Aramis moved through the door back to Goblintown, seeking the source of the moaning that Owen had heard. There was no sign of the mystic who’d fled this way – no sign of anyone. Good, he thought. Let that be a lesson to any goblin who’d rather fight than talk. Whoever’s still alive that’s strongest will take over now; I just hope they remember –
The moaning came from behind him, above the doorway. The cleric held up his sunrod, illuminating the hobgoblin he’d questioned before, hanging upside down above the door. Blood ran from both of his feet, pinned to the wall with a single, massive nail.
“By the Queen!” Aramis said, scarcely aware of Azal’s brief presence at his side. At once the cleric piled up some of the chamber’s junk in an attempt to reach the hobgoblin and get him down. With sweat in his eyes and rage in his heart, the cleric finally completed his grisly work, lowering the hobgoblin onto a long table.
The hobgoblin’s moans settled down into ragged breathing. Knowing that his time was short, Aramis pronounced two healing words upon the hobgoblin. The creature regained enough strength to open his eyes and focus them upon Aramis. He drew a breath to speak, but only coughed up blood. Aramis placed a hand over the hobgoblin’s chest, finding it easy to keep him flat on the table.
“Easy,” said the cleric. “Easy.”
The hobgoblin stopped squirming. “The chieftain is dead?” he finally asked.
“Yes, he is. Your tribe has fled Goblintown.”
The hobgoblin grunted and sat up with obvious difficulty, looking at his wounded feet. “Maybe you should have left me to the rats after all. I might have been spared this torment.”
“What’s your name?”
“Maelgrek,” said the hobgoblin, a little surprised by the question.
“Maelgrek, you’ve been knocking on death’s door since you fought us. If you really wanted to die, you would’ve. But instead, you chose to live – and you were strong enough to do it.”
“But everything I had to live for is gone.” Maelgrek tore a rag off his tunic and began to clean himself up. “My chieftain is dead, and whatever’s left of my tribe will never take me back.”
“Then you’ll have to find something else to live for.”
Maelgrek stopped and looked at Aramis for what seemed like the first time. “You sound like a man who knows what he’s talking about,” the hobgoblin said.
“I’ve been there before, yes. It’s not easy; I won’t lie to you. But it’s a big world. I suggest you have a look around before you give up.”
Aramis heard Owen in the throne room announcing his imminent departure. Thinking quickly, he said “You can travel north, with Owen. He could use the company, and there’s sure to be someone in Ossington who could use your services.”
Maelgrek pondered the cleric’s words before nodding his head. “If there’s nothing for me in the Sunless Citadel,” said the hobgoblin, “maybe I can find something there.”
Aramis clapped Maelgrek on the shoulder and gathered himself to stand, but the hobgoblin clamped his hand over the cleric’s. “What is your name, human?”
“Thank you, Aramis, for your help. How can I repay you?”
“Make the most of the opportunity you’ve been given.”
“I will, make no mistake. But maybe I can tell you something about what’s down in the Twilight Grove.”
- – - – -
After Owen and Maelgrek were gone, Aramis rejoined Azal and Erky in the throne room, his face more grave than usual. “What’s wrong?” Azal asked at once.
“I need to make a vow,” replied the cleric. “I’d appreciate it if you’d witness it.”
“Sure, lad,” said Erky.
Aramis drew the longsword that he’d been carrying and held it aloft. With his eyes closed, he recited the words that Brother Perceval had taught him, a sacred rite of vengeance culminating in “Let all who defy the Raven Queen be delivered into her embrace.”
He knew at once that the ritual had succeeded; the path to divine vengeance was now open to him. He opened his eyes to see Azal and Erky exchanging puzzled, concerned glances. “Everything all right?” Azal asked.
“It will be,” replied Aramis. “I believe that it will be.”