The group drew quite a lot of attention as they entered the city. The city was big enough to see some traffic, but a group of paladins and templar was still something that the inhabitants were unused to seeing. Dee and Shunkaha had entered the city ahead of the rest of the group so they could operate without drawing attention, although Shunkaha was clearly a stranger so the locals didn’t exactly volunteer information to him. Dee on the other hand knew the right signals to show to the criminal element of the city and also remained mostly unseen.
The rest of the group took up rooms in a large high quality inn that usually catered towards visiting elven nobles. This had affected the décor of the place, which was ornate to say the least. Nature and forests were a rather common motif in all the decorations. As the city was on the eastern side of the great forest, most of the visitors were from the Spring court, and thus mostly High Elves, Sun Elves and others that represented the classical image of a noble elf.
Dee and Shunkaha had taken residence in the other inn of the city that catered to travelers from neighboring cities and towns as well as visiting merchants. The two managed to gain more information due to their separation from the main group. One of the things they learned was that the inhabitants were rather divided, and this showed in their response to the presence of the Radiant Sun group.
Some people were worried that the presence of the holy warriors would be a hindrance to their plans, in case they sided with the garrison of elven warriors when trouble appeared. Others were hopeful that the presence of the paladins meant that they could be shielded from becoming collateral damage. It seemed that the latter group was mostly made up of those that were less than ecstatic about the whole rebellion thing in the first place. No one spoke about any rebellion openly of course, they weren’t that stupid. Dee could simply read between the lines. In any case, it seemed things were progressing quickly. There was no way to keep something secret when so many people knew about it.
It turned out that Dee had been a little off in her estimation about when the rebellion would happen. Maybe it was the presence of their group that provoked the people to take action before the paladins and templar could meddle in things. Dee was monitoring things on the roof of the inn during the first night since their arrival when she spied a large number of armed individuals moving through the city.
Dee and Shunkaha were given enchanted medallions for communicating with the rest of the group. The method was not entirely safe, but it was still rather standard for scouts in these kinds of situations. Dee used her medallion to contact the commander. “Better get everyone ready. Things are heating up.”
There was a short delay, most likely because the commander had been sleeping and was woken up by Dee’s message. “Report.” The commander finally prompted for details.
“I can see large armed groups moving around the city. Thousands of people. It seems their movements are at least somewhat pre-planned. They are moving towards the locations where the elven warriors are stationed. It seems some of the groups are confused though. They seem to be moving erratically. If I were to make a guess, the plan was not supposed to go into effect tonight and they’re trying to compensate without really knowing fully what they are doing.” Dee reported what she was seeing.
She moved down from the roofs and slipped into the shadows, following one of the largest groups. The group seemed to be heading towards the largest concentration of elven troops, a large warehouse that had been converted into a barracks of sorts. Once the group of armed people reached the building they started meeting resistance. The elven warriors had not expected an armed rebellion, but they knew to expect trouble.
Despite this the resistance seemed surprisingly mild in Dee’s opinion. The elven warriors were hardly elite warriors, but they were still much better fighters than random townspeople picking up weapons. Even considering the fact that some of the townspeople were used to handling weapons for various reasons and the fact that the arms seemed surprisingly high quality, the elven garrison was being pushed back way too quickly. Dee noted that the number of warriors was much lower than she had expected.
When Dee realized that something was wrong, she slipped inside the building through a window at the side of the building. The window had been barred and rather high up the wall, but she was proficient enough in infiltration to remove any obstructions, especially when aided by her telekinesis ability that went through solid objects easily. Scaling walls was rather easy when your claws could sink into solid stone allowing you to make your own handholds. What greeted her inside the barracks was rather unpleasant.
Majority of the garrison was inside the building but they were unable to go outside to fight the armed populace. Most of the warriors were violently ill, retching out the contents of their stomachs while shaking like leaves in the wind. Some of the warriors were already dead, a fact Dee could sense easily as the power inside their bodies was already dissipating. Now that she thought about it, the warriors outside had seemed somehow weaker than they should be. Now she knew why.
“Commander, something you should know. This rebellion will not take long. The garrison seems to have been poisoned. Most of them are already either dead or in the process of dying.” Dee reported her observations.
Suddenly she noticed a burst of magic. A burst that she could identify, considering it was fairly similar to the magic she was herself using, except the burst was a lot less subtle. Messages over short distances were very hard to detect, even when you were looking for them. Messages over long distances required quite a bit of power however, especially if the message was sent in a way that made it harder to intercept. Messages like those used for communication with armies. Even so, someone without Dee’s special sight would find it difficult to notice the message being sent.
“Also, it seems the garrison managed to send a message back to the empire. No way to know the contents but I can guess.” She continued. Even with her anti-magic templar skills it would’ve been impossible to prevent the message from being sent. That was after all one of the things the extra power was there for. Such messages would be somewhat useless if anyone with appropriate skills could prevent it from being sent.
“Can you tell me anything about the poison and who might have used it? It seems unlikely the citizens would use such measures, especially when they had already prepared for an armed rebellion.” The commander asked.
Dee observed the symptoms and sniffed the air. She used one of her telekinetic hands to bring a wine flask closer to her hiding place, before sniffing the wine. “The poison was served to them in their drinks and probably food. If I had to guess, I’d say most of their supplies are contaminated, but it happened only today. The poison is quick acting and quite lethal. The poison couldn’t have been used earlier, or the warriors would’ve noticed. Some warriors didn’t consume these supplies; hence they are still in a condition to fight. I can’t say what the exact poison is without proper testing, but I’ve got a sample. As for the poisoner…someone with high level of stealth ability. These aren’t great warriors, but a random citizen wouldn’t be able to sneak in and poison most of their supplies.”
“Bring the sample back. There’s little point in sticking around and putting yourself in danger. If what you say is true, then we know what the outcome of the fight will be. I’ve already alerted the others and they are ready to fight if necessary. Though the rebels haven’t made any moves towards us, so there’s that.” The commander replied succinctly.
It seemed fairly insensitive towards the warriors that had just died, but from the point of view of the Radiant Sun it was good that the rebellion succeeded so quickly. It meant less collateral damage. However, the real problem wasn’t the rebellion. The real problem would be the empire’s response.
As Dee slipped into the luxurious inn, she noted all the recruits at full battle readiness. They seemed fairly calm and collected, which was good. It would’ve been bad if they had been nervous and panicky. The training so far was bearing fruit.
“Ah, good you’re here. Give me the sample.” The commander called out to Dee.
The commander performed a pair of holy spells with the wine flask and frowned when she got the result. “The poison is definitely not local. In fact, I’m pretty sure the materials only grow in the Night city. This might be a problem.”
“Why?” Shunkaha asked rather impolitely. He had not been himself when it came to the whole issue of cities rebelling against the empire.
The commander noted the impolite tone, but decided not to make a big deal out of it. She could understand the young wolfman’s dissatisfaction, and she had always been rather informal. “Because there’s a third party stirring the pot. At first I thought the third party was helping the rebels, but the poison changes things. Defeating the garrison in an armed rebellion is one thing, but having most of them die of poison is an insult towards the proud elven warriors of Spring court. Also, I have a theory about where the poison might have come from that I’m not too fond of.”
“The Autumn court.” Dee pointed out idly from the side, while she was busy looking out the window.
“The Autumn court.” The commander agreed. The Autumn court was the part of the empire that had the most dealings with Night city. They were also motivated to make things difficult to their rivals in the Spring court. The Autumn court was also relatively famous for their poisoners. It could also be some party completely unrelated to the courts, or even someone trying to implicate the Autumn court, but if the commander could see the connection, then so would the elves of Spring court.
In the grand scheme of the rivalry between the courts an incident like this would not be a major problem. The two courts had most certainly been involved in much worse, which is why it would eventually make little difference whether the Autumn court really was behind the poisoning. However, it was likely that this was not the only incident happening at the moment. It seemed rather unlikely that the group just happened to stumble upon the only plot involving the courts in the surrounding area. Much more likely scenario was that there were multiple instances like this, and they simply ran into one of them. While one event might not be too big of a deal, multiple such events would really put a strain on the relations between the courts. Relations that were already questionable.
Was that the whole point? And if it was, who was causing it?
The commander turned towards Dee. “Did you say that most of the supplies were contaminated?”
Dee gave a lopsided shrug. “Well, I didn’t have the time to check, but that would be my guess. To poison so many would require drastic measures like that. I brought you a wine flask, but it seems highly unlikely that most of the garrison was boozing at the same time. They’re still an elven garrison, so they aren’t that incompetent. Plus, just poisoning one or two people would be useless unless it was an assassination. This was definitely not an assassination. There’s enough evidence on the poisoning that there’s no way to hide the details either.” Assuming the whole city was not burnt down.
The commander thought for a while. “Which of you has the best stealth skills?” She knew the answer but asked anyway.
Everyone pointed at Dee. “Which of you is the fastest over long distances?” The commander asked again.
Again everyone pointed at Dee, except Shunkaha who pointed at himself while grinning at Dee, who simply scoffed at the wolfman in return.
“Right, you have just been assigned as the person who will stay outside the city during the rest of our stay here. I will compose a message that you will deliver back to the headquarters if this goes sideways.” The commander ordered. They had talked about the possibility before entering the city, and it had in fact been Dee’s idea, so this didn’t come as a huge surprise.
The commander then looked at the other recruits. “The rest of us will see if we can shelter some of the uninvolved civilians once the retaliation comes. It seems unlikely that the Spring court would pick a fight with the order as things stand, so we can most likely protect some people that were not involved with the rebellion. This is far from a certainty though, so be prepared for a fight.”
Dee was not entirely happy about being the person who was supposed to run if things got hairy, though she didn’t have any desire to become a martyr for a vague cause either. She was more peeved about missing the fighting that seemed likely to occur, especially since she could most likely sneak out of the city if she got into too much trouble. Messy battles were excellent for hiding. That said, she also recognized that she really was the best person for the role.
In her boredom, she decided to at least be useful and scouted towards the direction of the great forest, since that seemed like the most likely direction for the response to come from. She was surprised that it only took five hours for her to notice the first signs of the arriving troops. The Spring court really earned her respect with their reaction speed, though that was something the elves specialized in. The response had still been much swifter than she anticipated, and the reason became obvious almost immediately.
There were hundreds of large eagles flying in the sky towards the city. Each eagle carried between two and four people, which put the number of warriors in the sky around six hundred. It seemed unlikely that this was all of the responding forces. Instead it was simply the first wave meant to scout out the situation. Still, depending on the level of the warriors riding the eagles, they might even be enough when combined with their mounts when pitted against a simple armed populace.
“Commander, you’ve got incoming.” She reported magically. Dee knew she would have to stop using the magical communications when the eagles got closer, in case there were mages capable of intercepting the communications among their number.
“Already?!” The commander asked shocked.
“About six hundred warriors on flying mounts capable of fighting. ETA about thirty minutes. Expecting more to come later.” Dee made her final report. Her eyesight was great, but the eagles crossed over long distances with incredible speed.
In a little over half an hour the eagles were circling the city, keeping a wide berth to avoid any spells and arrows. While the population of the city was a mix of various races, there were still some elves in the city with the archery skills often associated with the race. The stereotype existed for a reason. The city didn’t really have any battlemages, but even a mage dedicated for other purposes might be able to do some damage if not taken seriously. The inhabitants of course noticed the circling fliers, and that caused quite a bit of commotion. Dee wondered idly if they had even considered the possible retaliation
Few hours later Dee started hearing the approaching beat of hooves as a large contingency of cavalry started arriving. The elves were unlikely to send any infantry over long distances to respond to such minor problems, so the response team was mostly made up of rapidly moving cavalry that could get the job done and quickly move on to their next destination. The ranks of thousands of elven warriors clad in identical uniform equipment and armor riding white elven steeds was rather impressive sight even for Dee.
That said, their image was most likely one of the weapons of units such as this used, inspiring fear and awe in their opponents and working as a deterrent. Rebellions would be less likely if this is what awaited those that rebelled.
Dee noted with interest that the cavalry didn’t immediately go for the city, but started making camp instead. Apparently whoever was leading this unit was not one to underestimate his opponents. The leader of this unit realized that taking the city might take a bit of time, assuming the defenders didn’t just surrender, which seemed unlikely. Once the rebels had found the poisoned bodies of the garrison, they had realized that they were in trouble and that surrender was not in the cards.
Dee noted that the camp was expertly built and well-guarded, but they didn’t seem to be expecting any trouble from the outside aside from perhaps the defenders of the city sallying forth. That seemed reasonable though as the eagles and their riders would make sure no army could sneak up on them. They seemed to have gotten the message about poison though, as the supplies of the army were under constant guard.
“They don’t seem to be alert enough to keep me away from the rest of the camp though.” Dee mused to herself, before making a decision.
She once again melded into the shadows and snuck through the camp aiming towards the commander’s tent. Maybe she could overhear something useful?