THE ARCHDRUID LOVES FASTFOOD
We appeared inside a small alleyway. It was really dark and dirty. An extremely unpleasant smell covered it. I can identify some sources of the smell such as dead rats and dog poop.
“Yuck,” Darcy says while covering her nose, “why didn’t you teleport us to somewhere nicer?”
“The other areas are gone,” says Ronald, “we had to shut them down because the Archdruid tightened the security and ordered to check for possible teleportation sites.”
“Where should we start looking for the amulet?” Aeronwen asks him.
“We need to find the control room for wards first, and then I will hack the system to find the room where the amulet is being kept.” Gurstil replied.
“You can do that?” I asked.
“Why do you think they’ve chose me to join you?” The dwarf lifted his eyebrows.
“It is, let’s move now.” Ronald took the lead.
We walked behind the buildings through alleyways. We had to stop and hide every time a person is near.
“Can’t we use an invisibility spell?” Gwydion struggles to hide behind one of the barrels.
“That will only attract the wards more.” Ronald whispered in reply.
“What about Gurstil, can’t you hack it?”
“That will alarm the guards of intruders when they realized that their wards have been hacked.” Gurstil explained.
After a few more stopping and hiding, we finally reached the palace. The number of guards stationed at the palace’s gate are twice as many as it was before. They look very alert and are in full battle armor, as if expecting to go to war anytime. Some of them just stood near the entrance, but the others are patrolling the area.
“Gurstil, time to work your magic.” Ronald took a flask from his pockets.
“Is this really a good time for that?” Asks Darcy.
“Every time is always a good time for drinking ale.” He gulped the contents of the bottle.
Gurstil placed his shield on the ground and pressed a rune inside it. A holographic screen showing the layout of the whole palace appeared in front of us, including the guards inside it. We can see them moving in real time and know where they are going. We also saw ourselves on the screen.
“That’s seems to be a very under protected area.” He pointed to a nearby entrance with less guards than the gate in front of us.
“Looks like a trap.” Ronald suggested.
“Let me see,” Gurstil pressed floating runes on the screen, “nope, they just placed most of their men inside the palace.”
“That’s worse,” says Gwydion.
“At least we already found an entrance,” Ronald put the flask back on his pocket.
We walked around the palace to find the entrance Gurstil pointed us to. Five guards are guarding the entrance. They seem less alert than the guards back at the main entrance and one of them is picking his nose.
“Just give me a minute to turn off the wards,” he pressed some runes on his shield, “done. Now we only have a few minutes before the guards find out.”
“A few minutes is more than enough.” Ronald sneaked behind one of the guards.
He snapped the neck of one guard and threw his knives on the others. One guard blocked with his shield but was pinned on the ground by Ronald. Ronald quickly pulled a knife and slit the guard’s throat. He picked all his knives back and wiped the blood on a guard’s body.
“You could have just knocked them out,” says Aeronwen.
Ronald pointed on the dead guards' bodies. The corpses started to shrink and change their form, their skin turning into greenish gray, changing into goblins.
“How?” Aeronwen was shocked.
“Illusion,” Ronald showed a runic tattoo on a goblin's neck, “a Velaronian soldier is supposed to be well disciplined. The other soldiers of Faernwood have very high expectations on them since they work in the capital city.”
We entered the elven palace. A group of guards is passing by. We hid behind one of the large pillars. Gurstil worked on his computer-shield again, he pressed a bunch of runes for minutes.
“The control room is just a floor above us.” Says Gurstil.
“That can’t be right, it’s supposed to be on the top floor.” Aeronwen told him.
“That room is just a decoy for amateur hackers and distrusted personnel.”
“It’s no surprise since I often beat Archdruid Triandal’s daughter in competitions, so he never really liked me,” She chuckled.
“She has a daughter?” I asked.
Ronald shushed me. We climbed up a bunch of stairs and finally reached the control room. There are a few guards standing by the door. They also looked undisciplined like the ones at the entrance. They fiddled with their weapons and two of them looks like they are arguing with each other. I caught a glimpse of a tattoo on one of the guards' neck. Goblins. They saw us and attacked.
We engaged in the fight. I slashed the goblin with my hatchet, penetrating his armor and burying the blade deep inside his chest. It’s body turned back into a goblin. I looked at the others and they were already finished. One of the goblins was impaled on a giant wooden spike with flowers and vines. I glanced at Rosemary, she looks terrifying. Darcy picked the room’s lock with ease using a thief’s lock pick and we went inside the control room.
“We’ll stay outside to watch out for more guards.” Gwydion and Rosemary went outside and closed the door.
The room is very large and filled with holographic monitors on the wall. The scenes shows what is currently happening in the whole kingdom. Guards already found the body of the goblins outside, they are confused by the sight of goblin corpse and decided to search inside the palace for intruders. Gurstil connected his computer-shield to the monitors. He spent minutes searching for the location of the amulet.
“Found it,” he announced.
“Where?” I asked.
“It’s inside a secret room under the Archdruid’s chamber, but traps are scattered around it.”
“You can disable them right?” asks Darcy.
“Yes,” the dwarf looks nervous, “but the traps will automatically fix themselves, giving you a small amount of time to retrieve it.”
I swallowed, “How long before the traps become active again?”
“A minute,” says Gurstil, “at most.
“I can do it.” Darcy told us.
“Are you sure?” Aeronwen asked her.
“I’ve been through harder things.”
“Well then, I’ll stay here to disarm the traps,” he turned, “use the device I gave you to let me know if you’re ready.”
“This is bad,” Ronald is watching a scene on one of the monitors, he turned to Aeronwen.
She saw the scene and stared at it in horror, she dropped her bow. I turned to look at the scene and was shocked. A female elf and her crying daughter are going to be hanged. The young girl looks like Aeronwen in her younger years. She looks very weak and pale. Archdruid Triandal stood beside them, talking to the cheering crowd, or rather, sending a message to us.
“Alvin, I know you’re inside the palace,” he grinned, “and I know that friend of yours will not let her family die because of some amulet.”
“I will give you an hour to turn yourselves in, you and all your friends. By failing to do so will cost the life of this innocent family and the blood will be on your hands.”
The screen went black. Aeronwen picked her bow and hurried outside the room.
“I’m going to save them.”
“Wait, please don’t act rashly.” Gurstil exclaimed.
“They are going to kill my family, I don’t have time to think—or a choice for that matter—I have to save them now.”
“But that might just be an illusion, a bait to lure you into his trap.” I told her, “you told me yourself that he can’t expose himself yet.”
“No,” Ronald, didn’t drink while talking for the first time, “you saw the people, they are not themselves, they are acting differently. The Archdruid must have done something to them.”
“Hypnotism?” I suggested.
The door burst open and Gwydion hurriedly went inside.
“The guards are coming, there’s a whole battalion of them.”
“I’ll go with Aeronwen and help save her family, Gwydion and Rosemary will protect Gurstil, and Alvin will go with Darcy and retrieve the amulet.”
We nodded and hurried out of the room. A few dozen guards blocked our way.
“They’re goblins, kill them all!” Ronald shouted.
Vines sprouted from the ground and entangled the guards, then wooden spike erupted from the floor and impaled all the creatures entangled inside the vines. Aeronwen and Ronald headed outside the palace and we took the opposite direction. I followed Darcy and ran along the hallways. I heard something buzzing. Darcy took something out of her pocket. It looks like the device Rupnert gave me but a little bit different.
“Turn to your left,” says a voice, it was Gurstil’s.
We turned left and found a corridor with four doors.
“Which one?” Darcy asks Gurstil.
“The second to the left.”
Darcy took out her lock picks but I waved her off. I harden the magical energy around my fist and punched the door open. I’m getting good at punching doors. Darcy gave me a sharp look and I shrugged.
We have gone inside Archdruid Triandal’s bedchamber. Paintings depicting nature covered the walls. It has a very large king-size bed and a very large cabinet beside it. Maybe the cabinet is full of clothes made of leaves. I decided against the temptation of my curiosity towards the contents of the cabinet.
“Over your right underneath the desk is a small rune that should open the hidden door to the secret room.”
Darcy went towards the desk with a cheeseburger and fries on it. It looks newly bought. Do the Archdruid eat fast food? I shale that thought away.
“Please hurry,” Gurstil, “their reinforcements will arrive sooner or later.”
“Found it!” Darcy exclaimed.
One of the paintings slid and showed a hidden stairway inside. We walked down the stairs as quick as we can and finally reached the hidden room. Two large metal statues stood at both side of the entrance. The amulet is sitting on a wooden table.
“Eight feet away from you are traps that might end your life.” Gurstil warned.
“I can do this.”
“I’ll disarm the traps now. Remember, you only got a minute before they reactivate themselves.”
Darcy breathed deeply.
“Now!” Gurstil shouted.
Darcy starts sprinting towards the amulet. Then I heard something moving behind me. The statues are starting to move and the sound of metals clanging echoed throughout the room. Darcy turned to look back for a second.
“Go!” I yelled and she starts to sprint faster.
I faced the metal golems. They are extremely large but they move around slowly. I threw a giant fireball at one of them but it did nothing. They’re resistant to fire!
I draw my hatchet and started to concentrate magical energy inside my body. I felt the magic surging inside my body. My body feels lighter but became stronger. One of the golems strikes me with its axe but I dodge the blow with an amazing speed. The other golem hit me in the chest but its axe was shattered into pieces.
I took the opportunity to strike it in the head, the blade of my hatchet went through its neck like slicing a piece of cake. The other lifted its axe and I parried the blow with my hatchet. I threw the hatchet into its head and the golem fell on the ground.
“No!” Gurstil screamed through the device.
The minute had pass and Darcy was still in the middle of the room. She is holding the amulet in her left hand. The table where the amulet was is broken. It looks like the amulet was protected by a spell and took a lot of time from Darcy.
“Wait, just let me try to disarm them again—” Gurstil was cut off by something.
“Gurstil what’s happening over there?” Darcy asked through the device, but there was no reply.
“This is really bad.” I told her.
“I can do this.” She muttered to herself.
She closed her eyes and started doing acrobatics, dodging blades and poison darts coming from the wall gracefully. She jumped over spikes and other obstacles with skills that I have never seen before. She landed in front of me and fire came from the wall, engulfing her in flames.
“No!” I screamed.
She stood there without any sign of being burned just moments ago. My jaw dropped and I staring in disbelief.
“We have to help the others,” she hurried outside of the room.
I ran after her. We climbed up the stairs, skipping two steps at a time. The door closed behind us. Just moments after we stepped outside the stairway the door opened and the room was filled with elven guards—or goblins? Both Gurstil and Gwydion are kneeling on the floor with knives on their throats held by the guards behind them. Rosemary was lying on the floor unconscious.
“Lay down your weapons!” Commands one of the guards, which looks like their captain. Because of the different style of armor.
“Sir, you don’t understand. Archdruid Triandal is a traitor and is planning to destroy Faernwood by getting help from the monarchs of Svartalfheim.” I explained.
“Yeah sure,” the captain waved me off, “still, siding with the rebels and organizing the attack on the palace while the sacred meeting is happening is against the law and is considered treason.”
“Lay down your weapons!” he said with a very powerful voice.
We do as we were told. I threw my hatchet in front of one guard. Darcy did the same with her dagger. The guards took our weapons and kicked us, making us kneel like the others. I didn’t see any markings on their necks so they must be real wood elves.
“Sorry,” whispered Gurstil.
The captain heard him, “Don’t worry, your other friends will join us soon.”
“You’ll never catch them,” Gwydion was covered in wounds and bruises, his right eye is swollen.
“We will, in fact, I think we already did,” the captain of the guards leaned closer to him, “and since you like to talk more than the others, you’re the one I would like to ask about the hideout of your rebel friends.”
Gwydion spat on his face, “You’ll get nothing from me you piece of—”
The captain punched him in the face. Gwydion tried to fight back but the blade on his throat prevented him from doing so. A knock on the door interrupted the interrogation.
“Come in,” the captain wiped his face with a towel.
The door was kicked open and a bunch of guards carried Aeronwen and an unconscious Ronald inside. Their bodies are battered and covered by bruises. The guards kicked them to the ground.
“Bring them to the dungeon,” commands the captain.
“But sir, Archdruid Triandal said that we should bring them straight to him.” A guard tells the captain.
“We follow the council and the laws of Faernwood, not Archdruid Triandal,” the captain said with a bit of annoyance, “now bring them to the dungeon.”
The guards just stared at the captain.
“What are you doing?” the captain asks, confused by the guards’ reactions, “I told you to bring them to the dungeon.”
The guard tried to slit his throat and he barely dodged the strike, but the other guards start attacking him too.
“Enough of this madness!” The captain yelled at his subordinates but none of them listened, “This is treason! An attack on me is an attack on the kingdom.”
The captain screamed in pain as a sword went through an opening below his left shoulder. He just stared at the wound and the blood flowing out of his shoulder.
“Sorry, but Archdruid Triandal ordered us to,” the guard slit his throat open without any emotion showing on the guard’s face.
The guards picked us up and marched us through the halls. Darcy was still holding the amulet. They didn’t know about the amulet. Something seems off. Why isn’t Aeronwen fighting back and looks so—calm? That doesn’t seem like her. And I don’t feel any magic on her and Ronald’s body. Are they brainwashed too? Then something caught my eye. A small creature was hiding behind a pillar and then it vanished. I’ve noticed something, we were walking along a very short corridor for too long. And not just that, it looks like the hall is getting longer—or are we just not moving from our positions?
An arrow pierced one of the guards' leg. Then another snapped a guard’s spear into two.
I pushed the guards in front of me with an invisible barrier. Darcy punched the guard behind her and kicked the other in the groin. We took our weapons and the hallway around us starts to dissolve. Then we were back where we were just minutes ago, at the Archdruid’s bedchamber. But Aeronwen and Ronald are gone. And the guard that was shot by an arrow knocked out, but the arrow is gone. Gwydion and Gurstil took down the confused guards.
We helped knock the remaining guards out. Aeronwen and a very small creature—about six inches in height—entered the room. The creature’s face looks like a withered apple. In a moment’s gaze, the creature turned into a man. Ronald stood beside Aeronwen.
“What the—did you just?” I was speechless by what I just saw.
The others were also shocked except for Aeronwen.
“Turns out that he’s a clurichaun,” Aeronwen explained.
“A what now?” asks Darcy.
“A racial cousin of a leprechaun who likes to drink.”
“That explains,” says Darcy, recovering from the jaw dropping sight.
“How about your family?” I asked Aeronwen.
“They’re safe with the rebels,” replies Aeronwen, “turns out that they were really going to be hanged and also a bait to lure us away from the others, but Ronald here saved them with his tricks.”
“And his name is actually a trick too.” She added.
“What?” I asked.
“His true name is not Ronald.”
“What is his true name then?” Gwydion looked at Ronald with his swollen eye.
“It’s not important,” Ronald waved the question away.
“But we’re a team!” Gurstil insisted, “we’re supposed to trust each other.”
“Fine,” he sighed, “it’s Ronackzabnaartwednumpekald.”
“What?” The four of us said in unison.
“Let’s go,” he carried Rosemary.
The others retrieve the weapons that were taken from them by the brainwashed guards.
We headed straight to the exit. A group of guards passed by. We hid until all of them are gone. The streets of Velarone is empty. Not a single person is seen outside theirs houses. What did the Archdruid Triandal do? Fortunately, we no longer have to hide in the dark alleyways.
We reached the place where we were teleported. Ronald press some hidden runes on a wall but nothing happened. After a few minutes of waiting for us to be teleported, Ronald decided to try again, still nothing happened. Ronald slammed the wall.
“What’s going on?” asks Darcy with a worried expression on her face.
“The teleportation device is jammed,” he took something out of his vest. It’s a teleportation scroll, “didn’t really want to use this except for emergencies, since doesn’t have protection from anti-teleportation wards, but I think this is an emergency.” He spoke the incantations on the scroll. We were gone in a flash.