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Robbie Rotten

A Town Under Siege--LvL 3 quest

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OOC: Just in case anyone glances at this thread and wants to join, just PM me and we will work something out. It is the highest level so we could definitely use some help!

 

Here is the premise for those who are wondering:

 

A large town nearby Ashville has been threatened with war. It faces a siege by a force of humans, duergar, and gnolls.

 

---

 

Morrin sighed in exasperation.

 

"What do you want me to do, Milton? I'm not even from Terrenus!" he said.

 

"What difference does that make? You're here now aren't you?" the other man replied.

 

"And what of the regent? Is it not his job to deal with this? Does Ashville have no armies to respond with?"

 

"I told you, the city is stalling me! Said they can't spare the men. Bollocks I say, I think they've been paid off somehow, but there's naught I can do about it."

 

"Surely Karstead has guardsmen of its own, though?"

 

"You think I'd be talkin' to you if we had enough guard of our own? They're mostly farmers we dress up and trot around a few times a year. They'll be run over like wheat afore the scythe!"

 

Morrin sighed again. This was incredible.

 

"I just don't understand why you think I'm the right person to solve this problem. I am a mage. I like to think that I am a talented one, but still, I am a single. Mage. I am not a general nor a captain of mercenaries."

 

"Look, I know it's not your fight, I know. I wouldn't bring it up if I had anywhere else to turn, but like I said, the city's useless and everyone else seems all tied up with that nonsense in the north. Worst come to worst we can just surrender, but I don't wanna do that. There's duergar and gnolls in their number, Morrin. You know what they'll do to our womenfolk? And our little ones?! Think of the children, man!"

 

"Yes, yes, rape pillage and burn, I've heard plenty of tales. I have been able to do good business in Karstead, and I appreciate that, but I think we both know that the favor you ask is not proportional to the mere provision of a favorable trade environment. Indeed, to even call it a 'favor,' I find a gross understatement. What can you offer me in return for my help?"

 

"I knew you'd ask that, and I've done some thinkin' on it."

 

The old mayor leaned in close and fell silent for a moment, then whispered something in the mage's ear, too soft for the nearby servants to overhear. Morrin stared straight ahead for a moment afterwards, his face a mask, before finally speaking again.

 

"If I have your word," he said, though it was more him talking himself into it than an actual question.

 

"I pledged to serve my people and by Gaia I'll save them, whatever it takes. You have my word," the mayor replied solemnly.

 

".....Very well then. I will reach out to my contacts, begin compiling a list of potential assets, spread the word in the taverns. We'll need to hire some mercenaries of our own. Competent ones, too. I know not yet how we shall accomplish your town's defense, but just as you give your word, I give you mine. If it is within my power, I shall see it done."

 

The two men stood, the one tall and heavy, the other small and fragile, and shook their greatly mismatched hands.

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The dim interior of the restaurant was deserted when he entered, save for a family of four happily babbling and chewing away over their late lunch. His swords clicked at his hips as he walked swiftly to the counter of the bar and sat down on the stool nearest the door. He was solidly built beneath the silver fabric of his suit, six feet of sinuous, coiled strength. Nero often chose to eat at Hadley's because it was close to the lightning rail station and therefore, his home. 

 

He gave a quick wave to the owner, merely seeking to attract the attention of the short, somewhat stocky man who busied himself behind the counter frying something delicious and quite probably unhealthy. "Oh, Nero," exclaimed the man beneath his thick salt and pepper mustache, wiping the sweat from his brow. "Back from another trip, my boy?" Nero nodded, casting a glance back at the secluded space of the restaurant. "Oh, don't worry about it, I just had the lunchtime rush and now, well, it's much quieter. Care for the usual?" 

 

The mercenary bookstore owner laughed mirthfully in response. "You know it." Hadley chuckled and turned to the stove, mixing and preparing the ingredients for some fresh Alfredo pasta with shrimp. Perhaps there was something to be said for frequenting an establishment. 

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"A rare stroke of fortune, isn't it? That this trouble should befall the same region which houses your esteemed business?"

 

Morrin sat down next to his business partner, glad that Nero had agreed to meet with him on such short notice. The letter had included details on what was going on and what Morrin was asking to speak about, so the fact that he was here at all indicated that Nero clearly had some degree of interest in assisting, even if he was only going to lend a helpful word of advice. Morrin rather expected that his acquaintance--friend? Yes, friend was more accurate by now--would offer more than just words, however. Ashville was Nero's home territory. No doubt he had clients who lived in Karstead or had investments there, clients whom he would not be happy to lose should be robbed of their well-being or forced to relocate. It was not mere charity that Morrin was asking from Nero; no, the bookstore operator had a definite financial stake in the outcome of this conflict.

 

"I'll have the steak again. Well-done, please," Morrin said, repeating the order he'd made last time he was in Ashville.

 

"It'll be a while," the owner replied.

 

"Not an issue. I suspect I may be here for a while as well."

 

The restaurant's meat had proven satisfactory, but the mage was definitely annoyed that he had not been allowed to help the cooking process along, so to speak. He had refined the process of flash-searing a cut of meat down to a science, able to heat it to his preferred consistency in only a couple of minutes without so much as singing anything else nearby, but apparently the city's "fire hazard regulations" disallowed that customers be allowed to help prepare their own food. Such a bother....

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Cade stepped off of the Lightning rail, walking through security in the guise of a well dressed businessman. Pausing only to tip his fake hat to the guards before continuing into the depths of the great city. All without carrying any paperwork or answering a single question. Quality Watchmen, it seemed, were in rather short supply. But  incompetent guards or no, the Sheam needed to get back into his real shape, or at least, the one he relied on for stability.

 

Stepping off the main streets, Cade took a moment to assure nobody had followed him by looking out through the back of his head. No bulging eye appeared when he did so, just as many of Cade's preferred forms had no eyes, he did not require them to see. In fact, it was actually impossible to know just where a Sheam was looking at any given time. Any sensual features upon his body did not actually serve their intended purpose. As Cade didn't need eyes to see, the Sheam did not need a nose to smell, skin to feel, ears to listen, or even a mouth to speak. All of that was just decoration intended to prevent disturbing whoever he communicated with.

 

As soon as the dapper businessman was gone, and Cade the storyteller in his place, the Sheam decided to find some decent conversation. After asking for the whereabouts of the nearest establishment for alcohol or food, Cade found himself directed to a quaint little restaurant that was nearly empty, save two men chatting at the bar, and a family of four having lunch.

 

Walking through the door, Cade sat down in the seat beside the man not wearing a silver coat. While he wasn't certain yet if it was actual silver or merely colored, it was normally best to air on the side of caution. The pair of en were apparently discussing something before Cade walked in, as such, he only caught the last sentence of their conversation.

 

Waiting for the nearest man to finish, Cade decided now was the moment to join their talk, "Pardon my interruption, but what trouble do you speak of? So long as it's not a bother to you, I'd like to know."

Edited by God_of_Demonz

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"I wouldn't necessarily describe it as being fortunate, per se," Nero replied, chuckling richly. "But it's certainly difficult to ignore the threat to my interests and, of course, my neighbors." He was being quite sincere; he had friends in Karstead, and their safety was of no small concern to him. "I'm somewhat surprised you were in the area, let alone that you'd take an interest in the plight of these people. But, I imagine this isn't pro bono work." Nero flashed a brilliant grin. 

 

" Once I received your letter I made arrangements for my employees to handle the store without me for two weeks. Based on what my contacts have been able to gather, which, by the way, is a sad and incomplete rendition of the larger picture, you're in for a fight." Nero tapped his fingers against his cheek as he spoke. "It'd be ingracious of me to answer your invitation without also offering my sword. Besides, can't have all of my friends and lucrative business dying in a hopeless battle, can I?" He smiled wryly. 

 

"What's the plan of action? Even if I called in some old favours, I couldn't see that getting more than a few skilled men. We'd likely have to fight smart, not hard." He hardly noticed the presence of the man who had entered the restaurant, mostly due to the flurry of thoughts streaming through his head. 

Edited by Grimmholt

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"Oh, come what I may, I have no intention to die in battle. I will see this business concluded without risking my own life and limb, if there be such a way. Regardless...."

 

Morrin looked over at Nero, his gaze rising to meet that of the considerably larger man, an unspoken gesture to convey that he understood the gravity of the challenge they faced.

 

"You are correct, that we are sorely outmatched at the moment. Between the two of us I have no doubt that we could gather a sizable force of paid swords, but I have little trust in unskilled men who fight en masse for a meager individual pay. I think them likely to turn tail and abandon the cause at the first sign of true hardship. No, I think we are better to do as you say, to put our faith in true professionals. The only question is, how to find them?"

 

Before this topic could be pursued a rather odd-looking fellow sat down next to Morrin. The mage could not recall a race or species with this particular hue of skin, but he was not particularly disturbed by it either. Valucre was home to an innumerable variety of lifeforms and he had long ago grown accustomed to encountering brand-new ones.

 

"Pardon my interruption, but what trouble do you speak of? So long as it's not a bother to you, I'd like to know," the grey man said.

 

"Hmmm."

 

He looked down at the table, staring intently at it as if thinking something over, then looked up to match the grey man's solid-black eyes.

 

"Do you know the town of Karstead, a half day's ride from this city?"

 

Morrin proceeded to briefly explain the situation to this stranger. He saw no harm in it, as the presence of gnolls and duergar made it rather unlikely that this grey man would be some kind of spy working in league with them. His books had taught him that those races were more simple and direct, unlikely to work towards their goals through subterfuge and espionage. Even if this were a spy, there was no useful information for him to extract and return with, as Morrin and Nero really did not have any clear plan yet. Now, it would be his turn to ask a question.

 

"Why do you ask? Perhaps you do not hail from the Ashville region?"

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"There might be such a way. I'd need topographical maps of the town accurate to the present day, but.. I'm thinking we'd want to raise some earthworks to create and supplement protection." Nero's mind was racing at full speed through his recollections of the town, forming a collection of the pertinent information as best he could. Nero tilted his head to the side for a moment, acknowledging Morrin's silent statement. This would be no simple venture, even with whatever resources they could both bring to the table. They needed more people, more bodies, more arms, more minds. "True. I've been in their shoes, and I have to admit, against overwhelming odds professional military would be the best choice. But, evidently, they're not an option." He sighed deeply as his food came to him, the aroma somehow unappetizing in light of the challenge before them. 

 

"I know a few from my days. Three, to be exact. There's the twins, Vittorio and Dino, they're as big as I am and a good hundred pounds heavier, but they're damn handy with an axe. There's a girl, an archer. She can split an apple in half from a thousand yards with some cursed bow." He turned to the stranger and began eating. Like Morrin, he doubted the propensity of their enemy to conduct sabotage or spy. No, their game was much simpler to guess-- wanton slaughter and destruction. Brutally effective, but also brutally simple. 

 

He ate with practical vigor as his friend explained the situation to the man. If there was a reason for the interruption, Nero was quite sure it would emerge as the talk drew on. In the meanwhile, he half listened, half began sorting out a defensive strategy. They needed to limit the advantage of the enemy to use their numbers, and also reduce opportunities for them to invade the town. Earthworks in multiple rings around the city would blunt the attack, deny them the chance to flood into the city. The enemy was simple, and that also offered an advantage that a conventional enemy would not have provided: killing zones could be created to exploit the natural funneling effect. They might well have the opportunity to reduce the host by a fair amount before physical combat began. 

 

Of course, there were more active means of waging war against the enemy, as well. Any significantly large group of anything, save for the undead or certain exceptional creatures, required an equally large amount of food, water, and space. By proactively denying them access to those resources or despoiling them where they already existed, the cohesiveness of the group could be weakened. If skilled and able individuals were also willing, night raids on patrols could be carried out, robbing them of the advantage of rest and prematurely tiring the enemy. If good information could be found of where the host was, guesses could be made as to the sites they would camp and decamp at, or which routes they might take to the town. These routes could be laden with traps, severely inconveniencing and delaying them, if not causing casualties and further exhausting them. 

 

It remained to be seen whether or not these strategies would work, but Nero was certainly willing to wait and see what the stranger had for them. 

Edited by Grimmholt

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The Sheam was tempted to snort at the man's comment about not coming from Asheville, but withheld the action, opting to smile at him instead, "You guess correctly, I'm not from around here, though I've visited a number of times."

Cade thought about the predicament that had been laid out for him. Small town, guarded only by a token force amateurs about to be attacked by a much larger and well trained force. Honestly, it didn't take much for him to realize just how absolutely doomed that town was without outside intervention.
Though seeing as how Cade didn't have the details yet, maybe he ought to ask some more questions.

"Alright, that does sound pretty bad. But if you want that town to stand, having intelligence on your enemy is vital. For example, can you tell me how the number of enemies you'll be facing? The quality of their arms and armor? Who leads them? How much time you have until their arrival?"

He pauses, tapping the table with a finger before continuing, "If they'll be here on the morrow, I'm afraid your little town is, in layman's terms, well and truly boned."
Cade ceases to tap the table, watching this man with eyes dark as two black pearls. Edited by God_of_Demonz

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A dark-haired Elf walked briskly through the door of the establishment and glanced around, his gaze immediately settling on Morrin. Skinny, brown hair, and talking to a small group of rather capable-looking men - that was Mayor Milton's contact, alright. He strode over to the group, catching the tail end of Cade's line of questions. "I can help with some of that." He offered Morrin his hand, and gave the other men at the table a respectful nod. "Justin Nerai, at your service. I've just come from Karstead." His Terric was fluent, though coloured slightly by his Elvish accent.

 

Turning back to Cade, he continued, "Three days, give or take. I wasn't able to get very close; gnolls may be stupid, but they have excellent senses. There's got to be at least four hundred of them, all told - maybe five. More duergar than humans or gnolls. They must have come down from the mountains northeast of the Forgotten Wood. Lucky for Karstead a hunter spotted them and passed word on before they were at the door." As he spoke, he took a seat at the table, settling in with the easy grace of his kind, though his casual pose really seemed more human than Elvish. "I could help with the fighting, but I'm a healer by trade, and I'm guessing that's where I'll be most needed, once things get hairy. Oh, and I've just sent word to a friend of mine - he should be here in the morning. A mage by the name of Geoffry. Rather talented, for a human - he teaches elemental magic at the Gaian Academy."

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Morrin took and shook the offered hand while Justin sat down. He found "Justin" to be an odd name for an elf, one that, to this point, he had only ever heard among humans. Perhaps the elf had a trace of homo sapiens somewhere in his family tree? Morrin tucked the detail away to be addressed at a later opportunity. Right now there were more important questions, dozens of them it seemed. Justin, an individual whom he had not met before but had been told was coming in response to the calls for aid he'd put out, had luckily addressed some of those questions just now. Morrin knew right away that it would be good to have this man working with them, for he had taken it upon himself to scout the enemy's force without even being prompted to do so. That kind of initiative was the mark of someone that took their goals seriously.

 

They would need more detailed intel yet in order to plot their defense, but before that Morrin had one question which needed to come first.

 

"Do you intend to aid us in planning for Karstead's defense, Mr., erm, whoever-you-are?" he asked of the grey man. "You seem awfully interested in its plight."

 

Not that he was going to refuse, if this stranger saw fit to offer his insight. As had been said already, they could use all the help they could get. Morrin sought only to clarify intentions.

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Nero surveyed the rest of the group, taking stock of what they knew, what they had expressed interest in, and on his own ruminations about the situation. Based on his observations, the gray man had some interest in helping, and raised valid questions of intelligence to their attention. So far, he's alright in my book. Morrin, of course, was a partner in business and ersatz friend. However, the mysterious elf who had entered with good information and the promise of additional help was an unknown quantity. Still, he seemed to know enough of the situation to seek out and provide them with assistance. Also so far, so good. 

 

Three days isn't much time to act. Even if we had an ability to raise defenses, they'd be on us before we could complete them properly. And even then, with only a few people, we're stuck with the issue of defending the area against a numerically superior and better prepared enemy. We'll need to find some way to waylay them. Nero mulled it over in his head for a moment before making the decision to voice his thoughts. He turned to the elf. "Your friend from the Academy. Is he by chance able to form earth and stone well?" Nero's question was direct, his sonorous baritone reverberating in the air for a moment. "Even then, we'll need to buy more time. You said there's three days, maybe less until they get to Karstead. Even if he shows up tomorrow morning, that's one day less of preparations we can make." He paused, laying his fork to rest. "I know a man that might be able to get us reinforcements, professional soldiers who are loyal and skilled. The Count of Grey. He's an enchanter, well practiced. He might be able to provide us with some additional weapons for the people to defend themselves, as well as help set up traps." 

 

"Of course.. that still leaves us with one small issue. Time. The more of it we can gather, the better we can prepare ourselves. Any force that large has predictable factors about it, especially if it's a heterogenous mix of men, duergar, and gnolls and not a solid, professionalized force." Nero held up a hand, extending his index finger. "One, they need food and water. If we can figure out where they're approaching from, we can deny them the use of those by either scorching or poisoning supplies. If they have no mages among them, we might be able to use a precise spell and reverse it later to avoid causing permanent damage." He raised another finger. "Two, they're of mixed composition. If we can take down their advance guard, they'll have to group and be cautious in their advance, slowing them down. Additionally, this robs them of knowing what's in store when they reach Karstead, and so they'll be expecting a simple siege against the untrained and infirm. Their equipment will be inadequate, then, allowing us to defend more easily." Nero paused for a breath, intelligent blue eyes moving across the faces of those gathered before he raised a third finger and continued. "Three, a force that large has to take routes large enough to accommodate it or risk splitting into smaller parties. I can't predict what they'll be doing, but if they clump together, we can block their path across the easiest routes. Destroy bridges, deploy traps of attrition, block routes if we can. That will slow them further, frustrate them, and give us more time to gather our strength." 

 

Nero placed his hands down on the table and leaned in. "If we can do this right, they'll be hungry, they'll be tired, and they might even have some internal fighting because of the close proximity to each other. They're not standard military, so they'll be lacking cohesiveness. Assuming most of these go right.. we might stand a fighting chance. What say you all?' 

 

 

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Cade listened to the elf's words, taking in the important details while noticing the oddly human-like nature he demonstrated. Justin wasn't a typical elf name, from what Cade knew. Though regardless of this elf's heritage, he provided valuable information. Provided it was reliable that is.

Over four hundred soldiers marching to take a glorified hamlet? It didn't make sense! Even second rate raiders knew the importance of a quick attack, retreating before a real military force came to annihilate them. What could reason could this gaggle of various races have for sending such a large force? Was it some calculated move, intended to bring unforeseen consequences? If not, how could a leader idiotic enough to attempt an assault eventually doomed to failure such as this rise to power? Maybe he was overthinking things, maybe this was just a gaggle of barbarians looking to stir up trouble. Still, the thought that there was some hidden agenda behind this attack unnerved Cade more then he cared to admit.

 

Silver, as Cade had decided to name the second man after his coat till his name was spoken, began to speak, going on in great detail about the plans needed to weaken this incoming force and strengthen Karstead against what was coming. The mention of sabotage was what piqued his interest most though. Cade had an awful lot of experience with that wonderful art. He'd need to stock up on essence before setting out on such an endeavor however. There was no telling if he'd get the chance to consume any of the incoming force, though it would be wonderfully ironic to use any essence gained from them to murder their comrades.

 

In response to the man addressing him, Cade tapped the table once more, "I'm Cade Grayskkin, shifter of shapes and teller of tales. It looks like I'll be joining your struggle to keep the little town of Karstead from being pillaged or burned to ash."

Standing, Cade turns to Silver, "On that note, it doesn't seem as though we've any time to waste. I'll be the first to volunteer for sabotage and reconnaissance. Unless anyone else intends to join me, I'll be setting out as soon our elf friend has given me the predicted route of our enemies, and after I've eaten. I'm thinking a cow or two."

The Sheam takes a step in the direction of the door, still facing this odd group which has decided to defend the glorified hamlet of Karstead, "Well? I thought we were on a time limit here people! Three days to save a village, maybe four or five if I'm successful, from over four hundred opponents! Isn't it about time we get to work?"

Cade waited for a response. After all, he couldn't just walk out randomly into the wilderness and hope to find this army, let alone any bridges they might be using.

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"He is," Justin confirmed in answer to the blond human's question. "He has mastered earth, fire, wind and air." To the rest of the man's schemes, he grunted his agreement.

 

To Cade's introduction and proposal he replied, "If they continue along their current path, they'll be traveling south till they reach Maddock's Hill, and then skirt around its eastern edge to reach the heathland that lies between there and Karstead. The farming community itself is in a forested area, though most of the lands adjacent to the town have been developed as farmland, with the trees cleared. At the mayor's direction, they've recently felled many more and started raising a palisade around the town."

 

"If possible, we should try to convince the children and infirm to evacuate to Ashville until the dust settles. They have well-stocked homeless shelters in Ashville that could easily accommodate the influx."

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Grayskkin was right, there was little time to waste here. There were still more contemporaries whose presence Morrin awaited in the restaurant, but that didn't mean that those already here could not get cracking on their various tasks.

 

"Hmmm......"

 

Morrin's brief moment of thought was interrupted by the serving of the steak he'd ordered upon entering the restaurant. The timing couldn't have been better, really; he speared a chunk of the succulent meat and chewed it slowly as he considered the situation.

 

"Nero, you seem well-acquainted with delaying tactics which we might employ against this advancing army. Likewise, Cade seems eager to get into the field and perform reconnaissance work, hence I recommend that the two of you set out together to enact those very strategies which you have just explained here at the table."

 

The mage was still not convinced that he should trust the strange grey-skinned being who had so freely offered his assistance, but by sending Nero to accompany him, he sought to ensure that they would not be relying over-much on the stranger's help. If Cade turned out to be incompetent or to have an ulterior motive, Morrin fully trusted Nero to be capable of handling himself and reporting back with that information, if nothing else. If Cade did turn out to be both sincere and competent, well, then they had gained a valuable ally. He expected that either situation could be turned to their advantage, though the latter was of course preferable.

 

"I agree that civilians must be evacuated in advance of the enemy's arrival. To this end, I think that Justin and I should remain in Karstead for the time being and help to oversee not only the evacuations, but also the construction of fortifications around the town proper. I should also like to be here to receive additional contacts of mine should they come through for me. In this way, we can work towards the securing of our objective on all fronts simultaneously. What do you think, my friends?"

 

While he spoke, Morrin thought on Justin's words. "He has mastered earth, fire, wind and air," he had said. To gain proficiency in all four primary elements..... it was seen as a pipe dream by many a battlemage back in Celin City, something to be left to only the truly prodigal and exceptional, unattainable for the average caster. Morrin himself sought this goal in spite of any suggestions that he might not be capable of it, and so the prospect of meeting one who had achieved it interested him greatly. This task was presenting more opportunities for him by the moment, it seemed.

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"I like this man," Nero said, looking at Cade as he rose. "I'll keep our new friend, Mr. Grayskkin company while we attempt to waylay them. My method is a bit more direct than poisoning wells and burning crops, so I'll curtail the advance guard and take down their scouts." He rested his vast, calloused hand on the hilt of his sabre. Hit and run attacks were his specialty, and as the elf said, they would be heading through territory that he recognized immediately as rife with opportunities for ambush.. with a little ingenuity. The mercenary nodded in agreement as the evacuations were brought up. "Indeed. The children don't have much a choice, but wherever possible we should send them and one of their parents off along with the elderly. I don't plan on failing, but.. it would be wise to keep as many out of the line of fire as we can." 

 

He turned to Morrin. "I have a favor to ask. Please send word to the Count of Grey explaining the dire situation we find ourselves in. Though it is far from his lands, he is a firm believer in defending the weak where they need it. Also, he owes me a favor, and I think I'd appreciate my favor in the form of about two hundred quality arms of varying shapes. We may as well get some of the less helpless villagers to help carry their weight when the horde is at their door, and I doubt pitchforks and scythes will perform so well when the enemy is armored." Nero bowed his head slightly, before joining Cade at the door. "Alright, Mr. Grayskkin. Let's see what hell we can raise," he said, smirking. 

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