“Weren’t you terrified?” asked Burthode Bronzefist.
“I guess if I had thought about it for a moment, I would’ve been,” replied Brother-Sargent Xoran.
“If Oi had’ta foight a vampire all by me lonesome,wit only a silver buttah knoif, Oi’d be fillin’ me britches Oi would!” added Frina, the Goblin spotter.
“Turned out that the blood-sucker and I had one thing in common.”
“We lost track of time so when the cock crowed and the sun rose, both of us were surprised. Him a little more. After that, I knew that it was destiny to serve the Dawn Goddess, as she saved me that morning.”
“That’s quite a story.”
“Oi havta agree.”
“I did not mean to boast,” murmured the Bother-Sargent.
The three of them sat for a moment.
“When do you think they will see us?” pondered Burthode Bronzefist.
Firna peered down the Hall of Petitioners, a wide, vaulted corridor carved out of white marble, the floor inlaid with tile work that showed all the free peoples of the Land lined up in an orderly fashion. At the end, was the enchanted plaque of order which she read aloud, “Der at seventeen. Wot number du we ‘ave?”
“One hundred and sixty-three,” said Burthode Bronzefist.
“Well, F— me!” swore Brother-Sargent Xoran.
This earned some side-eye from those nearby. However, the Dwarf and Goblin had become accustomed to the holy warrior’s profanity which was somehow not a sin.
Whispering, the Dwarf asked, “Our news is vital, is there no way to bring it before Consortium of the Wise with more haste?”
“When I spoke to the Uncle-Major of the local temple of the Dawn Goddess, he urged me to follow the protocols of the Citadel or the Light.”
“Roight, roight… But do ya tink dat’s da best way ta do dis?”
“Rules are important,” replied the Brother-Sargent.
“True, but is not one of the chief tenets of your goddess that the undead should not be?”
“Suffer not the undead to walk, but yes!”
“Whilst we palaver, ders literally a horde o’ dos blighters walkin’ bold as brass!”
“By the Dawn that shall not stand!” proclaimed Xoran as he leapt to his feet and began to vigorously cut to the front of the line. Burthode and Firna followed him. This of course set off a roar of protests from the others online but no one chose to challenge a large armored man with a spiked mace hanging from his hip.
Once they reached the front, the Brother-Sargent was about to pound on the door with an armored fist when he was interrupted.
Xoran looked at who had spoken. It was a Cat-Folk, marmalade with green eyes, dressed in loose-fitting clothes with a long vest that was covered in pockets.
“Please forgive us, but our need is great.”
“I am Sahx, emissary of the Great Feline Queen. Whatever it is, mine is greater,” insisted the Cat-Folk.
“Is it a threat to life everywhere?” asked Burthode.
“Uz iffin’ it ain’t…” added Firna.
Whiskers twitched with vexation and Sahx spoke softly, “Indeed it is. I bring dire news with me.”
The three companions exchanged glances and nodded.
“So you know of the undead horde as well?” asked Xoran quietly.
“WHAT?” shouted Sahx.
His eyes darting and tail flicking back and forth, Sahx leaned in and asked, “Are you telling me we’re dealing with an undead invasion as well?”
“As well as wot?” asked Firna.
“As well as this,” replied Sahx, as he took out a jar from an inner pocket.
Inside was, well… a thing. It was a writhing mass of tentacles about the size of a goose’s egg that produced mouths full of jagged teeth and eyes of a color that could not be quite described. All of them shuddered and Sahx returned it to its hidden pocket.
“What is that?” asked Burthode, who had broken into a cold sweat.
“Something unnatural,” replied Sahx.
“No shit!” declared Xoran, who was definitely feeling stressed.
“This and others like this were found at the borders of our land. Cat-Folk are the greatest hunters in the Land, we were able to track and destroy them all, save for this one.”
“’N how didja deal wit sucha unholy beasty?”
“Fire, and lots of it.”
“Sahx of the Cat-Folk, I propose an alliance. Both of us carry terrible, and yet vital news. We need to make certain that the Consortium of the Wise hears this. Will you join us in this?”
Sahx considered this. On the one paw, he was next. On the other, this Human and his companions had some equally horrific news, so maybe doubling down on this might get things moving.
With a mighty kick, Brother-Sargent Xoran kicked in the door. Beyond it was a smallish desk with a Half-Elf secretary behind it. Sitting in front was an irritated farmer.
“Excuse me! I was here first!” shouted the farmer.
“Are you here to warn of danger to all the free people of the land?” asked Xoran.
“My tomato farm is full of malicious pixies!”
“So, no,” stated Sahx.
“Apologies, but you will thank us later.”
“My tomatoes won’t!”
“Why dunt ya have a sit over der?” suggested Firna pointing to a bench along the wall.
The farmer did so with a great deal of resentment.
“May I see your chit?” asked the Half-Elf.
“We have no time for chits!” shouted Xoran.
“I’m afraid without a chit, we cannot proceed-”
Sahx produced his chit. The Half-Elf made a notation in a ledger.
“What is the nature of your petition?”
“The Land is in dreadful danger!” cried the Brother-Sargent.
“Form fifty-one slash B. If you would please fill this out in triplicate, we can move on to the next step.”
“Are you out of your M—– F—— mind!” bellowed Xoran.
The Half-Elf, who had been dealing with difficult petitioner for more years than she cared to remember fixed a tight smile on her face.
“There are procedures in place for a reason. If you follow them, it will all go smoothly.”
Sahx’s ears flattened as he produced the abomination in a jar. The Half-Elf’s eyes went wide and then she retched into a wastepaper basket behind her desk. Wiping her mouth clean, she asked, “What is THAT?”
“One of many that is plaguing the Land,” said Sahx with a touch of smugness.
Taking a deep breath, the Half-Elf pointed to a tapestry on the back wall.
“There’s a door behind there. Go up seven flights, go left and open the doors at the end of the corridor, that’s where the Consortium is. Show them THAT.”
“May the Dawn Goddess light your way.”
Before they left, Firna turned and asked one last question.
“Jest outta curiosity, ‘ow long does it take fer petition ta be heard?”
“Six months to a year.”
“Moight wanna revise dat process,” the Goblin suggested as she rejoined her friends.
In very little time they arrived.
“Should we knock?” asked Burthode.
“Bit past dat, dunt ya tink?”
Brother-Sargent Xoran threw open the door to the salon and cried, “We are heralds of woe!”
The assembled members of the Consortium of the Wise leap from their midmorning snack into defensive positions.
“Hold foes of Light!” said Panthia, Elven lady of the Starlit Lands.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry!” said Burthode, “We come as friends.”
“Funny way of doing that,” observed Dansey Bigbritches.
“Tis urgent, Oi’d say.”
“If I may?” asked Sahx as he slowly and carefully pulled the jar out. This resulted in the Consortium being horrified and then filled with many questions, which the Cat-Folk emissary answered.
“We will need to act quickly,” said Vumto, the part-Giant, “Let us muster the armies of the Free Peoples.”
“Do not forget our other problem,” reminded Brother-Sargent Xoran.
The Consortium paused and looked at the holy warrior.
“There’s another problem?”