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“I will go see Lord Belmont tonight.”
The servant nodded. “Should I go now, or do you want me to wait?”
Bardulf looked at the reports for a moment. “It wouldn’t be good to keep Lord Belmont waiting.” He picked up his reports, and stashed them in his satchel. The two of them walked towards the doors, and Bardulf stopped the serving girl as he walked by. He fished the last two coins out of his pouch, and handed them to her. “Thanks for keeping the ale coming.” She called out her thanks as Bardulf and the servant left.
The night was cold, and Bardulf found himself wishing he had worn a warm cloak. Their path was illuminated by the moon as it rose into the sky. It was a very peaceful evening in Belmont Acres.
When they arrived at Belmont Manor, the guards outside let them pass without question. As the servant led Bardulf through the halls, he admired the tapestries and statues that Lord Belmont had collected over the years. They arrived at a doorway on the second floor and stopped. “This is the Crimson Study where Lord Belmont works. Wait here, and I will come get you in a moment.” He knocked on the door, and a muffled voice on the other side asked him to enter. The servant opened the door and stepped in.
Bardulf admired the suits of armor that stood guard outside the doorway while he waited. They were crafted in a style from ages past, mostly made of chain-mail. But what really caught his eye was the tabard. The symbol embroidered on it was a scarlet dragon on a field of gold, the symbol of the previous kings of Karathon. Any more thoughts were lost as the door opened, and the servant motioned for him to enter.
Bardulf immediately understood why it was called the Crimson Study. The whole room was decorated with red. Lord Belmont stood out in the room as he paced the floor in a deep blue cloak. The lord’s hair had gone silver with age, but was still streaked with the darkness of his youth. Bardulf noticed a fire behind the worries in Lord Belmont’s eyes as he entered the study.
“Lord Belmont,” said the servant, “may I introduce Bardulf Sylvani.”
Bardulf bowed low. “It is a pleasure, my lord.”
“You may retire for the evening, Daniel,” Lord Belmont said to the servant. “Thank you for your service this evening.” Daniel bowed and left in silence. Lord Belmont looked past Bardulf, “I would like some privacy for this meeting.”
Bardulf turned and saw two guards at the doorway. He wondered how he had missed them. “We will be right outside, m’lord.” They closed the door behind them.
“I hope I am not interrupting anything this evening Bardulf.”
Bardulf nodded. “Only a quiet evening reading reports in a tavern, Lord Belmont.”
“Please, call me Alain, or Lord Alain if you must.” He smiled. “It has been too long since I have been able to enjoy a simple drink like that. I trust you are sober? It would do no good to have you passing out on me.”
“I confess that I would have rather waited until morning for this meeting, but I am sober enough.”
Alain nodded. “Good. Let me get right to the point, Bardulf. I need your skills as a Ranger.”
Bardulf frowned. “Daniel told me that you got a message today before you asked him to find me. I presume that it is related?”
This time it was Alain’s turn to frown. “He told you that? He is new and needs to learn his place in my household and hold his tongue.” He paused a moment. “But, you are correct.
“Six years ago, a scholar came to me requesting funds for an expedition. He had been studying the legends of the lost kingdoms of the west, and wanted to try and discover them. I agreed, and we gathered a team of adventurers and explorers for this purpose. They left five years ago.”
“Wait, five years ago?” Bardulf thought for a moment. “There was a former Ranger who came through around then and said he had a job. He couldn’t tell me what it was, though.”
“It was Calyn Solym, I believe?”
“Yes, that’s him. He studied some of those legends.” Bardulf paused. “Do you want me to find them?”
“Yes, and no.” The older man sighed. “My last message from them was four years ago. I presumed they all perished. The message I received today was from a servant of mine who went on the mission.” He held out a letter.
Bardulf took it, and looked over the letter. It was all gibberish to him, most likely a code. He looked up and handed it back. “I can’t read it.”
“Only a select few of my servants can read or write it. That is a code I developed.” He looked at the message. “It doesn’t go into detail, but it says that they discovered people living out in the wilds, and found some amazing artifacts. Whatever they found, one of their party took control and has imposed his will. There is something dangerous going on, but my servant didn’t say more than that. Bardulf, I feel responsible for this. I need someone to go and discover what is going on.” He held out something else, which Bardulf took. “This also came with the message. It is the location of where they are at.”
Bardulf gazed at the map. Wherever they were, it was deep into the mountains to the west.
“If you go, I will give you a 100 coins to buy supplies, as well as send help for your farm while you are gone. When you return, you will receive payment of 2,000 coins for your troubles.”
“2,000 coins as well as help on my farm? If I may be so bold, why so much?”
Lord Alain didn’t answer for a moment. He finally replied, “My son went on that expedition. I need to do something.”
Bardulf was quiet for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. He gazed at the carpet, his eyes following the patterns. He finally looked up to speak, and noticed a strange shadow in the window behind Lord Alain. He shouted as a large creature crashed through the window, sending glass flying. Lord Alain covered his face to block the shards.
What looked to be a massive serpent with wings crashed to the floor, and pulled itself up to a height of two men. Large leathery wings folded up as it looked around the room with dark eyes. The creature had a small horn on its snout, and Bardulf saw spines running down its spine. The tail ended with an arrowhead like spike.
Seeing Lord Alain, it struck as fast as lightning, biting him on the shoulder. It drew back, and stared at the man as he cried out in pain. “No witnessssessss,” it hissed. The serpent turned its scaly head and looked at Bardulf. There was a hint of surprise in the eyes. “Ranger Lordssss.” Bardulf readied himself as the serpent drew back to attack.
Inventory: satchel with reports, dagger, empty coin pouch
Health: healthy, but a bit drunk
Bardulf only has a split second before the creature attacks. What should he do?
A) Call for the guards.
B) Attack the creature.
C) Attempt to talk to the serpent.