She reported as oredered by the Commander and officially received her orders to infiltrate the order of the Fiend and find out what if any their relationship was to the monstrous events befalling the region and the events in Vicini. Her first order of business was to investigate the town and see who the temple master may have had relationships with, it didn’t take her too long to find that the shipping company that she had found that day belonged to a company that operatead out of the Slags called “Mortimer, Reeves and Co.” reportedly they had done a lot of business in the town up until the military lockdown and since then they’d not been seen or heard from.
Meredith took detailed notes of her various encounters and it seemed that dissappearences had been common in Icini and the surrounding region for some time but most put that down to banditery and slavers from Vicini until the strange happenings with the dead and the night that someone killed the temple master and left her strung up disembowled in her own temple. The captain of the guard recounted how they’d found the parts of countless people in the temple but that they’d not reported that fact to anyone other than the commander and herself. The more Meredith looked the more it seemed that something ominous had been afoot, she felt a slight feeling of frustration that if she’d not killed the vile bitch when she had she may have more information to go on now.
Another string of information indicated that many of the people in the region had been fleeing to surrounding ones since the outbreak many of them would have ended up in the capital and that a shanty town even more repulsively run down than the Slags had begun to form on the outskirts of the city walls. With that she felt that she had covered most of what she could in Icini itself and reported back to the commander.
“So, what’s your intention now?” The Commander asked while scraping what looked like blood from under her nails.
“I’m heading back to the capital, first look into the trading company and then this new slum.”
“Hmm, what do you think you’ll find in those slums?”
“The temple master and the transport company couldn’t of been responsible for all the dissappearences, there must of been more consipartors”
“It only makes sense.”
“Sound reasoning, very well, take this” the old crone handed Meredith a seal. “It’ll get you replacement horses from the scout stables between here and the city.”
“Have there been any more word on Corrinth?”
“Not yet, I sent a bird after you told me your story yesterday and there’s yet to be a reply.” She shrugged, “cities that recently burnt down can be slow on the reply, though it may be wise to send some runners. I’ll have a bird sent to the capital, both for them to expect your arrival and to furnish you appropriatly”
Meredith nodded in confirmation.
“and secondly to have a runner sent to Corrinth and see what has them taking so long.”
“With the help of the scout horses i should be able to make it back to the capital in a few days.” Meredith mused remembering the slow journey to Icini and seeing the burning of Corrinth in the distance.
“Indeed, and take this as well.” She put a silver ring on the between them.
“What’s this?” Meredith asked picking it up.
“You’re a Leutenant now. Beign the only survivor of a squad gets you a promotion.”
Meredith looked up a moment and then placed the ring on her finger and nodded.
“Well I’ll get on my way.” Meredith said with a confident nod.
“Good luck, I don’t say it often but I feel we will all need a good dose of it to make it through this thing we now find ourselves in.” The old woman said looking glum and Meredith nodded and left the command tent.
She took a deep breath of the camp air and looked at the suns as the began to set. She went back to her tent and collected what little she had there and then went to the stable to collect a horse showing the guards there the seal she selected a good runner and then headed out an hour of heavy riding and she was coming up on the first of many scout stations she would be seeing, showing the ring and swapping the horse again and again the moons raised in the sky and traveling at pace became perilous so she stopped at a travellers roadside tavern. The stable boy eagerly took the horse as she gave him a couple of talents and then headed in. All around were troops, scouts, messengers and other servents of the Kingdom, the innkeeper looked mighty pleased with business as he saw her walking in.
“Why hello madam, how may I help you tonight?” He asked, the tone of his voice setting Meredith on edge.
“I need board for the night, feed for my horse and whatever slop passes for food in this piss hole.” Meredith said and then scanned for a table. “And a jug of your sweet wine.”
“Of course, that’ll be ten talents.” He said with a grin and Meredith slammed the seal on the table. He looked at it a moment and then nodded.
“I’ll run a tab.”
“Of course! Of course.”
She didn’t really need or want a tab but he’d annoyed her so she had acted out, she tutted to herself, the jug of sweet wine and a mug came almost immediately she poured it and drank it quickly. Her memory drifted back to their last night in Icini before heading out to the villages, she leant back and stared at the ceiling a moment. The food came and she quickly demolished it, and the wine then she saw herself to bed.
“Breakfast in the morning?”
Meredith nodded “I’ll be up before sun up”
Her nights sleep was fitful the same recuring themes again and again, being chased like a rabit by a demonic Primela, Gilnar roaring with thunderous laughter, insectoid incisors slashing, she woke with a start covered in sweat and heart pounding. “What in the hells is wrong with me.” She muttered to herself.
“Nothing at all.”
She looked around startled, but no one was there, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and she quickly got dressed then opened the shutters to look at the weather outside, she estimated that dawn was an hour or so off. She headed down the stairs, settled her tab and ate breakfast, around her a number of others were also hastily eating their bowl of oats, almost certainly all of them were messengers or scouts. She checked the route on the wall before heading out and noted that she’d have to sleep out for the next couple of days a situation that she didn’t look forward to.
“Come along Meredith no point in being scared of the dark” she whispered to herself and then headed out as the sky began to turn a paler blue she was on her horse and back on the road. She spent the night in her small shelter, one advantage of her height was it was quite easy to set up her sleeping arrangements and after a hard ride all day she slipped to sleep with ease only to be woken at some point in the night a great pressure on her chest and something leaning over her, her canvas above it, it looked a bit like a face but instead of eyes and a mouth it jsut had black holes that seemed to sink into an abyss and looked like it was woven from a patch work of parts. She tried to struggle but couldn’t move, the sound of raspy breathing was against her ear and then something seemed to start crawling across her face like a long spindly finger, or claw, or an insect leg. Finally she shook herself and there was just the surface of her canvas.
She gasped and sat up. “These night terrors are getting to much” she splashed some water on her face from her flask and ran her hands through her hair.
She spun around and she clicked her tongue. “Stupid branches, stupid wind, stupid Meredith.” She shook her head, and packed up deciding it was better to just ride through the early morning hours than it was to try and go back to sleep only to wake up again in a few hours. Or minutes if her mind still felt like playing games with her.
She rode at a leisurely pace, while the scout stables may have been open it was risk to ride fast at night, to easy for the horse to miss something and end up laming itself and then you were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no horse an unenviable position for someone in a hurry.
The next few days followed the same pattern of long hard riding during the day, a fitful sleep and then a ride through the early hours. Occasionally she’d stay in an roadside tavern when it was possible and then by the end of the sixth day she could see the massive city walls of the Capital, she could see the shanty town growing off the side like a tumour, the high towers of the watch and the higher towers of the arch magicus. She could see the smoke stacks of the guilds and the smithies belchjing out black smoke, a long line of caravans and coaches trying to get into the city.
“At last, we’re home” She smiled and nodded at Gilnar who let out a hearty laugh.
“That we are, at long last, the Capital of the greatest kingdom in the land!” Gilnar laughed again and went on ahead.
Meredith weaved her own way through the crowd to angry shouts and mutterings that she ignored reaching the front of the queue with ease a guards man looked at her a moment and splayed her fingers to show him the ring. He nodded and waved her in Gilnar and Primela off either wing.
Meredith woke up in her bed in the Queens district looked around, and frowned. She got dressed and headed out of the room a seargent was stood outside waiting for her.
“We’ve got some information about Mortimer, Reeves and Co gotta a lad who can show you where their offices and warehouses are.”
“You want me to get some folks together to raid the places?”
“Probably best to have some bruisers and knuckleheads ready to pound the places if this doesn’t turn out to be simple but I’d rather not have to.”
The seargent nodded. “Glad ot be back after all that time in the sticks?”
“You couldn’t possibly imagine just how glad I am to be back in the capital, even the Slags will be a delight”
“Aiye, I bet” the man nodded with a grin on his face.
“Lets go get that boy.” She said and indicated for him to lead the way.