The taste wasn’t the worst part. It was the consistency, slimy yet somehow gritty. Drought in itself was useful, that however did not make it popular. Half trolls blood and half alcohol, the mixture was just barley palatable. Drinking it would help heal flesh wounds at a miraculous rate. Allowing soldiers and mercenaries alike to get back in fighting condition in a day or two, for what may usually take weeks.
Drought however, was not a cure all. You would still need to clean wounds, or else infection could take hold. Any seasoned warrior could tell you how deadly that could be. While broken bones may be slightly helped, the rate was at most doubled. Meaning you would need to drink a liter a day for a full month, or just wait the normal two it would take for a bone to heal.
Leon despised the stuff. Due to past experiences he was forced to drink it near daily for around half a year. To add insult to injury, drought was expensive, the bottle he was drinking had probably cost the company two bars alone.
Leon shuddered, holding back his vomit. His hand rested against the tent pole.
“How's the shoulder feeling?” Roger asked, laughing at Leon's expense.
“Shuddup!” Leon tried to say before he heaved again, having to swallow back what tried to come up.
Leon hated to admit it, but the wound was already feeling better. The dull itch that was ever present was now gone. When he went to test his shoulder he hardly felt any pain anymore. By tomorrow Leon suspected all he would have left was a small round scar.
“Haha! If only that crap got you drunk, huh? You might not taste it!” Roger chuckled at his own joke.
The Rest of the day had gone by in semi-normality. Rodger did end up leading some combat drills with this year's recruits, the previous instructor having taken a nasty stab to the leg. Leon had been present to support Roger, which inevitably led Leon to taking over the drilling. He performed the drills, while Roger used him as an example of ‘proper form’.
“Hey. Was it just me or did you seem a little tense around that church guy?” Roger asked his friend.
“You know I’ve never liked the church.” Leon said.
“I know, but you’ve never had a problem with the people before, just who they worship.” Roger stated, sitting down on his cot.
“I’m just cautious is all. Aren’t you wondering what the hell we got ourselves into? You know just as well as I do, that there is a reason he’s paying so well.” Leon said sitting on his own cot across from Roger.
Roger met Leon's eye, without words telling him he knew there was more to it. Roger however did not push the issue.
“I’d say a man who worships the god of dominion expects others to do as they're told. He probably thinks we’ll only be loyal for good pay. Lots of people think that of Arothian mercs. That's how we like it.” Roger said, taking his hair out of the messy bun it was usually in.
“I hope you’re right.”
The walk was cold, a final breeze of cool night air hit right as the sun rose. The cloaks the pair wrapped themselves in helped ward off the wind, but did little for the slowly encompassing chill that resulted from time spent in the cold air.
Their stomachs were empty due to having to leave before breakfast. They made their way through the camps, slightly lost. After wandering around for a bit, afraid to be seen asking direction, Leon spotted a large black tent. It was easily the size of Captain Garets tent, and sported a host of insignias representing the church of Dorithe.
Sound could be heard coming from within, muffled voices and the clinking metal. That's not what captivated their attention though, it was the smell. It was most likely the men's breakfast, but that didn’t stop the duo from increasing their pace. When they reached the tent they didn’t bother announcing themselves, figuring the occupants had been expecting their arrival.
Heads turned their way, several flinched back at the sight of Leons faceplate. Their assumptions had been right, it seemed they had caught the men in the middle of their morning meal. One of the holy men stood up from the table, walking over to meet the two new arrivals.
“Ah, you must be from The Gilded Spear, inquisitor Cli'ven said you’d make your way here. I’m Paladin Natane.” He greeted.
“Ro’ gar, pleasure. Say if you don’t mind…” Roger led on, nodding his head toward the food.
“Please, help yourself. It’s going to be a long day.” The man greeted them walking over to the table, while turning his head to meet Leon's eyes. “And what did you say your name was.”
“Leon, and thank you for the hospitality, Nathan.” Leon answered as they sat at the long table, watching Roger fit as much food on his plate as he could.
“It’s no bother, Generosity is one of the main tenatites of the church. Nathan said, smiling before continuing. “Ah, and it's actually prono-”
“Don’t bother, I’ve known him for nearly four years and he still gets my name wrong.” Roger patted the templar on his shoulder, before continuing to eat. “You don’t stand a chance.”
“Quite...” It seemed the young man didn’t know how to deal with the odd pair. So he didn’t try.
The rest of Roger’s meal was quickly finished. Leaving a slightly uncomfortable silence in the tent. Leon took the opportunity to inspect the five other men currently occupying the table.
Everyone was dressed in the same black tabard as Cli'ven, this made it harder to judge what armor they wore underneath. If Leon had to guess, it was no less than full plate, the same as the absent inquisitor. The most variety between the paladins was their weapons, maces, hammers, even a warpick. These were the weapons of choice to fight against heavily armoured opponents.
Leon was the only man to carry a sword. He rarely fought anything but your basic footman, and a sword was perfect for up close and fast encounters. He was most skilled with his sword, mostly from experience never formally being trained; excluding the occasional drill with the company. This did not however leave him useless against armored opponents, he had his own methods to deal with this inevitable occurrence.
Just as Leon had finished his thought, Cli'ven entered the tent, accompanied by an elderly man wearing a cloak similar to Leon’s. Under the cloak, Leon spotted expensive silk clothes.
When Natane saw the entrance of his superior he stood at attention, followed by the rest of the holy men.
“At ease men. Good to see you both made it early. This means we can set out as quickly as possible.” Cli'ven didn't so much slow down as he made his way over to a small chest in the back wall of the tent. “We’ll head out immediately. Cortain, here's what you asked for. “
He then tossed a canvas bag toward the robed individuel, who caught it with a swift hand. The man opened the bag, inspecting the contents the man smiled, seemingly happy with what he found.
“Good, good. This should work.” Was all Cortain said before pocketing the sack, in his cloak.
“Right, no time to lose. Follow me.” Cli'ven ordered everyone within the tent, wasting no time with pleasantries.
The paladins all donned cloaks to cover their armor, as they made to follow their leader. Nobody seemed put off by the man's abrupt nature, most likely used to it. Leon locked eyes for a moment with Roger, with a nod they stood to join the others, keeping to the back of the group.
It seemed that whatever Count Kelos had planned was already in full swing, as every soldier in the camp was moving at a hurried pace. Sergeants were shouting orders, while the average man seemed caught off guard with no idea they would attack the town again so quickly.
The raid party moved swiftly through the barely controlled chaos, none seemed to even look in their direction as they entered the town proper. Most peasants were still in their homes only the most wealthy and soldiers retreated into the secondary wall. Soldiers caught looting were outright punished, causing the town to look strangely normal.
This didn’t stop people from barricading themselves into their homes as the occupation progressed. In the end after the war was over a new lord would be appointed by the king, most likely House Kelos.
Kelos’ soldiers walked alongside them as they made their way through town, only parting when Cli'ven’s lead directed them to the east end of the inner wall. When they finally stopped Cli’ven directed everyone to gather around him.
“Cortain, how long until you’re ready?”
“Give me an hour, less if you find a better spot.“ Cortain said , inspecting the rough ground, not at all to his liking. “A smithy, or anything with a stone floor will do better than this.”
“Alright, it's time for you to tell us what's going on. Who’s this man?” Roger spoke up, With the agreement of Leon.
Surprisingly the rest of the group looked as lost as Leon and Roger, only they didn’t risk voicing their concerns to their superior. Cli'ven didn’t look surprised, most likely knowing the question would arise soon.
“You haven’t told them yet?” Cortain asked, confusion and irritation written across his face. ”You’ve got to be kidding me! If one of them so much as moves out of place it could ruin everything!”
“You’d be more knowledgeable than I. Explain your own witchcraft.” Cli'ven sneered, dismissing the responsibility to Cortain.
“Witchcraft!?” Roger exclaimed.
“Magic.” Leon took more than one step backwards, making sure everyone was within his sightline.
“Witchcraft is a barbaric means to manipulate the Aether. No, what I practice is a much more refined method, spell weaving.” The self proclaimed magician boasted, pride filling his posture. “Whatever your premade biases may be, this is how you’re getting into that keep, so I suggest you pay attention.”
“You said it would be safe, Cliven.” Everyone's eyes turned toward Leon as he spoke, his words cutting through Cortain’s speech.
“Riding a boat is safe, if you know not to jump overboard.” Cli'ven met Leon’s hidden glare with his own. “Listen to the man, he knows what he's doing. Unlike you.”
Roger pulled back on Leon’s arm, trying and failing to move him away from Cli'ven.
“Come on man, it can’t be that bad. Just be grateful we don't have to crawl through another gods forsaken sewer.” Roger said in anxious laughter, he didn’t look any more happy about the situation than his friend.
Leon relented, giving Cortain a gesture to continue. His glare never strayed from Cli'ven.
Cortain was still speechless, apparently not noticing Leon's faceplate until it was directed toward him. It took a light prod from the inquisitor to get him started again.
“Ahem, as I was saying. Spell weaving is a structured process, it's something that can be predicted, unlike other so-called magics.” Cortain sneered, his ego now in full effect. “So there is no need to be afraid of what may happen, because I can tell you what will.”
Corvin paused his speech as he reached into his bag, pulling out a small glass flask.
“Earlier this week, one of Inquisitor Cli'ven’s spies was able to secure this water from a small garden pond within the keep’s courtyard.” He paused yet again waiting for something else than the confused looks he got from everyone present.
“Cut to the chase, Cortain.” The inquisitor said impatiently tapping his foot.
“To put it in layman's terms. I can connect this water with its source, in practice sending you to the pond, completely bypassing the walls. The only problem is I can only send a limited number of men through, being eight as of now.” The magician seemed to think it over for a second before finishing. “Oh! It’s also a one way trip, you’ll have to find your own way out.”
Leon was thinking of walking away here and now, damn the consequences. He was not at all reassured by the magician's finishing statement.
“That shouldn't be a problem, once we get Count Elton as our hostage.” Cli'ven helpfully added. “See Leon, all perfectly safe.”
“Oh, and keep your hands and feet inside the circle when we start.” Cortain added as an afterthought.
“Why's that?” Natane asked, with slight reluctance.
An indescribable look presented itself on Cortains face. He shared a glance with Cli'ven, who slightly shook his head in admonishment.
“No reason.” The magician blatantly lied.