The Sunless Citadel [Short Fic]

Sharwyn leaned against the stone column, staff, and spellbook in hand. She was barely paying attention to Sir Braford who, in hushed tones, laid out their plan. It was tough to keep her eyes on him, as the beautiful dragons carved into the column beside her were so enchanting. Breya was right, this place must have been magnificent before the disaster.

She glanced over at her brother, Talgen, who was similarly in position behind the adjacent column. She could tell he wasn’t paying Braford any mind either, as he was fidgeting with his handaxes too much. Noticing her momentary glance, Talgen rolled his eyes and making the universal symbol for “blah blah blah” with his right hand.

Sir Braford was positioned next to the frontward facing door, pressed up against the wall tightly, while Breya stood beside the side door. From that secondary room came such snoring that Braford had concluded the goblins therein were probably too drunk to fight and posed no threat if they barricaded the door behind them when they entered the next room. Or something like that. Again she wasn’t really paying attention. Even from where she stood a few feet away, Sharwyn could hear the ruckus of goblin chatter from the other side of said door, which suggested a pretty sizeable, and thus concerning, amount of goblins.

The light from the wall-mounted torches gleamed off Sir Braford’s armor, giving him an appropriately holy glow. He was a dragonborn cleric after all and his cobalt blue armor bore the insignia of the Great King Ozark, still considered a symbol of peace and order even after The Great Silence. Even though Sharwyn really had no clue what Braford was saying, she knew he was saying it with passion. This was his people’s temple after all, and even if the dragonborn had fallen from grace, it didn’t mean their holy sites deserved to be raided and desecrated by goblins and kobolds.

A flurry of movement danced in her peripheral, but when she spun her head around it was the unexpected sight of Talgen juggling his handaxes. Caught off guard, she couldn’t help but giggle.

Sir Braford stepped away from the door, literally hissing at Talgen to “Knock it off.” Talgen defended himself by pointing out Braford had been talking for “like 15 minutes.” The two started bickering at each other in hushed tones, Talgen doing a mockingly and kinda offensive Dragonborn accent, while Braford’s anger made his hissing lisp practically unintelligible to Sharwyn’s ears. She looked over to shrug at Breya when she saw it. Peeking through a tiny crack in the door was a small goblin child. Time slowed down. She bounded from her position towards the door, desperate to think of a spell that could stop this child from raising an alarm, but all her years of study might as well have meant nothing. Her sudden movement startled the kid and his face disappeared from the crack.

Braford and Talgen barely had time to get a “What” out before the scream of “Intruders!” brought them to attention. There was a beat, a moment too long where Sharwyn thought maybe this was a child who’d cried wolf too many times. Then it was chaos. Goblins and hobgoblins poured into the room. Talgen responded quickly, leaping above the crowd and bouncing from pillar to pillar while delivering devastating blows to the heads of un-helmeted goblins. Braford, unsurprisingly, was doing well his enchanted sword shattering the javelins and swords of the goblins within his reach.

Then the door to side room burst open. Sharwyn was sure Braford was kicking himself for tying those goblins. Poor Breya, being the closest, was overwhelmed with the drunken but still ferocious goons, barely keeping them away with massive swings of her warhammer.

Sharwyn shot a fireball at the crowd around Breya and that seemed to be enough to give her the upper hand. Over the general clattering and shouting, you could hear the squelches and crunches of several goblin skulls being crushed by Breya.

Sharwyn smiled. Even with that setback they could do it, they were gonna win. She looked up at Talgen, who grinned back. He landed another aerial flip, gripping the small ridge at the top of a column. His legs tensed up for another leap, his tongue stuck out in anticipation. And then nothing. He froze. His legs didn’t push off, they just slide down the column, his whole body grazing against those ornate dragons as Talgen fell. His body hit the ground with a thud. Goblins began to swarm him, but before her vision was totally obscured Sharwyn saw, poking out of his neck, a tiny dart.

Oh god no. Sharwyn’s brain was running a thousand miles a minute. Since when do goblins use poison?

This time she heard it. The slight whistle in the air, followed by another dart appearing in between the cracks of Sir Braford’s armor. A second whistle, a second dart, this one in his neck. Sir Braford’s legs wobbled. That moment of weakness was all the nearby hobgoblin needed to club Braford behind the knees, bringing him down.

Sharwyn couldn’t look and she turned her eyes towards Breya, who now had three or four darts poking from her arms and neck. Damn, that Dwarven constitution is strong. Then there was another whistle, a louder one. Then a sting. For a second she expected to look down and see the same bee that had stung her as a kid, the one that had interrupted her and Talgen’s attempt to run away from home and journey to a halfling grove. As darkness started to creep in around her vision, she couldn’t help but wish Talgen was able to soothe her like he did that day, as childish a fantasy that was. She tried to cast something, anything, but her arms wouldn’t work, her tongue won’t even move. She saw the world tilt and felt herself hit the floor.

“Sharwyn!” Breya yelled, her moment of distraction allowed a goblin to jump on her back and start clawing at her.

Out of the corner of her eye, Sharwyn could still see Talgen, now abandoned by the goblins who had gotten bored beating him. Her heart fluttered as she saw his shaking hand reach out and slowly push himself off the floor.

“Remember, keep ‘em alive,” she heard a gruff voice shout in goblin.

Talgen was now on his knees. Please Talgen, please save me. She pleaded with him in her head, desperately hoping he could somehow hear her. Somehow. Instead, Talgen kept his eyes on Breya.

“Breya! Retreat!”

Breya looked surprised, but this moment of shock also overtook the goblins and it was all she needed to throw the pest off her back. Breya limped out the side door, dragging her warhammer behind her. Talgen shuffled the other way, presumably the way they came. Maybe one of them could get help. Come back with Kobolds and save her and Braford.

“Good job boys,” the goblin voice from before chimed. The goblins began cheering while a few chased after Breya and Talgen. The cheering subsided, fell silent as the clicking of a pair of boots rang through the chamber.

“We kept them alive for you, sir,” the gruff voice whimpered, this time in common.

“Barely” a chilly voice responded.

A pair of black boots, accompanied by a floor-length cloak, entered Sharwyn’s vision. The boot pressed into her, tilting her body towards the ceiling. Her eyes followed, scanning the hooded figure. As the darkness of unconsciousness began to take her, she saw the slightest glint of light reflect off the hooded face. Glasses?

“Ah yes, they’ll make excellent specimens. Take them to the grove.”

And then there was black.

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