Chapter 8 - Masada

As the Sea Wyvern berthed in Farshore bay, a grim reception party quickly arrived. Amella, who had been tending to the Fire Troll, had seen the Wyvern entering the bay and sent Tavey to inform other concerned parties. By the time the gangplank was lowered, Amella had been joined by Diamondback, Urol, Bryson Talbot, Miranda Rivers, Malfus Fairwind and Lavinia Vanderborne. Lavinia stood in the front of the group with a pensive look on her face. She watched as each person descended the gangplank form the Fire Troll: Ornrik, Lefty, Saris and Viselys. Lavinia was making a visible effort not to shout out, nor to run up to Viselys; she waited until he was on the pier and had stepped to the front of his entourage before leading her own forward. As she did, her gaze continually shifted to the top of the gangplank hoping to see Adameus emerge.

When she was standing in front of Viselys, she drew a deep breath, though she uttered only one word, “Adameus?”

Viselys’ only response was to shake his head sadly. Behind Lavinia, Diamondback began to sob, and Miranda put her arm around the girl to comfort her.

Lavinia drew another deep breath and rolled her eyes upwards in an attempt to hold onto her own tears, which were welling up. This effort proved fruitless as a thin trail dropped down each cheek as she nodded her understanding. She turned and took custody of Diamondback from Miranda and led the sobbing girl away. This served as a catalyst to disburse the rest of the crowd who moved off in silence with head bowed.

“Now what, boss?” Lefty asked Viselys, breaking the silence.

Viselys nodded grimly as though agreeing that keeping busy was the best thing for everyone. “We should find Captain Kabbanja to solicit his input. We need to begin fortifying this town against the coming storm.”

And the militia captain was glad to offer advice. Together they determined that no bulwarks could be built or fortified unless the lumber of the forests could be readily harvested. The nearest and best lumber was near the east gate, but the lumberjacks of Farshore had been prevented from tapping this resources by a tribe of territorial Troglodytes that inhabited those woods. The trogs themselves were a security problem, as their hunting parties had been encroaching closer and closer to Farshore. This meant that theoretically they already had an enemy at the gate while they were preparing to battle another from the harbor.

It was decided that the trogs were the first priority. Viselys devised a plan to lure the trog hunters out of the forest. First, he would have the lumberjacks start work. He and his comrades would either act as lookout, or intersperse themselves among the workers. As a further incentive, they started a barbeque in the clearing, roasting a pig on a spit, hoping the smell would be further incentive to the hungry trogs.

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The plan worked – perhaps too well. The trogs attacked en mass and the civilians were barely able to escape. In fact, one was badly injured and would not have survived if Ornrik had not been on hand to administer emergency healing.

The trogs attacked in waves, but ultimately the better armed and experienced heroes reduced their numbers to a more manageable level as the bodies of the foul-smelling reptiles piled up – among them, their chief. Eventually, the handful that remained, all badly injured, retreated back into the forest.

Viselys made the call to pursue, pressing the advantage. After a long chase, they arrived at the troglodyte village. The only remaining adult male trogs were the injured ones they had chased down. The rest were females and juveniles. The remaining males, armed with spears, stood their ground while the women and children cowered in groups at the far end of the village.

Viselys tried very hard to communicate to the surviving trogs that he had no desire to kill them, but that they had to leave. Unfortunately, they had no common language and unless he could communicate with them, it was clear they intended to stand their ground.

“I’m not prepared to butcher these creatures. I’d rather have the guidance of Lavina and the council,” Viselys stated. He looked at Malfus, “Can you run back to town, explain the situation to the council, and find out what they want us to do. Then come back and tell us. We’ll pull back until you return.”

Malfus gave Viselys an odd look, but agreed and ran off. He returned about a half an hour later, “They said that these creatures are an infestation, just like rats, and should be treated as such. Get rid of ‘em.”

Everyone felt pretty uncomfortable about this (with the exception of Saris, who didn’t seem to care either way). So they returned to the village and Viselys made one more attempt at communication. When this failed, the hostilities erupted.

Ornrik made quick work of the remaining male hunters with a well-placed fireball. This sent the females into a frenzy. Horrified by an apparently apocalyptic occurrence beyond their ken, the females panicked. They grunted and hissed, presumably their form of communication, and apparently came to some sort of consensus. They all went silent … and began exterminating the juveniles.

Viselys and the rest were shocked and horrified, but to stunned to act. When no children were left alive, they turned on each other. None of the females offered any resistance to their attackers leaving the party with the impression of some sort of suicide pact. When their was only one remaining female, she picked up a spear and, with a terrible cry and his, impaled herself upon it.

Saris shrugged, “Savages. Glad they saved us the effort.” Malfus agreed, but Ornrik and Viselys weren’t so sure. This scene would haunt them for a long time.

When they arrived back in town, they were greeted by Lavina, “So, has the troglodyte situation been resolved?”

Viselys explained, as diplomatically as possible, what had occurred, but there was little he could do to soften such a horrific tale.

Indeed, Lavinia was horrified, “You mean you butchered the innocent women and children?!”

Viselys was taken aback, “Well, technically, they butchered each other and themselves.”

Lavinia nodded, “Of course they did. After you killed all the men, the last of which in front of their very eyes, with a display of magical might the likes of which they probably never dreamt of, nor could even conceive, they were left devoid of hope. They probably preferred to die by their own hands as quickly and painlessly as possible.” Viselys knew that Lavinia was not just talking about troglodytes anymore, as her gaze repeatedly fell on the harbor, rather than the east gate, as she spoke.

“Well, what would you have had me do, my lady?” Viselys asked with some frustration.

Lavinia did no respond directly. She only glared at him. After a few moments, she spoke in a low tone, “I want you to arrange a memorial for Adameus. I need some kind of closure, and I’m not the only one.” This last part struck Viselys as rather accusatory, though he could not deduce the reason for it.

“I will see to it right away,” he said, but she was already turning away by time he finished the word ‘it.’ Had he not lowered his tone, he would have missed her almost whispered, “Thank you.”

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