Chapter Nineteen: A New Alliance?
“Come on, Sieg!” Sirai all but begged. “We’ve got to! This is the chance we were waiting for. If you weren’t so lily-livered you’d see that.”
Sieg ignored the insult. Sirai tossed around backhanded jabs like that all the time. Usually, he did not mean anything by them. Usually.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it”, he said even though he was. “I just think we should wait and let the guild sort it out before we go meddling.
Coenbert chose that moment to walk in, Dinane beside him. Sieg spared them a glance and wave before turning back to Sirai’s rambling.
“…teetering on the third floor isn’t going to cut it anymore…”
“What are they arguing about?” Coenbert asked Bifund. The dwarf shrugged and made his way deeper into the dwelling. Dinane shot Coenbert a quick glance before hurrying after her uncle.
The guardian had changed greatly over the weeks. The time he had spent crippled had humbled him. He moved more deliberately now and even though he had been healed, he still favoured his shield arm. Trading the blight bow for his cousin’s healing was the best decision Sieg had ever made and he would stand by that decision till he was tossed in a grave. It took some waiting but once the dwarves started rolling in, Bifund’s contacts came through. It had scarce been two weeks before they procured the healing they needed to cure Coenbert
Following their disastrous mission, The Bloodsoaked Foxes all but disbanded. Their ranger’s death simply tore them apart. Ogbad returned to his monastery. Athart was called home and Geoffrey quickly found a new company and tried to put the whole incident behind him. They still saw him from time to time out and about the dungeon town, but they had already grown distant. In the end, only Sirai and Verrin remained. Finding new camaraderie in their shared circumstances they soon fell in step with Sieg and his cousin.
Their circle had only grown since. First was Dinane, Bifund’s niece. Then, as more adventurers learned of Black Briar Knoll, Lily Pad, one of Verrin’s school mates and now, they had Jared, the druid currently trying to blend into the wall.
“Look!” Sieg argued. “We do enough delves already. No need to…”
Sirai gave him an incredulous look before bursting into harsh, sharp laughter. “Sieg…” he began. “We don’t delve! We give glorified tours.”
Sieg bit his bottom lip, refusing to admit that the rogue was right. Being the first two teams to delve into the dungeon, they initially got a lot of offers, especially from dwarves who wished to know everything about the dangerous new dungeon before stepping in. Ever quick on his feet, Sieg started organising guided delves where they would take new adventurers through the dungeon’s peculiarities. They went over the environment, monster, possible loot drops and strategies. However, the weeks had turned into months and more adventurers were familiar with the place. Work was getting slim.
“I think Sirai’s got the right of it!” Coenbert announced.
Ignoring Sieg’s momentary look of betrayal, he walked up to his cousin clasped a hand to his shoulder with a meaningful look. He knew why Sieg was reluctant to delve deeper into the dungeon. That was on him. However, he was better now. In fact, he was better than ever, focused, fit and ready. It was time to prove that by getting back to work.
Coenbert had been to the dungeon several times before and after his recovery, always to stare at the entrance and read the notices carved into the entrance hall.
Floor One, First Clear: Coenbert’s Defenders
That simple line acknowledging his accomplishment filled him with conflicted emotions. It made him feel a strange possessiveness when he saw other adventurers walking in for their own delves. It was stupid but he could not help it. This was his dungeon! He found it! His name was the first it recorded. When he discovered that his place as fastest clear was replaced he had felt robbed. The more he sat in the town and listened to other adventurers do about their day making great fortunes, the more he felt like speaking up.
‘My cousin was the first to wield a blight bow!’ He wanted to yell. ‘We’ve since sold it but we were the first to get one.’
The first time he overhead that the best method to farm the blightwasps was with explosives and fireballs, he had nearly crushed his mug. They spoke of it so lightly. Sarah had died doing that and they just… It couldn’t be helped. These days, very few adventurers knew who he and his cousin were. He shared a look with Sirai and knew that the rogue understood. In some ways, he had it worse.
Coenbert’s Defenders had been forgotten but the Bloodsoaked Foxes had not. Sadly, it might have been better if they had. They held three first clears and all of them were considered invalid. Other adventurer’s ascribed their achievement to the Warden and ignored the party itself.
“We’re adventurers next to a dungeon. Not delving is stupid!” he said to the room. “It might be dangerous but Utir’s Bears managed to beat the fifth floor without losing a single man. We can do same!”
As expected, mentioning Utir’s Bears caused the reaction he was hoping for. You couldn’t walk two feet in the dungeon town these past two days without hearing about Utir’s Bears and now that it had been revealed that they received a rare skill from the dungeon, every adventure was practically frothing at the mouth to enter the dungeon. Coenbert found himself respecting Utir, the man exemplified the adventurer he hoped to be. Sirai, he knew, felt different given that the man had delegitimised his former party’s achievements to prop up his own.
“Are you crazy? Every adventurer in town will be going after those hobbes. Utir is not going to share his secrets! The chances of…”
“We’re not going after the hobgoblins!” Sirai interrupted. “That would be stupid! We don’t have the gear or manpower.”
By we, he meant them, Coenbert realised. The rogue made it an open secret that he came from nobility, lesser nobility but still a position high and wealthy enough that he stood a good deal higher than them. It showed in his training, skills and equipment.
“The dungeon is full of treasures, every day you hear about hidden chests and large clumps of magical herbs”, he added. “We hit those!”
Coenbert considered it. He had heard similar things. As a matter of fact, they had found one of those chests in their initial delve. It held a superb-grade sword.
“Those chests are hard to find not to mention the traps that protect them.”
“Sure! But that’s what we have him for!” Siria acknowledged, jerking his head towards the druid.
“The faeries placed the loot there right? he added with a savage grin.
“They probably know exactly where they are and how to get them!” Sieg finished for him, momentarily forgetting that he was supposed to be arguing against it.
Any further discussion was immediately put on hold when a sharp knock came from the door. They all turned to face it. Verrin and Lily would not knock. Who was it? Cautiously, Sieg made his way over and opened it.
“Hello!” an upbeat pixie greeted. “Is this the home of Coenbert’s Defenders?”
“Yes!” Sieg answered, quickly scanning the area to see if she came alone. “Who’s asking?”
The pixie blew a surprising loud blast from a tiny horn before unfurling an oversized scroll twice her length, “By order of Duke Galronde, Light of the Golden Court, Advisor to the Golden Throne, Lord of the Fae Protectorate, Prince of the Summer Court…”
Sieg turned his head to call for Jared. This was supposed to be his job anyway
“Thank you very much for your aid! Your compliance has been noted!” the pixie remarked in her high pitched voice as they led her to the door. “If you see or contact any dungeon fae do not hesitate to reach out to your local faerie representative!”
“Are they dangerous?”
“Who?” the pixie asked with a confused, blank gaze.
“The dungeon fae? Are they dangerous?” Sirai asked again.
The pixie gave him an almost pitying look, the kind reserved for slow children. It was an expression mirrored on the face of their newly hired fae whisperer.
“When are you guys going to sort the dungeon out?” he asked instead.
“I can’t say”, the pixie replied fidgeting.
Jared took the jar of honey that sat on the table and passed it to her.
“You didn’t hear this from me but we’ll straighten them out this week” she answered with a squeal of joy.
“They brought that scary guy!”
“Which scary guy?” Coenbert asked.
Jared sighed and grabbed the loaf of bread and tossed it to their guest. It vanished without a trace.
“You know”, she said waving so wildly she nearly dropped the jar. “The scary guy, death… dying something… Thorn Clearwing’s son!”
“Clearwing has a son?” Sirai exclaimed in shock.
“Yeah!” the pixie confirmed, though her voice was distorted on account of her sticking her head into the jar to lick honey from the insides. “Really scary guy! They call him when things go bad. He’ll give his father a boot and everything will be alright.”
“He’d fight his own father?” Coenbert asked in confusion.
The pixie laughed. “Huntsmen will fight anything!”
As the pixie left, they deliberated her words, She was confident that her superiors would have the fae situation solved before the week was out. Ironically, a proper accord between the fae and the guild would be bad for them since it would rob them of the chance to cut a deal of their own. What if one of the terms of the agreement prevented adventurers from making private deals with the fae? If that happened, their new advantage would be lost.
“Okay!” Sieg exclaimed. “If we’re doing this, we better do it fast!”