"Can you get me out of here?" he whispered.
"Probably not, but it depends on who you are," Harrick replied.
"Why are you working with them? They're a threat to the whole valley. They're a threat to the Keep. Don't you know the chaos they represent? You at least have learned; they can't."
"You know, when it comes to choosing sides, the people working with nethermancers die first," was the orc's brutally honest response.
"Why'd you bring me out here, then?"
"We wanted to ask you a few questions," Terzin said.
"What is that emplacement you're digging down in the southwest?"
"That's not ours," the captive sighed wearily.
"It's got a bunch of zombies in it...."
"We don't have any zombies."
"We are a small order of Moire. We've been here for years. Originally there weren't any problems, they didn't bother us, we didn't bother them. Now they've been attacking. Our people would come in to drop off supplies and get attacked, slaughtered. I went out to check star positions, we have to for our services." He coughed painfully. "I'm telling you, we're not a threat."
"And the bandits?"
"I don't know who they are."
"Who's the guy on the horse?" Robin asked.
He opened his sunken eyes. "What?"
"Full set of plate mail?"
"Damn, he was seen." A sigh. "From down south. He's the lord of Ambervale."
"The lord of Ambervale was paying you guys a visit?" She looked skeptical.
"He's a worshipper of Moire, and he came to check prophecies for the coming battle."
"What battle?" Terzin wanted to know.
"Why do you think there aren't any troops here?" the prisoner all but snapped. "There's a war coming in the south. Surely you know that."
Dubricus sighed. "He's correct. Amberville and Ambervale have been at war over that stretch of farmland for years. King Daniel has claimed his rightful share of it, and set the boundaries, and people from the south want what they think is theirs back." His expression hardened. "But I can tell you this right nowthis man is a liar. That is no temple of Moire, and that was not the Duke of Ambervale."
"Why do you say that, Dubricus?" Terzin asked.
A slight, sad smile. "Because he's my uncle, and he doesn't worship Moire. Looks like your little lie just fell apart."
"Fuck," the prisoner said, very quietly. Then, "Eshkagril, take me." His head lolled lifelessly to one side.
Alarming though that was, it garnered much less immediate reaction than it would have a couple months before.
The Duke of Ambervale is Dubricus' uncle? If I'd known we were in such exalted company I wouldn't have been so insulting, Terzin thought.
Robin's reaction was a more resigned, We figured it had to be something.... "Well, that was very interesting," she remarked out loud, looking at the dead man in their midst.
"Who the blazes is Eshkagril?" Harrick wondered.
"I have no idea," Dubricus said.
"I can tell you." The corpse stood up.
Terzin whipped out his blade and stabbed the thing in the midsection. Robin jumped back from it and drew her own sword while Harrick prepared a Flame Gout. The zombie moved, snapping the stone chains on its arms and legs (the bugbears had little metal), whirling one around its head. Jared's battle-ax whirred past, just missing and focusing the zombie's attention on him. It continued to mutter half-audibly. Dubricus lit his dagger on fire and closed in. Terzin got in another blow, felt muscle and tendon part beneath his blade. Robin gave it a good thrust; blood spewed onto the stone floor, but the wound didn't seem to have slowed the thing down.
Dubricus, displaying a good deal of courage, went for its neck with his knife and just missed the spine, though at least it stopped talking. The smell of burning flesh filled the room along with the reek of blood. With its free hand, the zombie wrenched the stone chair free of the floor and tossed it almost casually toward Jared and Robin. He ducked. She got her shield in the way and staggered back from the force of it.
"Take its head off!" Dubricus shouted.
The zombie spun the chain rapidly and swung it at Jared's axe. Both shattered. Harrick, having done some extremely rapid spellwork, threw Thorn Dart. The force of it drove the zombie back two, three, four steps before it fell to the ground. Terzin hacked its head off.
"Burn it, just in case," Robin suggested tensely
Harrick was already doing so. "Well, that was amusing."
Robin glanced at their friend. "So Dubricus, you were saying...."
"I think we can rest assured that they're worshipping nether gods," he said shakily.
"I figure." Harrick sounded almost cheerful. "It's almost certainly not an abbey of Moire."
"Who sent you?" Dubricus asked them suddenly while they all caught their breath again.
The four exchanged a glance and a sigh.
"Don't worry, we won't blab," Robin assured him, referring to the news of his family connection.
"I was tasked by my uncle, the duke, at the command of the king, to come up here and investigate what was going on, discover what was happening if I could, deal with the situation if possible. I'm willing to bet from what I've heard recently, that you have a similar tale."
"Does it really matter?" Robin asked.
"It matters to me." His expression was intent.
"Countess Anne," Terzin admitted. " Sent us up here for much the same purpose. So I guess it's for the best that we fell in together."
"Yes...." He didn't look happy.
"You look pained," Harrick noted.
"We are making progress," Terzin pointed out.
"I don't doubt that, more since you arrived than before. I had just thought that... It's nothing. I'll be... back at our cave going over our things and preparing for the assault." It was pretty obvious that he wanted to be alone right now, and they let him go. They still had some bandits to deal with, and now that the first had been revealed for what he was, they weren't as bothered as they had been by the way the lot had been treated.
Harrick called out, "Hey, do you guys have anyplace specific you want the bodies put?" A couple of guards came in, grabbed the burned, mangled pieces and returned them to the cell where the others were still chained. The four didn't have to discuss what their strategy would be in dealing with them.
"Which one do you want next?" a guard asked.
"So, can anyone else here turn themselves into a zombie?" Terzin asked of the three humans, now quite terrified. "We'd like to show you that it does absolutely no good."
"For a worshipper of a nether god, he was pretty tough," Harrick observed in an approving tone, then glanced at the three. "You do all know the penalties for worshipping the nether gods, don't you?"
"We don't worship the nether gods!" one said. "We don't!"
"Oh, that's right, you worship Moire," Robin said sarcastically.
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