As the party stood, dumbfounded at what had just happened, the situation did not look good. As the clerics healed the wounded in the party and the Imperial musketeers were on their way, those on site were trying to piece together a most serious puzzle.
A parchment written in Old Adarian rested in the hands of Brother Wilfred as he tried to translate it. Roland examined the body of the one remaining Dragoon, finding little to be overtly suspicious about, but something he couldn't put his finger on seemed wrong about the attacker. Dellick Orbes also studied the attacker, though from the look on his face he was more angry that inquisitive. Sylvia and Ilshana knelt beside Manfred Vanderghoul, and talked about something unheard to others - although something Sylvia said certainly elicited a gasp of surprise from Ilshana...
The musketeers, and their captain D'Lacey, arrived, just as Wilfred finished translating the note. It was addressed to Manfred Vanderghoul, and it appeared to be a ransom note for one million crowns, in exchange for the return of Roseanna. Clearly, this was a serious matter - the Dragoons were perfectly willing to open fire into a crowd so it had to be presumed they were capable of carrying out their threat.
The musketeers surmised that Roland, Sylvia, Ilshana, Wilfred and Dellick were the most involved with the actual incident, and so they were taken to the palace to be questioned. The prisoner was locked up, and two guards stood watch over the party, fearful that they may be involved somehow, but obviously not certain of it.
After a quarter on an hour, Ilshana noticed something strange about the walls - the shadows appeared to be flickering and moving, just out of the corner of her eye, but as soon as she turned to look, they would stay still. She didn't have time to expand on it, however, as they were visited by three guests.
A man in brightly colored garb, whom introduced himself as Emperor Vanderghoul, led the other two. The other two proved to be Otto Von Bloodric, minister of Barbarian Affairs and the "spymaster" of the royal army, and Patriarch Leobold XXV, head of the Adarian Universal Church. There were some discreet inquiries as to what was happening, but nothing concrete - because the shadows Ilshana spotted suddenly became a lot more substantial.
The door to the room burst open. Eight Dragoons, coupled with their wounded brethren from the wedding, were on the attack. Each party member reacted swiftly to the brief assault - Ilshana attempted to take wing, Sylvia drew her main-gauche, Roland took out his twin knifes, Dellick assumed a fighting stance, and brother Wilfred brandished his rapier.
The battle was swift and bloody. Roland tore a swath through the Dragoons, almost a wizard with the knives in his hands. The Emperor was hit with a saber slash. Ilshana failed to get airborne fast enough to be of much use. Sylvia contented herself with staying in the back, and before long the tide was turning in favor of the party.
But then, inky black darkness filled the room as the Dragoons retreated. Everyone was blinded except for Sylvia, who had the gift to see even in total darkness. She let loose with another fireball, which was successful in tagging one of the retreating Dragoons, but the sudden flash of light temporarily blinded her. When she recovered, the Dragoons were gone and the Emperor and the Patriarch were wounded.
Without too much trouble, the party managed to help them recuperate. The Patriarch, after listening to the stories that the others had told, shed some light on the subject - the Dragoons were not Dragoons at all, but an ancient, chaotic race called the Shadow Dwellers. Able to shapeshift into shadow, their mission was one of chaos and insanity, madness above all. And they had taken Roseanna...
The heroes of our tale were charged with a holy quest, to escort the gold to the city of Renown, and await instructions at the Velvet Rat Tavern. Since the five of them were the most familiar with the attackers, they were deemed to be the best choices for an escort - besides, they certainly couldn't be allowed free to speak of what they'd just seen.
Despite the fact that these orders came from Emperor Vanderghoul himself, some of our heroes forgot their place for a moment. Roland questioned the act of sending a sailor, a priest, a fairy-kin and a bartender as his squad, whilst Sylvia Morgenshire maintained that she was nothing more than a simple bartender, despite having a knack for fire magic. Both were politely but firmly rebuked - Roland's resignation was waived and delayed, whilst the Emperor seemed to show more faith in Sylvia's abilities than she herself did. The others did not seem to have more that minor misgivings about their mission.
They were sent to their rooms to rest and prepare for the night, to leave in the morning. No one was altogether sure what was going to happen in the morning as they set out to save Roseanna, but the sun would rise soon enough...
Copyright © 1999 by The Scribe. All rights reserved. Please contact the author if you have questions regarding the publication of this document.