Between the dim light that came in through the stained glass, the green jars that had been left about for procuring solutions, and the plants that were in the room, the small and round area proved to be a cozy, emerald-themed place. Along one wall was a bookshelf that was lined with many articles regarding the apothecary skillset. Along one wall, where there were some narrow beakers and his sword stood against it, Sigi worked on milling a few things. After a few moments he produced the ring from his pocket, rubbing a clean white linen cloth along the outside of it lightly.

After doing so, he let it sit for a moment while he took the milled items and placed them into a glass that had water in it. The items began to dissolve in the hot liquid, which was near a boiling point. He watched their dissolution quietly, the sound of the small flame and the steady sound of commotion outside the walls filled the room softly.

Sigi eyed the cloth for a moment before picking it up, dropping it into the heated water. After a few seconds, the water began to emit a cloud of grey within it. As soon as Sigi saw it, he doused the flame, picked up his sword and ring, and began heading out in a hurry.

* * *

Thom came out of his room into the hallway, where the other doors were opening.

“I have never seen a hand like that before,” Thom announced. “It was bigger and scalier than any hand I’ve seen on a man.”

“Well, maybe it wasn’t a man’s hand,” Hroth called out from his room, where he was working on repacking his items. “Maybe it was from some large beast. Maybe the Goron have friends.”

“Friends?” Telmar called from his room. “The tribesmen have friends. These do not, apparently. They’re savage, demons and not worthwhile of being called men.”

“Oh?” Vrilda called out from Thom’s room. “So if they don’t have friends, they’re a Goron? Maybe we should start looking at you.”

“Hah!” Skelder erupted from his room. “Very good, Vrilda!”

“Thank you,” Vrilda said as she set her bed for the evening.

A few moments passed, each open door yielding its own sounds, or lack thereof.

“It’s a shame we’re leaving so soon,” Skelder stated. “I was looking forward to seeing what this city had to offer for mead and girls, and maybe of its smithing. I know I could use some new armor.”

“Couldn’t we all,” Thom said in response, stepping into the hall. As he did, Solnos the caretaker came around the corner.

“As it is,” Solnos began, “each of you are going to be outfitted in armor if you’re going to be following Sigi.”

In unison, and slowly, everyone peeked out into the hall.

“I will need you all to be ready for fitting in fifteen minutes,” he finalized as he walked away. As he turned the corner, Sigi entered the hall, walking in a brisk pace to his room.

“Sigi, armor fitting in–” Thom was interrupted.

“I know,” Sigi said as he opened the door. “My armor is stored here.” He then closed the door as quickly as he had opened it.

“…he has armor?” Hroth asked. The rest of them shrugged before leaning back into their rooms.

Inside his room, Sigi hung his sword and placed the ring on a table, pulling out a piece of paper which he had scribed some notes on. He read over them briefly before placing it back in a hidden pocket in his leather cloak. He looked around the room, finding some parchment with a quill. He sat down, writing a few brief things before rolling it up.

“Solnos!” he called out. In a few moments, he heard footsteps coming down the hall before his door was opened.

“Yes, Sigi?”

“Please ensure this reaches the herbalist. I need them to tell me who is capable of procuring these ingredients and knows how to make the item I’ve listed at the bottom,” Sigi said sternly. It was obvious he was intent on finding an answer, and quick. “Even if they’re asleep.”

“I doubt anyone is asleep with the news spreading about the city. I will get this delivered with an answer back to you as soon as possible.” Solnos departed the room. Outside, the heads peeked out again, watching Solnos move quietly but in a hurried fashion. They eyed each other once more before moving back into their rooms. Of them, Relman seemed most troubled.

Relman sat on his bed and simply stared at a wall. The dream he had many nights ago had recurred in his mind. He thought back to that hand on the table, realizing it could have been right off of one of those beasts. His mind started to wander… Goron, Sigi, beasts, the dream. It was all beginning to take the form of a surreal world that he was living in. All of those things he had dreamed of were myths. What was it…

“Twig?” Thom said to him, breaking his daze. Relman looked up, regaining his composure. “It’s time to go.”

“Oh, right,” Relman nodded. He stood up, following the rest out. As they were leaving, Sigi came out of his room, his sword still strapped to his back. He looked at the others as they stopped.

“I’ll meet you at the armory. I am going to where my armor is stored.” With that, Sigi moved past them, and they looked at each other with even further confusion. In moments, Solnos beckoned them onward. After some hesitance, they started walking with Solnos, who kept them at a hurried pace. In usual manner, Telmar began raising doubt.

“Why did Sigi have the ring?” Telmar posed to the group. He walked behind, but anyone ahead of them could have seen everyone’s eyes roll.

“We’re about to go get armor, to fight more Goron and gods know what else, and your immediate concern is with the ring?” Thom said over his shoulder. At that, he stopped. Telmar could see the frustration in his face.

“At that, why do you keep asking questions? For every action Sigi has done thus far, he has been able to give us a reason why he did it, or prove why it needed to be done. He has done that every… single… time. Yet you stand against him, ever suspicious because… well, to be honest, I don’t know why. Maybe you see him as a threat. Maybe you’re scared of him. Or maybe…” he got real close to Telmar “… maybe you’re just jealous that his eyes, in all of their blackness, are better than yours and represent more courage than you’ve demonstrated thus far.

“You’re better off just staying behind or going back to the keep to do the wall-watching that you had been assigned before. The only reason you’re here is because you know how to use a sword. But you know what? Lord Rothgard is dead, and his keep is in council rule. Sigi can’t claim anything there, and we’re going to be marching with several hundred men who KEEP MORE QUIET THAN YOU, CAN FIGHT BETTER THAN YOU, and DON’T DOUBT EVERY SINGLE DAMNED THING THAT CROSSES THEIR PATH!”

Thom yelled it at the top of his lungs into Telmar’s face.

“So go get on your horse and take off towards the keep where you’ll be more useful there, than dishonoring the man that our Lord chose to lead us when we need it most.”

The group was visibly struck. Solnos had stopped, but was not looking at the group, letting things take its course. Telmar was looking at Thom with what could only be described as shock as his eyes were wide. Thom meant it; he wanted Telmar to go. Relman kept looking forward, thankful that Thom had finally spoken what was on his, and possibly everyone’s mind.

“Fine,” Telmar finally mustered. “Fine, I’ll go. I’ll be where our Lord wanted us all to begin with: in the keep.” With those words, Telmar turned around and began walking back towards the rooms. Thom turned around and walked towards Solnos, who said nothing but heard the queue to continue on. They walked in silence for several more minutes before stopping short of the armory, where Solnos went inside to declare their arrival to the armorsmiths.

“I remembered that there was a reason why I loved you,” Vrilda said playfully. Thom smiled a bit, finally letting the anger subside.

“You know what,” Hergar chimed in, “I think I love you too.” They chuckled before the armorsmith came back out with Solnos.

“This is Armorsmith Ogor. He will be taking care of you from here. When you are done, simply retire to your rooms.” Solnos departed, with Armorsmith Ogor looking over the ragtag group. Ogor stood stoutly in a light shirt and pants, black smeared across him in different areas. Doubt was in his eyes about the group, but he nodded.

“This way, we’ll get started,” he seemingly grunted as he gestured for them to follow him. Once they made it inside the smith’s shop, they found it was several smiths working at once. The anvils and forges were at least seven or eight deep. Many of them were occupied with hammering, and the others were being setup for work.

“We normally only keep two to three smiths running at any time, but with the war orders being distributed, we’re stepping up the supplies,” Ogor spoke over the clanging of metal. The smell was unmistakable, and satisfied a few of the group. The smell of forged metal was a quaint reminder of home.

“The smallest of you go to that smith over there,” Ogor shouted over the noise, pointing to one of the smiths. “If you’re wide, over there. The rest with me.”

The group looked at each other for a moment, a mixture of excitement and curiosity present in their faces. Skelder, Hroth and Hergar went with Ogor. Relman and Vrilda went over to the smith for the small-bodied, with Vrilda poking fun at Relman having to accompany her. Only Thom went by himself to see the smith for being the burly man of the group.

Slowly the group began to have armor fitted to them. A smith would take something pre-made and hold it up to the proper body part, making eyed calculations before either grabbing another piece or taking it to the anvil and hammering it out some, perhaps heating it to make it malleable before hammering it greatly. There was no doubt that the smiths had skill about them. Their measurements by sight were very accurate. After ensuring certain bits of chain mail or plate would fit, they’d begin assembling the leather straps to the bit of armor.

Slowly, the ragtag group began to change into something else. They began looking like people to be reckoned with on the battlefield. The posture they carried themselves with, being proud of who they were and where they came from, accented the armor well. As each piece came on, and they moved about in it, the excitement in each of them grew further. While a smith was working on a piece of armor for Thom, he came over to Hergar.

“See, Hergar?” Thom asked. “This is what I need for my wife. She couldn’t beat me senseless with this type of armor!”

“Hah, yes!” Hergar agreed, excited. “And I stand a greater chance at attracting women to me, wearing this! I am sure many of them will think, ‘Oh, look! A shiny!’ and come running to me!”

“I heard that, Thom!” Vrilda called out over the clanking. Thom had his back to Vrilda, and his eyes went wide before stifled laughter erupted from his nose. Hergar smiled slightly and patted Thom on the shoulder, who went back to his smith for further fitting.

Lord Talgret entered into the smithing shop. The smiths looked at Talgret and nodded at him with respect, which Talgret returned. As he approached, the fitting had been finished. The group that had been ragtag before now looked veteran before him, walking with pride and contentment. The armor had made the man, and the woman, as the case were. Talgret motioned for them to come outside, away from the noise and the heat. The cool air outside relieved the group a bit as they stood before him.

“How does it feel?” Talgret asked. Smiles sprung to the faces of each one of them.

“I did not know that this would fit me so well,” Vrilda stated, giving a nod of approval as she looked down. “It’s almost tempting to taunt my husband to see what would come of it.”

Lord Talgret nodded once, a slight smile on his face. “Understandably. When I had a wife, we were very much the same way.”

Relman turned to look at himself a few moments before looking up. “Do you know where Sigi is?”

Lord Talgret nodded. “Last I checked, he was suiting himself up. I asked that he meet us here, in case he needed adjustments.”

As if hearing a stage call, Sigi walked around a far corner, approaching the group. For all except Talgret, eyes went wide as they looked at Sigi’s armor.

One pauldron came up slightly to protect the left shoulder, and he had plate lined on top of chainmail on his upper arm and his forearm, a five-fingered gauntlet dressing each hand. The breastplate had chains that connected to the pauldrons and one that connected to itself, closing around to latch on the right side. Chainmail was underneath the plate, and his leggings, shinguards and boots were all in metal. It moved quietly, surprisingly, as the metal was not touching itself too much. On top of this, he wore his black leather cloak, and had his sword strapped to his back. The armor was all black, and only in certain light could runes be seen written on all of it, in varying lines that could only be described as veins. His hair had finally been pulled back and was wrapped in a tight cloth, to prevent it from being caught in the armor behind him.

Thom looked at Sigi’s armor, and then back to his own.

“Suddenly, I feel inadequate,” Hergar said playfully, looking over Sigi. He was a presence that would intimidate most that were not on his side. As they looked over Sigi’s armor, and Sigi over theirs, a courier came up holding two parchments. He gave one to Talgret, and one to Sigi. They both opened them, reading a brief moment before looking at each other.

“You first,” Sigi said, nodding to Talgret.

“Some scouts have confirmed that we’re dealing with Goron further north. But their main force is out beyond my lands for several days,” Talgret said, rolling the parchment back up. “We have more time than we anticipated, but it’ll allow us to move and fortify well ahead of their arrival. But there is a problem.”

“…what is it?” Relman hesitantly asked. Talgret sighed.

“If we looked over their numbers properly, we’re outmanned at least three to one with our current contingent,” Talgret said regrettably. The pride and confidence that the group had in their armor quickly sank to their feet.

“There’s no doubt on my mind that we need the council behind us on this,” Talgret said, looking to Sigi. Sigi had been contemplating something for several moments, and looked around the ones gathered with him.

“We need someplace private, Lord Talgret,” Sigi stated. Talgret nodded, and began making his way across the street, towards a door. Sigi and the group followed him. They entered into what appeared to be a barracks. Two soldiers were in there, looking over their armor.

“Out,” Talgret commanded. Without hesitation, they left the barracks, and Talgret looked around before gesturing to close the door. Hroth closed the door, and they formed a circle.

“We’re safe here,” Talgret stated, looking to Sigi. Sigi nodded to him, and then looked to the group.

“What was your apothecary’s name… the one that retired?” Sigi asked Talgret.

“Jor Harsgfeld,” Talgret replied. “Why do you ask?”

“He didn’t retire,” Sigi replied. “He went to the capitol to work there further, possibly with some incentive.”

Talgret appeared confused. “I don’t understand. Why would he go there?”

“The council needed someone who was good at what they did,” Sigi continued. “I asked for a courier to find out who could put certain ingredients together so well, and it turns out his name showed up, and that those ingredients were ordered from here, to the capitol.

“When I was in Lord Rothgard’s chambers with the Council Warbringer, I had noticed that one of the bits of food was half-eaten. As I am sure you are aware, he never left food unfinished.” Sigi’s companions nodded. “I found it odd, so on instinct, I took his ring from the hand he typically would eat with. I found there was a residue on the ring. It was poison, and it was done by the apothecary that worked for you here.”

The eyes on everyone present went wide.

“Lord Rothgard was… poisoned?” Thom reiterated out of disbelief.

“And a short while later, the Council’s representatives show up to take control of his land, since he had no heirs,” Sigi reminded them. “They wanted to seize assets to prevent me from doing what I am doing now.”

“Forming an army,” Relman thought aloud.

“Indeed,” Sigi affirmed. “They left when they couldn’t find what they were looking for, but we were able to get here to do it anyway.”

“I wonder if we could get to Jor to ask him if he knew what the poison was made for?” Talgret pondered, posing it to the group.

“He’s dead as well,” Sigi said. “The courier alerted me that he had died, possibly of old age, a short time before Lord Rothgard died.”

The tension in the air was palpable. Lord Talgret stepped back to pace about, and Sigi’s companions reeled in the thoughts of their Lord being poisoned.

“He was ill, but he seemed far from death,” Thom recalled. “It was so odd to hear that he had passed on our outing.”

“And here, we need the Council so we can rally to defend these lands,” Talgret said through gritted teeth. “No doubt, somehow, they knew this as well.”

“It is possible,” Sigi said. “But, we are fortunate that time is on our side.”

“For what? To retreat?” Talgret asked, frustrated. Sigi shook his head.

“No,” Sigi said.

“…we take your men to the capitol and overthrow the Council.”

Everyone’s attention snapped to Sigi.

“You…” Talgret stumbled. “You can’t be serious. One of the keeps turning on the Council? Assaulting the capitol? We’d be evenly manned, but how many would we lose in a fight trying to get into the city?”

Sigi shook his head. “We take a smaller group in. You can tell them that you’re turning me in for treason. Get enough men into the city to take control of the entrances, and then get the rest of the men in there. Once we have the Council’s attention, we may get the attention of the rest of the keeps, and we may be able to draw everyone together. But one thing is clear at this point. The council can’t be trusted.”

“Why would they… I just don’t understand, Sigi,” Talgret said. “I don’t understand why they are trying to keep us from combating the Goron.”

Sigi shook his head, clearly as confused. “We won’t know until we ask.”

The silence descended on the room. Sigi’s companions were now dealing with the newly found death of their beloved Lord, Sigi’s plan and the fact that they’d be alongside him as he tried to overthrow the council. Talgret was realizing what he had been thrown into, with Sigi successfully showing what had transpired. For Sigi, on the forefront of his mind was the sorrow he felt for those in the room with him, beginning to come to grasp with a war they did not quite understand anymore. The honor, the loyalty and the logic had begun to be all thrown to the wayside.

Lord Talgret took a deep breath. “The council it is then. But I doubt they’ll see me as turning you in. I am unsure this ruse will work.”

“I am asking you to turn on the council, Lord Talgret,” Sigi explained. “That is treason.”

“So it would be true,” the Lord contemplated for a few more moments.

“All right,” Talgret said, breaking the tension of choice in the room. “Let’s go to the capitol.”

At that, Sigi nodded and Lord Talgret left the room, immediately summoning over one of the soldiers. Sigi looked to his companions.

“I make no mistake when I say this must be kept silent for now,” Sigi stated. They nodded quietly, and Sigi and the others filed out onto the streets.

“I would suggest heading back to your rooms and getting some rest. It is late,” Sigi said before he himself began wandering back towards the keep. Thom looked at the others.

“So long as there’s some mead to take in,” he said, and they began following loosely behind Sigi.