“Please, make yourself comfortable,” said Darsey Bigbriches.
Garthort paused. This was the sort of thing he would say just before he would do something terrible to a prisoner.
“Oh, and help yourself to second brunch. I hope you like scones.”
A table full of delectable baked goods, sausages, a cheese plate, eggs prepared in a variety of styles, and a large dish of bacon that was crispy but didn’t look too crispy. The Hafling was already tucking in so it wasn’t poisoned.
Garthort sat down and took a scone. It was delicious.
“You must add some clotted cream and strawberry preserves! It’s a lovely combination!”
Wiping his mouth with a cloth napkin, Darsey smiled and asked, “What do you think of the view?”
It was spectacular. This feast had been set up on the top of one of the many parapets of the Citadel or the Light. Looking out, you could see the gleaming, snow-covered peaks of the surrounding mountains, the sky was brilliant azure punctuated with fluffy clouds, and below was a verdant valley that cradled a picturesque village.
‘Very nice,” replied Garthort.
“Ooo! Look up!”
Above them flew a pride of Griffins, in a tight arrowhead formation, each being ridden by an Eleven warrior in gleaming armor. They passed above doing a barrel roll, then flew off.
“I have to say, I never get weary of seeing that. Quite impressive, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Would you care for some tea? I just got some ruby rooibos that I, personally think is delightful. Just add a touch of-”
“What are you doing?” interrupted the captive wizard.
“Why am I here?”
“I just thought you might enjoy some sunshine and a good meal.”
Garthort dropped the half-eaten scone on his plate and sneered, “Really?”
“Is that so hard to believe?” asked Darsey as he plucked a strip of bacon off the plate.
“Well, given I’ve been your prisoner for an undetermined amount of time, and I still have this instant kill collar on and neither thing has changed, I’m going to say, yeah, that sounds about right.”
“I can see how you might feel that way. However, given your reputation, you can forgive our overabundance of caution.”
“We were dealing with Garthort the Wicked after all!”
“Bards! Such wags, you know they do love to throw some shade. Between you and I, it feels like they are overcompensating.”
“So naturally we had to take many precautions for one such as yourself.”
Adding some clotted cream and strawberry preserves to his scone, Garthort shrugged and said, “You’d be fools not to.”
“So, what do you really want from me?” asked Gathort who leaned back in his chair.
“Our idyllic surroundings notwithstanding, something terrible is loose in the world,” said Darsey.
“What has the Society of the Night gotten up to?”
“It’s not them.”
“Has a dragon awakened?”
Darsey took a sip of tea and spoke softly, “Abominations from Outer realms.”
Garthort stopped mid-chew, paused, then swallowed with less relish than the food deserved.
“What exactly are we talking about?”
“That’s why I have come to you, we have little knowledge of such… monstrosities. However, if rumors are to be believed, you are an expert on this subject.”
Smiling for the first time in quite a while, Garthort smiled.
“You were wise to come to me.”
“But I have certain terms to be met. First, take off this damned collar. Second, the restoration of my keep and everything those adventurers looted from me. Third, I want to punish them personally. Fourth-”
“I think we can offer you something even better than all that.”
“That would have to be something really big.”
“You know what it is to be feared, do you not?”
“I do. It’s the best.”
“I’m certain that it must be a rush, emotionally speaking. But do you know what it is to be loved?”
“I’ve been in relationships.”
“I’m not talking about romance. Have you ever walked down a street, in any city, town, or hamlet, and been greeted with unadulterated adoration?”
“Once I… No. I can’t say I have.”
“Few can. But the Land is in grave peril and I believe you are the one person who can turn the tide of this approaching disaster.”
“What do I get out of this?”
“I won’t speak to you of honor, no one can eat honor.”
“However, heroes rarely pay for meals or drinks. Or anything at all.”
“Do you think they might put up statues of me?”
“I’d be astonished if they did not!”
“Being loved, that might be nice.”
“I can speak from personal experience, it is the best.”
“People have to know that I’m the one who is saving them!”
“And I will need a new THE.”
“A new what?”
“Not what, the. I was known as the Wicked, but if I am to be a hero. Saying it out loud feels strange, but also right.”
“Well, often times people bestow such things on heroes. Carnahn the Bold was called that after defeating Kurt Stonefist in single combat.”
“What do you think they’ll call me?” pondered Garthort.
“There any many, many possibilities. Take this first step on this path and discover it.”
Garthort stood and offered his hand to Darsey, who shook it enthusiastically.
“Excellent! Come with me, there is much to do,” said the Halfling.
Gesturing to the table, Garthort asked, “Can I get some of this to go?”