As the days went by, the town became more fervid; there was a feeling in the air that something dreadful was going to happen and soon, but our clues were minimal. We scoured the town and the only clue we could find was from Jake’s fanatic dancer-lover, a harridan by the name of Red Judy, who implied he’d left town, something confirmed by the guards on the gate. Gambling, and at a loss, we followed, intuition telling us that this lord of murderers was involved with St Helena.
Taking a coach, we arrived at the Shallyan wayshrine on the afternoon of the third day. It was as a festival, surrounded by tents and raucous adventurers, who obviously were more interested in drinking and fighting than searching; only with my glib tongue and the blessing of Mayor Ludwig’s name did we manage to investigate the shrine. There I, to my pride, deduced from the undisturbed sands of the inner shrine’s floor that St Helena had been taken, without a struggle, by two people; a tall man and a shorter women, wearing a man’s boots. After that the trail was dead.
We were preparing to retire for the night, when some Dwarfish adventurers whose acquaintance I’d made, pointed us towards the arrogant elf again, Aine. His finely crafted tent came down around his pointy ears, but not before we’d bullied him into revealing the blessed Helena’s route.
The following morning, we started off, tracking the path through the woods. We only halted for two things; first, when ambushed by ruffians who’d murdered Aine, the arrogant fool having set out to rescue Helena alone; we swiftly dispatched them, save a sole survivor we interrogated and allowed to flee. Secondly, when we arrived at a small shrine to Taal, to find a skirmish commencing; a group of men, led by Sharp Jake, attacking a group of lightly-armed and -armoured soldiers we identified as Myrmidions. In utter silence, the Myrmidions salughtered Jake’s superior numbers; we aided a little, removing the contingent of crossbow-wielding thugs from the battle with ease, before Karl’s arrow showed Jake what sharp meant.
Then we were perplexed; the Myrmidions would not talk to us, nor allow us to pass; yet we were sure the blessed Helena was behind them, in the shrine. As we buried the dead (partially our of Heinrich’s holy decorum, partly to keep the wild animals away), the Myrmidion chief, a statuesque priestess, intervened, taking Sharp Jake’s head. We waited and waited and, as the sun fell, the Myrmidions formed a column and walked away. Heinrich quickly ran to pray, whilst we followed them through the woods, shouting to St Helena before the Myrmidions threateningly silenced us.
They came to a clearing full of horses, mounted and rode off. There was nothing we could do but follow, knowing that they would be back in Bogenhafen days before us, and all our trials had been for naught. As night fell, we were dead on our feet, running through darkening woodland… when something curious happened; a wolf (Heinrich swore it was ghostly), crossed our path, ignoring us, but leading us downhill. We followed, cautiously, expecting a pack of the beasts to pounce, and found the river and a boat that should not have floated, next to an unburied skeleton.
I remember that ghostly night, with Heinrich sitting up, his face alight with joy, as he squeezed every ounce of speed from the decrepit coracle; my memories are so dreamlike, but I thought we sailed through the land of the dead, over the faces of the men we’d killed that day, past woods that walked and watching animal eyes. As the sun rose, Heinrich pulled us into Bogenhafen.
Our route took us close to the waterfront palisade of the Old Quarter; from inside, we heard chanting, not Shallyan, that turned my stomach; there was no way that St Helena was already in there, and that chanting was unholy, guttural and wrong. As we sailed into the docks, the boat groaned a little. As we stepped out of it, Heinrich last, looking aghast to leave the waters so soon, it wavered and fell apart into leaves and twigs. I have never venerated these human gods, and never would, but I felt my companions should have offered thanks at that moment.
Talking to the dock guards, our fears were realised; the Myrmidions were returned with St Helena and Sharp Jake was being blamed for the kidnapping; with him and his men dead, the Myrmidions silent, and the simple St Helena ignorant of her situation, who could dispute this hideous lie? And would it avail us now to do so, when the blessed lady had finally arrived?