Chapter 21: The Traitor

A cloaked, hooded figure, shrouded in darkness.

“What do you want?” one of them asks, managing to sound contemptuous despite his chains.
“Information,” Cyd replies. “Maybe in exchange for your lives?”

The second cultist shrugs. “Our lives would be forfeit if we spoke to you. Our superiors don’t look kindly on those with loose tongues. I’d rather take the chance that you ‘heroes’ won’t kill an unarmed man.”

They sleep through the rest of the day, and the night that follows. Aleph keeps watch from his chair in the corner while he repairs his injuries, pausing only to adjust Nubbins’ bedsheets when the gnome sloughs them off in his sleep. Come the morning, a small seam of welded metal on the Warforged’s chest is the only sign of his near-fatal encounter of two nights ago.

Nubbins is not so lucky. Despite Brem’s ministrations, he awakes to discover a long, white vein of scar tissue slanting across his torso. Gerard grimaces in sympathy and Cyd whistles, impressed, but Nubbins only traces a finger along the jagged line, lost in thought. “I came out of it better than some,” is the only comment he’ll make on his new war wound.

By the time evening rolls in, everyone is awake, stretching their legs and tucking into generous plates of bread and cheese sent up from the kitchens. Saph joins them with the meal, seating herself cross-legged on the floor and stealing morsels of food from Gerard’s plate.
“Brem, Dwali and I moved Wordweaver to the temple,” she tells the group. “The brothers of Chauntea will look after his body for you until you figure out how to raise him. On that subject…” she pauses, eyes downcast. “Two of the raiders from the mill survived. The guards brought them back here. I wasn’t sure whether you’d want to see them, but if you’re looking for answers about what happened…”

“Thank you, Saph,” Aleph replies. “We do seek answers. Not least about how Glasstaff came to learn of our movements.”
“Alf thinks someone betrayed us,” Cyd explains.
“You must admit, it is a possibility,” Gerard chips in. “Glasstaff knew that we would be at the mill. So, either he was watching us somehow—”
“Or someone told him our plans,” the Warforged finishes. “We should question the survivors and find out which it is.”
“I wouldn’t mind knowing how Glasstaff ended up in bed with the Cult of the Dragon, either,” adds Cyd.

“I can use my magic to read their thoughts, if they don’t want to talk to us,” Nubbins offers, sliding off the bed and heading for the stairs. “I know it’s a bit rude, but we do have a good reason.”
Cyd grins. “Given that we filled them with arrows the last time we met them, I’d say peeking inside their heads is pretty courteous, relatively speaking.”

*

Nighthill greets the party warmly as they enter the main hall.
“We don’t have much space to spare, but we put the new prisoners in a storeroom so you could at least question them privately,” he says, leading them down a narrow corridor at the back of the kitchen. There’s a single guard stationed by the door, whom Nighthill dismisses with a wave.
“Thank you, Governor,” rumbles Aleph.
“Not at all. If you need anything, let me know.” Nighthill pauses a moment, looking slightly apologetic. “You have all done so much for Greenest that I hesitate to bring it up, but there is a further favour I would ask of you, if you have the time. Perhaps we can discuss it later?”
The Warforged inclines his helmeted head. “Of course.”

He pushes open the door and the group file into the storeroom. It is small and neat, its walls lined with shelves full of preserves, dried beans and bags of potatoes. The shelves which were standing against the far wall have been moved aside to make way for two sets of shackles, screwed hastily into the stonework. The cultists are sitting against this wall, manacled hands in their laps. They stare at the group.
“What do you want?” one of them asks, managing to sound contemptuous despite his chains.
“Information,” Cyd replies. “Maybe in exchange for your lives?”

The second cultist shrugs. “Our lives would be forfeit if we spoke to you. Our superiors don’t look kindly on those with loose tongues. I’d rather take the chance that you ‘heroes’ won’t kill an unarmed man.”
Cyd nods to Nubbins, who digs around in his bag and produces a silver tuning fork and a copper piece. He taps them together: the tuning fork produces a low, pure note, clear as a bell. As the sound reverberates in the air, echoing more than it should in the close space, the gnome closes his eyes and kneels on the ground.
“How did you know we’d be in the mill?” Cyd pursues.

The first raider drops his gaze; his companion stares at Cyd, poker-faced. Neither of them says a word. Cyd darts another quick glance at Nubbins, whose brow is furrowed in concentration. I don’t have to make them talk, she reminds herself. I just have to make them think.
Nubbins nods. “That’s right, Cyd.”
“Focus on the cultists, Nubs.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
Cyd eyes up the two men, looking for a weak link. The man on the left, the one who is looking at the ground, seems the more nervous of the two.
“Did somebody tell you we’d be there?” she presses him. “What did they look like?”
“Blue robes…” Nubbins mutters.

The man starts. “How did you—What’s that gnome doing?”
Cyd ignores him. “Who was wearing blue robes? Can you picture their face?”
“She was hooded,” Nubbins says. “She met them in a small house on the edge of town. At least I think it was a she.”
“Would you recognise her if you saw her again?” Cyd asks the cultist, who glares at her.
“I think he would…” Nubbins says, after a minute. “I’m not sure, though… He’s trying to push me out.”
Cyd smirks as she turns away. “Too little, too late, friend.”

*

“Peoples’ minds are weird,” Nubbins muses as the group walk back up the corridor to the main hall.
Atone nods. “They are indeed. We like to believe that we are the masters of our own thoughts, but more often than not, it is our thoughts which master us.”
“I was going to say that they’re weird because they can think about what they’re thinking, which is a bit like a pen writing about its own ink,” the gnome says dreamily. “But what you said, too.”
“I… never thought of it like that before,” Atone replies, “but I suppose you are right.” He pauses, frowning. “What would a pen have to say about its own ink?”
“Who knows?”

Gerard coughs. “Perhaps a more pertinent question at this juncture is: who do we know who wears blue robes?”
“Nighthill and his advisors wear blue,” Cyd answers. “Escobert and—” her eyes widen. “Jardar! And she was the one who asked us to go to the mill in the first place!”
“The evidence against her thus far is circumstantial, but compelling,” Aleph growls. “We should question her together with the raiders—see if we cannot jog their memories.”
“Should we talk to Nighthill first?” Gerard asks. “He should be informed that his magic advisor may be working against him.”

They find the Governor holding court in the main hall, discussing the damage to the town with a steady stream of shopkeepers, householders and farmers. He waves the group over as they enter, calling a brief halt to proceedings. They join him at one of the room’s long tables.
“Dozens of houses will have to be repaired,” he tells them. “A few businesses need a hand restocking, and we’ll need to buy in some extra food for the winter, but—” he nods appreciatively at the party “—It could be a lot worse. What can I do for you? Were the prisoners of any help?”
“They were, with a little magical assistance,” Gerard replies. “But there has been an unexpected development.” He glances around before continuing, leaning closer to Nighthill. “We need to question your magic advisor, Councilwoman Jardar.”

Nighthill looks grave. “I can certainly arrange for her to assist with your investigation. Do you suspect her of some wrongdoing?”
“Someone betrayed our location to the raiders,” Aleph says. “We think it possible that it was her.”
“I understand.” Nighthill rubs his temples. “And I trust your judgement. I only ask that you make certain of her guilt before taking any drastic action. Jardar has been a good advisor to me, though she has not been in Greenest long. Where do you wish to question her?”
“With the raiders,” Cyd replies. She chews her lip, thinking. “There’s no point letting her know we’re onto her, though: tell her we need her expertise to help with our interrogation, Mr Nighthill. Then, once she gets down here, we’ll see if the cultists recognise her.”
“A sound strategy,” Nighthill agrees. “I will send her to you in a moment.”

*

The wait for Jarder is tense, but mercifully brief. They have just taken up their positions—Aleph and Gerard on either side of the door, Cyd and Nubbins by the prisoners and Atone standing watch at the end of the corridor—when they hear a hurried tread on the flagstones and the magic advisor comes into view.
“Can we keep this brief?” she snaps. “I have important matters to attend to upstairs.”

As she approaches the prisoners, Aleph takes a step sideways, blocking the doorway.
“Do you know these cultists?” the Warforged asks.
Cyd looks at Nubbins, who strikes a note with his tuning fork and closes his eyes. “Is this the woman you met to discuss the ambush?” the rogue asks the raiders.
Jardar sighs in exasperation. “I have never seen any of these men in my life. Now, is there anything else, or may I return to my work?”
Cyd leans closer to the cultist on the left, inspecting his face. “Woman. Blue robes. Hood. You met her in a small house at the edge of town. Ring any bells?”
The cultist’s eyes dart to Jardar and back again. It’s just a flicker, but Cyd sees Jardar meet the man’s gaze. Almost imperceptibly, the magic advisor tightens her grip on her staff.
“It’s her.” Nubbins says quietly, confirming what Cyd has already guessed.

Jardar spreads her arms wide, a prismatic sheet of colour forming between her fingertips.
“Hold. Person.” Aleph says, axe drawn and pointed at Jardar. The sheet of coloured light fizzles and vanishes as Jardar’s limbs lock into place. Her eyes dart back and forth, enraged.
“Bind her with ropes and chains,” Aleph barks.
Cyd and Gerard quickly tie up her legs and arms. Then, pressing the edge of his axe against her throat, Aleph dismisses the holding spell. “Where is Glasstaff?” He demands.
Jardar gazes at Aleph, the corners of her mouth twitching upwards into a nasty smile. She opens her mouth. “Misty Step,” she whispers.

She vanishes, reappearing an instant later at the end of the corridor, right next to Atone. The tiefling starts violently.
“Get her, Tony!” Cyd yells.
Atone draws his staff but does not strike. “I have no quarrel with you,” he says calmly. “Please surrender and submit to my friends’ questions: I do not wish you any harm.”
Jardar gives him an incredulous look, hisses a spell, and fades from sight. Atone’s cloak swishes in the breeze as the magic advisor rushes past him. Behind him, Cyd curses, nocks an arrow, and fires. The arrow flies straight down the corridor and lands, quivering, in mid-air. There’s a gasp, and then it slides down to the floor, where Jardar reappears once more. Wounded, but breathing.

Read the next chapter here!

New reader? Check out the first chapter!

So, who saw that reveal coming? Speaking as a player, it took me completely by surprise! Remember, if you enjoy Cam’s fiendish narrative twists and turns, you can download a collection of his original side-quests on DM’s Guild for free!

Cam has also just released a set of gorgeous maps for episode 1 of Hoard of the Dragon Queenwhich you can also get over on DM’s guild. These are the same maps we use in our sessions, and they’re super clear, well-designed and easy to use!

Finall, you can also support us by following us on Twitterliking us on Facebook, and, most importantly, doing what you’re already doing and reading! Thanks, friends – we really appreciate it.

– Lou X

One Comment on “Chapter 21: The Traitor

  1. Pingback: Chapter 20: The Champion of Greenest – Tabletop Tales

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