Grisha pads silently along the crumbling cobblestones of Fallcrest, passing dark buildings with windows lit orange in the dusk. The sounds of laughter and the murmur of conversations is all around him, as well as the smells of roasted meat, garlic and spices.
A dark figure hurtles from an alley and outstretched arms grab for Grisha — he is well-trained and always on guard. He instinctively sidesteps, and leans into the motion, attempting to pull the perpetrator into a roll, but the assailant has spectacular balance, and shifts, tumbling to the side out of Grisha’s reach. She looks up smiling, and says, “Still got it, Gri-Gri.”
As they both straighten up and face each other, Grisha simply says, “You.”
The woman’s dramatically-arched eyebrows rise, “I haven’t seen you in—what—three years? And all I get is, ‘You’?”
Grisha sighs heavily, and begins to walk on.
“Not feeling like banter, then?” the woman continues, following along, “That’s alright I’ll talk and you listen…”
Grisha tilts his head slightly and says, “Not now, Sascha. I don’t have any patience for your…games. The last time I saw you we were both nearly killed and for no good purpose. I have other concerns, now. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want something from me—I know you well enough for that. So, find someone else for your mischief this time.”
Undeterred, Sascha continues, “Well that isn’t exactly fair, is it? If you had stuck to the plan and not decided to improvise….anyway, when you hear what I have to say you’ll have no alternative…”
“Then I don’t want to hear it!” Grisha stops and turns on Sascha, towering over her. She faces him boldly, square-shoulders, without flinching. He continues, “I have other concerns now, and a friend needs my help.” He walks on.
“Well I need your help too; I thought we were friends.” Sascha scowls as she follows.
Grisha sighs again, “You don’t understand, it’s Einar.”
“Oh,” she chuckles, “are you still babysitting that kid, then?”
“No you miserable—” he slows and stops and looks at her. “His sister was killed not long ago. He’s been a mess.”
Sascha looks down and smooths her black hunting outfit, “Oh. Gods be damned. You mean that little pigtailed thing, Eira? How? What happened?”
“Kobolds,” answers Grisha, “And he needs my support right now, I can’t go off with you on some quest to steal art from a Nylandan noble, or intercept supplies meant for the imperial guard. That stuff is in my past.”
Sascha says, “What if I said, you might be able to help me, AND help your friend Einar? Because what I have to say to you affects us both deeply. It affects…our kin. Our shared heritage. And I need you for this. I can only come to you.”
Grisha growls low, and then simply says, “Come with me.”
Seated at a pitted table in the Nentir Inn, a flagon of ale between them, one of Sascha’s boots up on the next seat, she says, “Goblins have The Hallowed.”
“What? How?” Grisha instantly sits up straighter, elbows on the table between them.
“Not sure. But somehow they got past the forest defenses, and took the tower – or what’s left of it. You remember Ivoljin? He came to find me. He needs help clearing the infestation – and he and I can’t do it alone. The goblins have….they have Grigbad with them,” Sascha shudders.
“Big Grigbad? That is very bad. He’s a psychopath even among goblins. But what could they ever want with The Hallowed? Do they even know what it is?”
“That isn’t clear,” Sascha leans in, “but Ivol says that countless priceless, powerful artifacts of the old Sindran empire are hidden there. What could happen if they fell into the hands of a goblin clan chief? These goblins are clearly desperate in the first place, to brave the ancient defenses of the Howling Forest. Besides the precious artifacts of our kin and the preservation of this ancient home of our people, this is perhaps a chance to help Einar find his footing again. Grisha—put a sword in his hand and give him a purpose! He will never get better wallowing in his grief here in Fallcrest.”
“Yes but Ivoljin views the Nylandans as occupiers and hates them for all their injustices! What makes you think he would even accept Einar’s help, assuming he agreed and could be motivated?”
Sascha bites her lower lip, “I’m not sure. I will talk to Ivol. I can be very persuasive. And besides – I don’t see any other options presenting themselves, and we are out of time. We need to move first thing tomorrow. I’ll let you know where I’m meeting Ivoljin at 8am. If you can join us, we will wait until 8:30 for you. If you do not come, I will go with Ivol alone.” Sascha places a hand on Grisha’s arm. “I know you have no patience for games—and I wouldn’t have come to you for something like that. I need you now more than ever. Do this one thing for me?”
Grisha shifts heavily and scowls at the table, mind racing as the sounds of laughter and music surround him.