Reclaiming the Wilds
Santos’ master set Santos to a simple task, stop anyone from stealing the gold locked away in the vault. A simple task. A boring task. The vault had magically crafted walls and a steel door that was nearly impossible for Santos to open even when his master brought the key. Everyone knew that Santos’ master had a king’s treasure locked away in his tower. Everyone also knew that the Santos’ fortune would take a thief legendary skill to even think of taking the first gold coin.
A figure dressed in a dark brown robe approached from the end of the long hallway. Santos estimated that it would stand about his average height, but it had its head bowed forward, buried deep within a large hood. Something in the way that the robes moved as the figure walked didn’t seem quite right to Santos, but he was thought himself a poor judge of things such as this. What truly mattered to Santos was that he would be able to push back the boredom for at least a few minutes dealing within whomever this creature might me.
When the hooded figure drew within comfortable speaking distance, Santos issued his challenge, “What business have you here, stranger? This is not the sort of place that people may come and go freely.”
“I come by way of Lord Jhaev’s instruction. I am to collect a specific sum of the coins kept within his vault.”
“A point in this stranger’s favor,” Santos thought to himself. Many knew his master to be the Lord of Volog, but few knew his actual name. However, a patient ear might pick up on such things in order to con its way past an unwary guard. “What specifically did he say?”
The stranger paused momentarily, turning its head to its right before straightening. It withdrew its hands from the long sleeves of its garb, hands which did not have the appearance of man or goblin. First, its flesh had the color of one who has been doused with scalding water, except that the red was uniform. Fingers with knobby joins ended in nails that one could imagine has claws. On days such as this, Santos wished he were in another line of work. As the hands drew toward the hood, Santos could begin to make out the face beneath. A devil! “Tell Santos,” the fiend replied, “that he should keep his curiosity to himself and withdraw.” A small smile grew on its face.
“At-once!” Santos’ reply came sounding more as a single word than a sentence. He turned to leave, but as he took he first step, the creature’s voice cut in sharply.
“The door, you fool!” The creature gestured towards the magically sealed vault. It put its hand upon the first seal and spoke the arcane password. Santos hastily reached repeated the process with his own password. As he turned to the creature, its hood was pulled back, revealing the evil horns of its race. It smiled, saying, “Thank you, Santos.” Before he could react, it struck him on the temple with a cudgel. Darkness followed.
Santos came to consciousness with a terrible throbbing pain in his head. As he slowly opened his eyes, he discerned a boot before his face. “Santos,” his master’s voice cruelly began, “your failure shall be rewarded in such a way that Bane himself might quell at your screams.” Santos turned to the vault; the door stood open, and golden coins had been thrown about as if a number of hands had grabbed what they could before fleeing into the night. Santos imagined that was probably exactly what had happened as soon as the first servant had passed through the corridor and saw his or her opportunity. That night, Santos wished more times than he could remember that he had become a farmer like his father.
Morthos had ridden through the night in order to put as much ground between himself and the wrath of Lord Jhaev as possible. His horse needed a rest, and he needed to be as alert as possible. Sleep would be the best next step for him. He pulled out the sapphire from a belt pouch which he had liberated from the Lord’s vault. It glowed dimly with a light of its own, a light that perfectly matched the azure blue of the gem. Despite the considerable weight in gold that he had taken, this jewel so dwarfed the value of everything else that he had taken, that he would gladly give up the rest as dust from his boot. He decided that he would like very much to see what was beyond that mountains to the west. He had heard there was much treasure sitting in ruins ready to be taken, if one could avoid the orcs that roamed the plains. Yes, a fine night it had been indeed.