* * *
On the road, the pair were attacked by Goblins led by a Dark Elf. Kieara slew those that were attacking her, and darted into the woods while the knight finished off his foes. She used the last of her Vampiric blood to fly through the woods at great speed, leaving Sir Dustin behind. Before daybreak, she was standing on a mountainside overlooking the city of Cleften.
The town was deep in the precipitous mountains, built along the edge of a deep chasm. On the far side, accessible only by a single stone bridge, stood a massive fortress forming a sheer and impenetrable barrier. She explored the mountains, but any way around the fortress would require her to negotiate a series of hazardous cliffs. Unfortunately, she lacked the blood to fly again.
Kieara headed into town for some night-time reconnaissance, and found the town completely silent and unoccupied, apart from a flock of bats flying overhead. Most of the buildings had strings of garlic around the windows and doors. She returned to the mountain and observed the town until dawn, at which point people emerged and began their daily business. Many cast nervous glances towards the fortress and crossed themselves. After watching for a bit, Kieara descended to the road and entered town as though she were a traveller just arriving.
* * *
She passed by a large church, and the head priest, Father Uriah, advised her to stay at the inn on the town square. He also expressed his hope that she wouldn't be staying long. She stopped for breakfast at a small tavern called The Winged Rat. The proprietor was a short stocky man named Culvert, who looked as though something had chewed on his face pretty severely. He remained fairly tight-lipped to this well-dressed and well-armed stranger, until she'd eaten a fried breakfast with plenty of garlic. After that, Culvert turned into a well-spoken, friendly, and informative man who was only too willing to fill her in on the ills of life in Cleften.
One of the Winged Rat's regulars was a tall, dishevelled drunk named Bert. For a bottle of wine, he told Kieara the tale of how his daughter had stayed too late in the woods. Bert finally found her, just as she was about to be attacked by a shadow beast. Before it could pounce, one of the Knights of the Eagle charged in and slew the beast. Bert's relief was short lived, as the Knight embraced his daughter and drained her of blood. By the time Bert reached her, she was dead and the Knight was gone.
Kieara learned that the Baron and the Knights of the Eagle protect the town from monsters such as Werewolves and Goblins, but they do so to protect their own food supply - the townsfolk. Anyone caught outside after dark, or not sleeping in a private residence, may be drained of blood. Bert offered to let Kieara stay at his house, as the public inn was not safe from Vampiric predation. Bert's place was a bit of a mess, strewn with broken furniture and bottles, and caked with dirt. Once she knew where to find it, Kieara set off into the town.
She went to scout out the bridge leading across to the Fortress, and witnessed a food wagon preparing for the crossing. The farmers and their wagon were both festooned with strings of garlic, and a group of priests arrived to offer blessings. The wagon rattled across the bridge, and the Fortress' heavy portcullis lifted to allow them entry. Once they were inside, the crowd dispersed. Father Uriah once again warned Kieara against staying in town too long.
After that, she bought some powdered silver for use in banishment rituals, and also invested in a string of garlic. Returning to Bert's, she whittled some new stakes out of broken chair-legs. After nightfall, Bert still hadn't returned home, so she left a bar of soap on his table and headed for the fortress...
* * *
As she crossed the bridge in the moonlight, the portcullis rumbled open and two knights rode out to greet her - Sir Dustin and Sir Franz. She claimed to have come to speak with Baron Ormand, and was escorted to the top of the tower. The Baron himself coalesced out of a swarm of bats. Using Baroness Hartford's signet ring, Kieara claimed to be one of the Baroness' agents, sent to ask for the Baron's help in controlling a rebellious population. The Baron's ego thus swollen, he relaxed his guard and sent the knights away. Kieara uncorked her garlic-filled waterskin, using it as a bellows to blow noxious fumes in his face. Weakened by the garlic, the Baron was completely overcome, and she impaled him to his chair with her silvered sword. As his body crumbled to bloody dust, she considered how best to deal with the two knights.
She persuaded the knights that the Baron had flown away, and had given permission for her to stay in the fortress until he returned. Once in her guest quarters, she lured each knight in one at a time and ambushed them with garlic and sword, quickly slaying them. She then conducted a thorough search of the castle, finding no-one else but a selection of gargoyles along the walls and towers. When approached, they animated and moved to attack, but returned to their posts when she retreated from the top of the wall. A few at a time, she prepared banishing circles of silver powder, lured them inside, and cast out the animating demon within, reducing them to lifeless statues. Her search of the fortress revealed some arms and equipment, but most importantly a map of Alhast. Kieara now knew where to find the Count, in Stieglitz Castle.
* * *
In the morning she returned to the town and let the bridge-keepers know that the Baron was no more. Bert was not at home, but she was confronted by a mob led by the priests who were worried that her actions would not only allow other creatures to ravage the town, but would attract the ire of Count von Stieglitz. She told them to stand up for themselves, and that she would press on to deal with the Count herself. A freshly shaved and cleaned-up Bert - using his full name, Albert - appeared spoke in her support. Her acts of kindness and bravery had inspired him to reform his ways.
Over the next couple of days, Kieara moved Culvert and Albert into Cleften Fortress, and helped set them up as the leaders of a militia force. They found many recruits among the younger townsfolk, and an air of hope filled the fortress. The older folks back in town muttered their disapproval, but did nothing. Once she was sure the town and fortress were as secure as they could be, Kieara claimed one of the knights' horses and said her farewells, riding north on the road out of the mountains.
>>> Linden Town Arc