Leo and Gran stood side by side as they waited patiently outside the doors to the elder council. The two had just finished giving their respective reports on what had occurred in the dungeon and were now waiting for the elder's decision.
Gran sighed and scratched his right ear, "It is truly a tragedy that has occurred for the humans. Two members of the royal family dead, and even my friend Nick is gone as well. It is truly a shame."
Leo looked over at Gran and nodded his head, "Indeed, Sir Ken is besot with grief within the castle walls and mourns the loss of his sister. Take this to heart Gran, no matter how many centuries you live, it will always hurt to watch friends of the younger races die." Leo, or Leopold, had lived for close to 800 centuries now and had seen many friends come and go. Gran nodded in respect, listening to his elder's words.
They both turned and bowed, as the large vine door opened toward the chamber once again. The two walked in and bowed a second time toward a half-moon arrangement of chairs each fill with an elf.
"We greet the elders of the forest." The two said together.
"And we greet the future of the forest." The elders responded. The pleasantries over, Leo and Gran both took a seat in front of the council. The doors closed behind them and the room was lit only by the glowing plants all around them. Sparkling seeds dropped down from the ceiling and disappeared into the floor as all was quiet.
"We have come to a decision." One of the elders began, "The dungeon shall be watched for now by the forest guard protectors. We are long over-due to send a settling of our own to the Dungeon Town, and this shall be rectified. Leo, return to your post in the rangers and continue to be our eyes and ears. Gran, you will return to your adventurer group and search the dungeon from within for signs of corruption."
Gran raised both his arms and raised his head, a sign that he wished to speak. The central elder stamped his staff onto the ground, granting him permission.
"Elders, my team is currently unavailable to explore the dungeon as the human members are in mourning. It is unlikely we will enter the dungeon anytime soon." He explained.
"That is acceptable." An elder replied, "As long as you are there you can do your own investigating. The humans will learn to cope with their grief eventually, and you should help them expedite this. You may be called upon to intervene with the meeting between the protectors and the guild, so watch for messages."
Gran bowed his head and took a step back.
Leo now raised his hands and moved forward for his turn to speak. At the elder's strike, he began, "Given the circumstances, it is unlikely I will be treated as I once was even if we elves had nothing to do with the murders. Humans are unpredictable creatures, and grow worse when angry. If unwarranted prejudice arises, should I evacuate myself and the other elves within the city?"
The elders mused to themselves for a moment, "That would be a wise choice; we do not to have unnecessary conflict when we can avoid it. Calmer heads will fix the situation in time, but you must stay with the third prince so as to keep the good relationship between you two. Are you both satisfied with your assignments?"
Leo and Gran clasped their rights arms over their chest, and released them slowly with a head nod.
"See to it that the will of the forest is protected. We are the guardians, and it is our home." The central elder struck the ground twice, and the two elves disappeared from the room. They reappeared outside where they had previously been standing, but now there was only vines where the door had been.
Fiora knocked back a beer as she rested by herself in the local tavern. The tavern in the tent area was not the best, compared with the others found in the main town, but it was the best place to get a drink after night-fall and was very popular with the mass of adventurers that lived here.
Fiora mused to herself how much the town had grown since she had first come here. A large wooden palisade surrounded the tent area, or Tent City as it was called locally. The few shops that were originally here had grown alongside other businesses to form their own lively area that was becoming known as Iron City and was also surrounded by the wooden palisade. The Adventurer Guild had a real building now and administered the quests for loot.
"And all this in about a month. Cheers." She sighed to herself as she drowned another glass. "If only Nick was here to appreciate this."
With Nick's death, the group had temporarily split up. Nat, who had been controlled by the demon, blamed herself for losing control even though everyone knew it was not her fault. She had retired to her tent to practice meditation to lose her emotions. Fiora knew the close relationship between the twins, and she doubted Nat would ever truly recover. Gran had returned to the elf village in the forest to give a report on the incident. Jonas, who had been best friends with Nick and in love with Natalie, had left to travel to the Mage Guild in Duran. He wanted to grow stronger to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
"He's also trying to give Nat some space." Fiora shook her head, "You foolish man, what she needs now is comfort not isolation." She herself had tried to keep Nat company, but had been refused at the tent flap.
Fiora raised her glass to signal for another drink. The barkeep walked over and shook his head, taking the glass from Fiora.
"Miss, you've had too much already. Go home." He told her firmly.
Fiora roused herself and tried to stand up, wobbling slightly, "Who are you to twell me what to do?" She said, a little drunkenly, "I'm a C-rank adventurer you knwow, I have responsabilaties nwow because stupid Koran died, twhat traitor. I want another gwass."
The barkeep caught her as she stumbled and helped her back into her chair, "I'll let you sleep in one of the bedrooms upstairs. Half-price to you for not causing any trouble."
"Owkay." She muttered as she stood up and followed the barkeep up the stairs to the rooms. The rooms upstairs were seldom used by adventurers unless one found a good tavern wench or wretch to warm the bed. Fiora collapsed drunkenly onto the bed as the barkeep closed the door behind her. She waited until his foot steps were gone before she chortled and took a flask out of her bodice.
"Foolish barkeep, you can't be a C-rank adventurer without being able to hold your booze. She laughed to herself, this was one of the cons used by all high level adventurers. The barkeep must be new to fall for it; so she decided the room would be his lesson payment.
After finishing her flask, she placed it on the table and closed her eyes. She was snoring in just a few minutes.
Lord Mannis sighed as he rubbed his head. The lord was sitting in his office desk as he read through the reports on his desk. The whole incident was one problem after another for him.
"Damnation Rotch, couldn't you have taught you son better on hiding his tracks." He swore under his breath.
Lord Mannis was used to dealing with shady deals and shadow crime from the other nobles, in fact he expected it to happen if a noble was good. Some things could only be accomplished under the table in his experience, which is how he ended up from a lowly third son to the leader and voice of all the nobles in Duran. He even had contacts and friends in some of the other city states in the country of Nehatra.
However, dealing with the repercussions of such shady activities gave him a headache, especially since he had to take steps to protect his own interests.
Sir Koran, first-borne of Lord Rotch, had made a mess of his and other nobles' affairs. The documents in his adventurer tent had lead the city guard to crack-down on a number of criminal organizations within the city, including some run by nobles. Of course, only low nobles were found guilty as the high ranking nobles were smart enough to hid their affairs properly. Still, two of Mannis's friends had been ratted out and he had been forced to sign their arrest papers. This ruined his mood, naturally.
In his personal opinion, Koran had been far to reckless for a member of the nobility. Nobles dabbled in the dark dealings to accomplish ambition, but they never dived into it like what Koran had done. Slavery, brothels, counterfeiting, treason, theft were all among the list of crimes the young boy, in Mannis' eyes, had managed to commit. The worst, however, was demon worship. Koran's city home had been revealed to be the main site for a demon worshiping cult with connections to the empire. Naturally, the church fanatics and even the king's personal guard had swarmed the area. Almost every house in the slums was forced open and investigated; revealing other criminals in the process. Even Mannis despised demon worship; more for the risks than the actual practice. He especially hated any connection to the empire, as it would most definitely destroy everything in it's path.
A knock at the door woke Mannis from his thoughts. "Come in." He called out.
A servant walked into the office and bowed, "Lord Mannis, Father Tobias to see you."
Mannis nodded, "Send him in."
The servant bowed and exited the room. Father Tobias entered a sec second later, walking over to sit in front of Lord Mannis.
"Mannis." He said simply.
"Tobias." Mannis returned, "What brings you here today?"
Father Tobias looked at the reports on his desk and inclined his head, "I apologize for disturbing you while you are busy. It must be hard cleaning up you fellow's mistakes."
Lord Mannis smiled, but it did not reach his eyes, "I'm just surprised you had the time to visit, what with your church finding all the things you missed in the city."
The two smiled at each other, but the tension in the room could cut iron.
Tobias sighed and rubbed the sleeve of his robe, "Well, enough of that. Have you found anything to be worried about?"
Mannis nodded his head and pulled out a report, "Koran and his friends were the main leaders of the group and are all dead; however, they did not start the cult on their own. They were given the secrets by two who are only referred to as 'the prophets'. These true leaders are no longer in Duran, and have not been in here in weeks."
Tobias sighed and crossed his hands, "You think they moved on to another city?"
"It is likely they are emissaries for the empire to breed internal strife before they invade. I'm sending this information to all my allies as well as the leaders of the other cities. Groatland and Soria will also receive a copy. This was an opportunity in disguise as we now know one of their hidden cards." Mannis informed him.
Tobias nodded his head, "I will make sure this report makes it to the top of the clergy as well. We must do well to weed out any corruption or evil in our midst."
Lord Mannis didn't say anything.
Father Tobias got up and bowed, "I thank you for your time Lord Mannis; I also came here to inform you that the father has been chosen to be sent to the dungeon town. It is Father Jonas."
Lord Mannis couldn't keep the frown off his face, "Jonas the Pure? You play dangerous games Tobias."
Father Tobias shrugged his shoulders, "To be honest, I did not have much say in this matter. My place within the church has been hurt due to this incident, much like your own reputation. We must recover what we can in the meantime."
Lord Mannis nodded his head, "I will keep you informed if anything else comes up."
"Thank-you." Father Tobias said simply and he left with a graceful air.
Mannis sighed and rubbed his head, getting back to his reports.