The skulks have settled in on the Dalimond Peninsula, and their presence is causing difficulties for travelers and an already overly taxed militia. Read the tale of one Leftenant and what he is doing to help keep Dalimond Safe.
Leftenant Hanlon wiped the sweat from his brow and turned to face his opponent. He was bone-tired and bore numerous nicks and bruises, but he refused to let them or his growing exhaustion slow him down. Raising his blade once more he stood tall and saluted the man standing across the practice room from him.
Returning his salute, Paladin Geriad Batel quickly dropped into Offensive Stance and begin circling Tomas. He is corralling me, Tomas thought, as he followed the circle opposite the Paladin. Tomas was no slouch with the sword and had fought in many a battle in his life, but he knew that he could not best Batel, not now or ever. The Paladin had come away unscathed through six matches thus far, while leaving Tomas with his share of minor wounds. And despite it all, Geriad had barely even broken a sweat.
Even now as they circled one another, Tomas felt the noose tightening as the circle slowly contracted. Suddenly and without warning Geriad leapt forward, his blade darting out ahead of him. Stumbling back from the unexpected attack, Tomas barely got his blade up in time to deflect what would surely have been a blow to his chest, instead it left him with a shallow cut across his upper arm and put him out of position for Geriad's backswing. The flat of the blade caught him on the left temple, lights suddenly flashing in his eyes, and he found himself on his knees shaking his head.
Geriad chuckled, "You move slow, Tomas. An Ogre could have seen that attack coming!"
Tomas stood and was just about to tell Batel where he could find some ogres to practice on, when he noticed the Mayor, Micklin Vandus, striding towards them. He quickly saluted the Paladin and turned to grab a towel laying nearby to wipe his face.
"Tomas!" called the Mayor as he walked up but then noticed the Paladin standing nearby and barely spared him a glance. "Batel" he said at last with a hint of disgust in his voice.
"Micklin," replied the Paladin with similar contempt. "Another day, perhaps, Tomas." And with that, Geriad picked up his own towel and strode quickly from the practice circle.
"Tomas," began the Mayor again, "we must talk! There is word of more of those foul creatures every day! What are you doing about them?"
"Doing? Why, nothing, nothing at all!" replied Tomas with a neutral tone. "We are stretched too thin and I have no one to stop them. There are simply too many!" Tomas shrugged. "Besides, I have scouts keeping an eye on them and reports indicate they are settling in villages along the Sable Coast."
"Nothing?! But they are a menace!" spluttered the Mayor, his face red with indignation.
"Perhaps, but they have done little to hamper trade" replied Tomas with a calm and measured tone. "The lands were quite deserted before the Dryad passed through and there is plenty to go around. Even the Gifted have little to say on the matter! Now, if you will excuse me."
The Mayor stared at him as he strode away. Tomas knew he would pay for the insult, but he simply couldn't abide that man's attitude. The Skulk may not be one of the Living Races, but they were far from beasts. They built villages, they raised their young, they used magic and made weapons. He would leave them alone until they gave him reason not to. Sadly, not all held to this same belief.
"Tomas," Dennison Jadefellow, pre-eminent scholar of Dalimond, called from the balcony. "You have arrived just in time! Come up, come up!"
"Very well, Dennison, give me a moment." replied Tomas as he approached the Wizard's Academy. Having cleaned up from his sparring match with Geriad, Tomas was now going about his business. And that brought him to Dennison Jadefellow, an old man who many claimed was quite mad. But he was a fountain of knowledge and Tomas could use some.
"Dennison," Tomas began as he entered the second-floor chamber, "what are you doing up here?" The room was cluttered with books, artifacts, scrolls, and even a spell shard or three. None of which was out of the ordinary, but today they were scattered about in piles. Even the table was on its side.
"Oh," Dennison began with a dismissive wave of his hand, "a minor disagreement with my memory I am afraid. It does not always cooperate!" He laughed to himself, while clearing away a pile from a dusty chair that he sat upright. "Sit, sit! Now, what brings you to the Academy?"
Taking the offered seat, Tomas took a deep breath. "It is these Skulk, my friend. The Mayor is agitated and I cannot say I blame him. More arrive through the Spire Pass every day. Soon they may outnumber the humans if we aren't careful! I thought you might have some insight into the situation."
"Yes, yes... I thought you might be coming to me about this sooner or later." Dennison dug around in a pile of books before quickly selecting one and nodding. "This is the one. It is a migration, my friend, of that I am sure. But the source, that is my concern. The Forest Skulk are related to the Blood Skulk of the Spiritous Swamp, yes? But records that predate The Lament indicate that the Forest Skulk reside in Eastern Aradoth!"
Tomas' eyes widened. "Eastern Aradoth? Are you for sure?"
"I thought that might catch your attention. I am quite sure, my friend. The question is, how did they arrive here? It is a curious situation, I am afraid. The Skulk themselves have arrived on Western Aradoth and have taken up residence in the newly grown forests, thanks to the Dryad. But was it the Dryad who brought them here? Or was it some other party? The Withered Aegis perhaps? Both possess the skill to perform such a feat and both may have reasons to carry it through. But which is it... I fear none know save the ones who initiated the migration themselves!"
Setting down the book, Dennison gazed thoughtfully at Tomas. "I hear they are avoiding travelers, for now. The Blood Skulk are quite territorial, so watch them Tomas! These skulk may eventually claim the Sable Coast as their own. What will you do?"
Tomas stood, knowing his time was short. "Whatever I must, my friend. For now, I will post guards at all of the far-flung outposts. The militia is stretched thin, much of our strength being in the south trying to stem the spread of the Blight. But I will see it done. We must have word if these skulk begin causing more trouble."
Tomas paused for a moment. "Eastern Aradoth," he muttered. "We must surely involve the Gifted if we are to discover the truth of it."
"Aye, we must." replied Dennison with a nod.
Tomas bowed and turned to leave. "We will do what we must. You have my thanks. Good day!"
Dennison watched the Leftenant leave. Everyone knew the militia was stretched thin and had few soldiers to spare. Perhaps the Gifted should be brought into the mix to help keep a watch on these skulk for they were devious. Dennison worried that one day they might turn on the Living Races. But who would they turn to if they did? He stared down at a small artifact in his hand... a talisman he had acquired from a tradesman weeks ago. It bore the symbol of an ancient human king. But what did the talisman signify, he wondered. Just a lost relic or something more sinister. Time would tell.