The candle flickered in the room, throwing it’s soft light across the stone walls and heavy oaken table and chairs. Inquisitor Garf, the lean grey-haired captain serving as Retainer of the Chapel at the moment, leaned across the table and stared directly into Karna’s eyes.
“That is an interesting story about the vampire and how you disposed of him. Now tell me why you were delayed in returning here? We thought you would have been here at least seven days ago. You extended absence has come to the attention of Abbot Bacalis. He was concerned for your safety.” The lack of compassion or sincerity in Garf’s voice was clear that he didn’t share the Abbot’s concerns, or was simply lying.
Karna met the inquisitor’s stare as he leaned forward and rested his arms on the edge of the table.
“As I mentioned, there was an old gaol that was haunted, and the thief’s companions were attempting to remove the evil taint from the place. They were without spiritual guidance save for a follower of Pharasma, so I thought it sensible to assist.”
Garf’s voice was quite, yet still showed a little tension. “So you thought it a wise service of Our Lady to fall in with the friends and allies of a wanted criminal? Were you interested in personal gain or had you forgotten that your faith demands you glorify our Order at all times. Not consort with folk such as these.”
Karna stared right back at Garf across the table and paused for a moment. “The vampire’s companions and their goals were admirable, and in the course of our time together, they proved themselves focused on ridding the stain of evil from Harrowshire and Revengro. I was not concerned about their motivations and believe the vampire must have duped them somehow into trusting them.”
Leaning back, Karna began adjusting his gauntlet, flexing his fingers and pulling on it’s strap. After a moment, he loosened both shoulders and looked up at Garf, “you have no reason to doubt me”, he said.
Garf and Karna stared at each other in a long silence, the only sound the rain on the flagstones outside the window and their breathing. The candle flickered as Garf’s eyes searched Karna’s for any sign of deception or cunning as he sat unmoving across the table. Karna hadn’t been interogated this way before, let alone by a Retainer. The vastness of the church always attracted liars and cheats into it’s ranks, so these sorts of discussions were not uncommon. Truthfully he didn’t really care too much for Garf, and was beginning to doubt the captain’s motives himself. Perhaps the interrogation should be turned around he thought to himself. He surrendered to a small smile as the two men sat alone.
“Something funny?” Garf accused.
“Not really, but why is it that you are the one questioning me when I was outside the city, finding and defeating the enemies of Iomedae while you slept warm at night?”
Garf leapt up from his chair, sending it tumbling behind him with a clatter. He jabbed a finger at the table in front of Karna while leaning in closer to him, “You think to question me? I have seen things that only exist in your nightmares, boy.” He slammed a fist down on the table, rattling the candle holder so it nearly tipped over, “So why don’t you let me ask the questions, and you answer them truthfully. And don’t forget that you are just a Sword subject to Bacalis’ will, and that means you are subject to mine. So unless you want to spend the next season cleaning the stables and standing watch of a latrine, you best curb that tongue of yours.”
It took all Karna’s resolve to not flinch at Garf’s outburst. This man definitely liked to be in authority and didn’t want to be questioned. Perhaps playing along for a while might be best . . .
“Ask me anything, Retainer, and I will answer truthfully, never fear.” He leaned back and clasped his hands in front of his chest, “Iomedae be forever in my heart, guide both my thoughts and my deeds that they forever be just.” He rested his hands on his thighs and looked down at the floor.
“That’s better, boy.” Garf barked as he turned to right his chair. He took a moment to adjust his tabard and belt, then sat again and crossed his legs. “So tell me of your journey from Ravengro to Lepidstadt. If your earlier tale is to be believed, you took ten days, which is typical this time of year. I imagine your trip was uneventful then?”
“Not exactly, Retainer. We travelled east around Lake Lias, and some giant bats attcked our encampment in the night. The fell easily, but none of us rested easily afterward.
“Likely attracted by your fire.” Garf grunted.
“Indeed. We came to a ruined fort on our second day. Within the ruin we stumbled upon the dungeon and weapon room of the troop that once manned the place. Strangely. the dungeon held a troll in a state of perpetual torture by some strange spike machine. We released him and provided a permanent and merciful end with a torch and some oil.”
“The weapon room held some very interesting arms and armour. For example, I found the wonderfully sharp sword I left with your squire when I came and sat down. It seems to be made of some kind of black glass, and delivers viscious wounds. There was some kind of ooze creature in the chamber outside the dungeon. It could slide through the corridor and swept it clean of all dirt and dust. It slid toward us to clean us as well, so I charged it with this black sword. I cut the thing clear in half! There was a second monster as well, and my companions, the same ones you doubted a moment ago, dispatched.”
“Mind your tone, boy!” Garf said, reacting to my jibe.
“Of course, Retainer.” Karna said, holding up both hands in apology. “The weapons are of very high quality, so we took them to vanquish evil. After the fort, our path took us into the foothills near Tamrivena, and then on to Courtard. Small settlements these, not offering us much beyond a hot meal and a bed, but still better than sleeping under the stars at this time of year. From Courtland we travelled along the river down to Lepidstadt.”
“And that is all?” Garf questioned.
“Not remotely! A day’s ride from town we came upon a small group of caravans at the side of the road. Some sort of travelling carnival. Freaks and acrobats mostly. Their leader implored us to find a lost girl that he thought had wandered into the swamp. Of course I agreed, and we set off into the swamp.”
“One of my companions has a pet lizard that is the most amazing animal for finding tracks. Better than any dog I have ever met. It quickly found the trail and lead us deep into a marsh. Knee deep water and razor grass was everywhere. Our progress was slow. When we heard some crying and noises ahead, we ran up to them, but the noises moved as well.”
“Suddenly a great spider appeared in front of me and bit me, but then vanished! It had some sort of poison that rapidly weakened me and I fell. It returned a moment later out of thin air to bite me again, and tried to drag me off. My companions rallied to my defense and drove the monster away.” Rolling up my sleeve, he showed Garf the still visible bite mark on his arm. Garf nodded at the wound.
“So, after the thing vanished, we searched around and found the body of the girl, and several other people as well. We wrapped her body and took her back to the carnival where we surrendered her to the caravan leader with much sadness. Later the leader asked us to escort his troop to the city gates which we did. I believe they are set up outside the south gate now.”
“Once inside the city, I took my companions to the Red Scarf where we took rooms and then I came here to advise of the fate of the vampire.”
Another long pause as Garf leaned back in his chair, uncrossed and crossed his legs again. He checked the nails of his right hand for a moment and then looked up. “Likely what you saw was a Ghost Spider. They can move between this world and their own Ethereal Realm with ease, and often use this ability to capture prey and drag them back to their lair in the Ether. You are fortunate that wasn’t your fate. I will dispatch a more capable group to seek it out and dispatch it in the morning.”
Garf continued, “I will report to the Abbot that you were distracted in your return by activities not without merit. But I will caution you; when sent to seek a fugitive, you must return hastily to share news of your efforts. If I have any further questions I will send for you at the Red Scarf. Furthermore, I trust you understand the costs associated with the work we do in the name of Our Lady?”
Sitting up straight in my chair, I said with a subtle tone of indignation, “Indeed Retainer, you need not remind me of the role we play. I have taken my vows.”
“That is good. I trust that you and your companions will act accordingly. It will be very expensive to find that Ghost Spider you failed to deal with.” With that, Garf rose from his chair, gave a hasty salute and walked fromt he room, leaving Karna to contemplate his words. Bringing justice to the world in the name of Iomedae will forever be in my heart, but the business of the church . . . that is far more political than holy. And it’s clear that here in Lepidstadt, Retainer Garf is not only concerned with service to Iomedae.
Karna was still adjusting hiw sword belt as he left the guardhouse and entered the rain. Fatigued from the interrogation, he walked in the rain back to the Red Scarf and quietly went to his room for some much needed rest.