Gyv and Mekior worked their way round the mountain. For four days, they searched for the hidden entrance back into the cavern system below the mountain leading to Gunder's Hall, finally finding it concealed behind a copse of trees. The entrance was a dank hole that was filled with the droppings, and the smell, of some predatory beast. They descended carefully, Gyv looking for clues as to what beast was responsible; scared they might meet it within. Only once at the bottom did she see it was a ruse, the small chamber's walls not the dank earth from above, but carefully worked rock. In the rear of the room, they wormed through a small hole, and were grasped by hands as they started through, hands that pulled them roughly through the hidden gap, pushing them down to the floor. They looked up to find themselves facing a group of dwarves, while, they assumed, others held them down.
"What have we here?" The voice was gruff, the common tongue thick with an accent influenced by the dwarven language. "Outsiders! Question is, who do you work for?" A dwarf stepped up, his armour dulled by black paint, a large bladed axe strapped to his back. The others stood watching them, their weapons at the ready, their faces hidden by full faced helms, visors drawn closed. "No, don't try to get up. If you satisfy us that you are allies, and not foes, we will allow you up. If not, it will be easier for us to remove your heads to drag your bodies away."
The two relaxed, knowing that they stood no chance from this prone position and that getting up could only work against them.
"Now, care to tell me who you are, where you are going and why I shouldn't just have your heads removed from your shoulders as a precautionary measure?"
Mekior looked at him, and spoke, his voice clear, but no louder than necessary to carry to the dwarf that questioned them.
"I am Mekior, a fiend Hunter from Weald Hall. My companion is Gyv, late of the House of Souls. We have lost our companions, been attacked by fiends, and worked our way through the wilds for close to a month. Just tell me what has happened to Weald Hall before you chop of my head, so that I can at least die with my curiosity satiated."
The dwarf looked at the two, their scruffy, damaged clothes, dishevelled, dirty appearances and their gaunt bodies and faces. Looking behind him a dwarf in robes nodded. He turned back and held his hand out, pulling first Mekior and then Gyv to their feet. "Welcome home. Come share a mug of ale and rest by our hearth, and I will tell you what I know. Then you must decide what you wish to do." The group moved back, fading into an opening in the rocks, invisible from the construction of the passageway.
The room beyond was just a murder hole, beyond that lay a comfortable encampment, a hearth with a roaring fire heating and lighting the room. The dwarf led them to a table, pulling up a chair as he sat, and watching as two of the dwarves mounted some stairs and took up their watch positions on the entrance below.
He pulled out a large ale skin, filling three mugs to their brims, a welcoming froth on top. Mekior took a long draught, surprised to find it pleasingly warm, a slight taste of cinnamon coming through. Gyv was more circumspect, not fully trusting the dwarves and not wanting to impair her facilities should they need to escape.
"Well, Mekior of Weald Hall and Gyv of the House of Souls, I am Fihor, sergeant of the watch and part of the Gunder's Hall army. On my word, what I say and what I tell will be only the truth, as I know it." He paused; the opening formulae completed. "An army of fiends came through. Obviously, someone had informed on the city since they headed straight for the gate." The dwarf, busy with his ale, never the less noticed the slight start Gyv made at these words, watching her surreptitiously he continued, "The city had been warned by one of their Outwalkers, a half-fiend by the stories, but who could believe one of those bastards would turn on their own? Anyways, the city set-up a welcoming committee, they held that army up for days, while the evacuation took place. It was the only solution really, once the devils knew where it was, it became merely a matter of time, there was no way to preserve it indefinitely. It was a good battle; the humans fought well they glorified their ancestors with their valour! The magic of the defenders easily the equal of the devils, at least until that blasted Hiron and his entourage arrived. Seems he was delayed with "Disciplinary Matters", never did find out exactly what that meant."
The dwarf paused to drain his mug, refilling it from the ale skin which seemed to never empty. "Anyways, Hiron and his entourage blasted the defenders, forcing them to retreat within. Our spies lost track of the battle once it went underground, but it seems apparent that the defenders were a suicide force. Once they had a significant portion of the devil's forces in there with them, they dropped the mountain on the lot of them. Weald Hall is now solidly encased in rock, the paths from there into the network blocked and rendered useless."
"Hiron was furious; he ordered his forces home, not even allowing them to recover their dead to bury of burn." He chuckled, raising his glass, "A toast to those brave souls who gave their lives to score a blow and save their fellow citizens. May their souls mingle the ancestors to make all stronger!" They all drank in silence, their thoughts on those who had died to make the ruse successful.
After a suitable time Mekior spoke up. "Tell me, Fihor, where did the refugees from Weald Hall go?" Fihor stood, pacing, coming to rest behind Gyv's chair. His hands shot out, grabbing her hair, pulling her tight head back over the top of the chair, exposing her neck. She went still, knowing that he throat would be cut at the slightest twitch, far faster than anything she could do.
"How much do you know of your companion, Mekior? Did you not see her guilt when I spoke of a traitor, an informer?" The dwarf's voice a low growl, the fury and pain within obvious. "Her kind, the lowly, traitorous scum, have led us into the trouble we have these days. I give you your informer. Take your revenge; strike her down, in memory of your city."
Mekior stood slowly, seeing the fear in Gyv's eyes, the way she let her hands hang down; he saw her hand twitch but then stay still, knowing that to reach for a weapon was instant death. He looked at her wondering how much to say, how much of the truth was needed to convince the dwarf to let her go.
"Fihor, my friend, she is no traitor. No more than any other who has been controlled by devils against their will. She bears no guilt. Her actions were the ones that led to the cities destruction, her guilt the guilt of one feeling guilt because she could not stop to harm those she loved. Hiron himself rode her consciousness, controlled her. More than my city was lost to the wiles of Hiron; she was forced to kill her own husband, betray her own people and strung up as a toy, to be a mere pawn for Hiron when he no longer needed her." He stopped, looked at the dwarf, and knelt down. "Kill her, and then me, if you must; though it will not change what has happened. I will not strike at you or your fellow sentries, but if you kill her then you must kill me as well." He bowed his head; not daring to look up until a soft hand took his chin, lifted it and placed a kiss upon his lips and saw Gyv looking down at him, tears in her eyes.
He turned and saw Fihor watching them.
"Make your way to Lake Harmony. A new city is under construction there. The Dark Paeons and the refugees corroborate to build a new city, a new society. A strange mix, but it seems that much is happening within the realms of the Dark Paeons and they, too, produce outcasts. We will give you provisions for your way. Go well, and in peace."
The two rested, sleeping that night in the comfort of the dwarven outpost. The trip to the lake took them another week, but they moved quickly, eagerly, the journey a happy one now that they knew most of the city had been saved. Gyv and Mekior talked often, rejoicing in their new found love, the fact that Jeria lived and the city, though destroyed, lived on in a new place. They were awe-struck when they entered, amazed at the cavern's size and the massive wall that enclosed much of it, nothing visible beyond its high ramparts. They gazed in wonder, and followed the guards that arrived, into what they hoped would be a better future.
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