth, but Cyd turns her glare on him, too. “You’re not much better, Ger. And before you all go looking at me,” she adds, “I do my best fighting from sixty feet away, preferably while hiding behind a wall. Melee is for suckers who can’t get out of the way in time. No offense, Alf.”
Gerard frowns. “But someone has to—”

“It should be me.”
They all turn: Nubbins is standing at the top of the stairs. “It has to be me.”
“Nubs,” Cyd says, “that’s very noble, but you haven’t seen this guy—he’s huge!”
“I have to do it!” Nubbins says, sounding desperate. “I’m less wounded than any of you! Besides, I owe it to you all. And…” His voice cracks. “And to Keothi.”
“You have the heart of a Warforged, Nubbins,” Aleph rumbles, “but Cydonie is right. I do not know if you can best this foe alone.”
“I don’t need to.” The gnome’s voice wavers slightly, but his tone is firm. “I just have to try.”

There’s a pause. Then, slowly, Aleph nods. “Then allow me to serve as your herald, Nubbins of the eighth phalanx,” he says. “It would be an honour.”

*

The party walk back to the Keep in silence, the only sound the rushing of the stream. The raiders surrounding the walls have dispersed, but the horde of kobolds Cyd described is soon clearly visible, as is the blue half-dragon who leads them. As they draw nearer, the group can see four people, a woman, a man and two children, each held tightly by two kobolds. They’re on their knees, knives to their throats. The half-dragon turns at the sound of the group’s approach, baring his pointed teeth in a grin.
“Ah! Challengers, I hope?”

Aleph steps forward and executes a crisp salute. “Leader of the raiders,” he intones. “May I present to you our greatest champion: High Enchanter Nubbins, Hero of Phandalin, Brother of the Eighth Phalanx and Defender of Greenest.” He pauses, eyes flashing fire. “His strength and bravery inspire his allies, and confound his foes. If you are wise, you will retract your challenge, release the prisoners, and go from this place in peace while you still can.”

The half-dragon throws back his head and roars with delighted laughter. “Excellent!” he booms. “I have been looking for a worthy foe all night.” He nods to Aleph. “I had heard rumours of a metal construct who was cutting down our soldiers in swathes. I had thought that he might be the one to face me. But to have him as herald to another, greater champion! That bodes well indeed.”

He turns to Nubbins and bows. “I am not fool enough to believe that powerful things cannot come in small packages. Well met, Nubbins; I am pleased to have a challenger at last.” He throws aside his cloak and loosens the greatsword across his back. “I do not believe we have formally met. You may call me Cyanwrath.”

A stiff breeze blows across the grass between them. “The fight will be to first blood or to yield,” Cyanwrath continues. “Single combat. If you win, I will release the prisoners. If you lose…” He chuckles. “I will still release them. Fair is fair.” His gaze hardens. “But if you attempt to break these terms, or to deceive me, their lives will be forfeit.”
Nubbins nods, trying not to shake. “I understand,” he says.

“Excellent!” Cyanwrath shouts again. He gestures to one of the kobolds. “Release the older woman. A show of good faith,” he explains. Then he draws his greatsword, which is longer than Nubbins is tall. Taking a deep breath, Nubbins follows suit with his hand axe, ice crystallising along its cutting edge.
“I’m ready,” he tells the half-dragon
“Good,” grunts Cyanwrath. “Then let us begin!”

In one swift movement, he leaps towards Nubbins, sword raised high above his head. He brings it down in a scything motion: the gnome parries just in time, wincing from the effort. The shock of the blow alone almost throws him off his feet.

Before Nubbins can recover, Cyanwrath launches into a flurry of heavy blows. Once, twice, three times the gnome manages to deflect the blade, each block and dodge costing him more than the last. His strength is waning, though, and on the fourth swing, he brings his axe up a fraction of a second too slowly. Pain slices across his upper body as he is thrown to the floor. He feels warmth spreading out from his chest, and looks down to see his coat rapidly turning a deep and alarming shade of red.
“Oh dear,” he murmurs. Then his eyes close and he slides into unconsciousness.

Above him, Cyanwrath wipes his sword clean. “It seems I was misled about the strength of my opponent. How disappointing,” he sighs. “Well, a deal is a deal. I should have specified it had to be a good fight.” He raises a hand, and the kobolds behind him release their hold on the remaining three prisoners. “Our business here is done. Tend to your wounded comrade, defenders of Greenest. Farewell.” He gestures again, and his kobold troops fall into line behind him. Then he strides away.

As the prisoners run back towards the Keep, Cyd, Gerard and Aleph race to Nubbins’ side. The gnome is badly wounded, but as they kneel beside him they can see the shallow rise and fall of his chest.
“Let’s get him inside,” Gerard says. “The bleeding is quite severe, but if we’re careful—”
“Halloa!” A shout comes from the Keep, and they look up to see Brem sprinting across the courtyard towards them. He’s already pulling salves and bandages from his bag of medical supplies as he draws level with the party. He crouches by Nubbins, breathing heavily, and begins to dress his wounds.
“Saw what happened from the infirmary window,” he pants. “Thought you might need a hand!”
He spreads a pink cream across Nubbins’ wounds and the gnome’s breathing eases, becoming deeper and more even.

“Whew!” Brem says at last, after another few minutes of bandaging. “Haven’t run that fast since before I joined the temple.”
“Thank you, Brem,” Aleph rumbles.
“I should be thanking you,” the brother of Chauntea replies. “You’ve done so much for the town. And if Nubbins hadn’t fought as our champion then I think the Governor would have had to do it, and he’s not in a good way.”

Cradling Nubbins gingerly in his arms, Aleph carries him into the Keep, the rest of the party following behind. Nighthill meets them at the gates, his arm in a bloodied sling. He ushers them in to the courtyard, which is noisy and crowded. Citizens and guards fill the space, sitting on upturned crates and leaning out from the windows of the tower. They’re talking animatedly, but a hush falls over the crowd as the party reaches the centre of the courtyard. There, Nighthill turns and addresses them, speaking in a carrying voice that is intended as much for the onlookers as the group themselves.

“We are in your debt, my friends. Last night, Greenest lost homes, livelihoods, and loved ones, but the toll would have been far greater were it not for your efforts on our behalf. Our town has survived, and that is thanks to you, the heroes of the hour—the defenders of Greenest!” A wave of applause and cheers ripples across the courtyard at his words, no less heartfelt for being somewhat tired and ragged. Nighthill waits until the noise has died down before he continues.

“We have much to celebrate, but also much to mourn. All of us lost people we cared about last night and I, for one, will never forget their sacrifice. May the hand of Chauntea guide their souls.” He raises his sword. “A salute. To those who gave their lives for their home.”
“To Keithy,” Cyd whispers. Beside her, Gerard, Aleph and Atone raise their weapons in silent acknowledgement.

*

As the crowd disperse, Nighthill returns his attention to the party.
“Given the damage to the Cat & Squirrel, I imagine you will need a place to sleep. Please consider the Keep at your disposal, for as long as you need. The guard’s quarters may not be the most comfortable lodgings, but I hope that they will serve for now.”
“You had me at ‘place to sleep,’” Cyd says. Suddenly, she’s so tired that it’s an effort even to stay upright.

Judging by the way they stumble up the stairs to the barracks, the rest of the party feel the same way. Gerard flops immediately onto the nearest bed, and even Aleph seats himself before taking out his repair kit.
“I am not sure that I deserve the title ‘Defender of Greenest,’” Atone muses as he lays out his bedroll. “I have only just arrived here.”
“You helped us and the town, at risk to yourself,” Gerard replies, smiling. “That is no more—and no less—than what any of us have done.”
“Sleep now,” Cyd mumbles. “Talk later.”

“Once you have all rested,” Aleph says, from his seat in the corner, “there is one matter that we must urgently discuss.”
“Oh yeah?” Cyd is on the cusp of sleep already, her words slurred and muffled. “What’s that?”
“Wordweaver’s death was not an arbitrary tragedy. We were ambushed at the mill: Glasstaff knew of our movements in advance, which means that someone informed him of them.” The Warforged’s eyes flare. “We may well have a traitor in our midst.”

Read the next chapter here!

New reader? Check out the first chapter!

 

Dun Dun Duuunnnnnn! Thanks for reading, guys! This was a fun one to write 🙂 – And remember, if you enjoyed reading it, you can also play it! The fight with Cyanwrath is from the main adventure by Wizards of the Coast (the excellent Hoard of the Dragon Queen); all of the side-quests are written by us and available to download from DM’s Guild for free!

2 Comments on “Chapter 20: The Champion of Greenest

  1. Pingback: Chapter 19: Dawn – Tabletop Tales

  2. Pingback: Chapter 31: Jailbreak! – Tabletop Tales

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