Chapter 12
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The shield with a tower on a red field, the sign of Jallesalos, stared at them from the closed gates. Which was strange, considering they were early in the day and that the gates of the town should be open.

“Maybe they are under ogre siege?” Suggested Timothy, hands going to his axes.

“Or, they are celebrating?” Piped in Lucita.

“Or, we could no longer let people in without a tax,” said a guard from atop the battlements. “It would be one hundred gold coins per person. Or, you can always camp outside.”

“That is a robbery,” exclaimed Zachary. No town that he knew of charged that much. Heck, no town in the Duchy of Nathalas charged for entry, even!

“Those are the orders of the new mayor. Pay or leave,” Annie sighed. One hundred golden coins was a fortune. There was no way they were paying.

“We can always go to a village to stock up. Let us go along,” and they left. Sure, Annie could have caused a ruckus, but they were on the clock. Their time in Lilastein had taken them a week. And, Alarie needed to be found before an adventurer’s guild managed to recruit her.

They passed the river, going to Nathalas City, only to be asked to pay another outrageous fee. They didn’t pay in here either and continued to stock up on food from kind farmers.

From Nathalas City it was to Lamben. They didn’t even bother to wait for a guard to appear when they saw that the gates were closed. Finally, when they reached Dryndhelle, the gates were wide opened.

The six went in and headed straight to the tavern. For, they wanted a bed to sleep in, for a change. Inside, they got two rooms, one for the men and one for the women, and they split.

Annie went to take a nap, the bed calling to her. While the adventurers began to mingle with the people in the tavern.

“Say, why were the towns to here closed for visitors?” Asked Krisina, one burly looking man.

“Haven’t you heard? The duke wants to build a new palace,” Krisina nodded. In a different corner of the tavern, Timothy asked the same question to a chubby woman.

“Oh, I hear the army needs new weapons and uniforms,” she said, and Timothy nodded and went to Krisina. The other three were next to her, and they all looked confused.

“I was told that the duke required funds for a new palace,” said Krisina.

“That can’t be right. I was told that there was a sickness ravaging Hitch and that we needed to send relief funds,” spoke Lucita.

“Well, I was told that the funds were for the army,” said Timothy, looking as confused as the rest. He went to look at Zachary and Nyle, who nodded.

“Sounds like a curse,” said Nyle, hand going to rest under his chin. “We can’t be sure that the funds are not redirected, somehow.”

“How are the people not seeing what is happening?” Asked Lucita. They weren’t even questioning all the rumors that were being spread around.

“Nathalas has only one witch,” said Nyle, and they all nodded. Yes, it must be Arga. For she needed money now for the trial. All the funds that were being collected from travelers were probably lining her pockets.

“We have to tell the duke,” said Zachary, eyes blazing. “She is harming the good name of the entire duchy!”

“But, if it is not her and, let us say, someone from a different country, we will be placed on trial for slander,” said Nyle and that wilted Zachary’s outrage somewhat.

“Who else can it be?” The Duchy of Nathalas was not a rich country, but these robberies were forcing the people into…and all five figured it out.

“If this continues, people will go into serfdom,” Lucita voiced their collective thought. There was only one person that could profit from that: the duke.

“So, it is not a curse at all. People are too afraid to voice their outrage,” said Krisina, brows furrowed. “How could the duke do this? After everything we do for him?”

“We need to get this out in the open. He basically has the other towns in a lockdown,” said Nyle. There was only one course of action, but it wouldn’t be pleasant.

“You write her,” said Timothy, face looking sour. “She likes to try to kiss me.”

“You write her,” returned Nyle. “I have Holly to look forward to when this quest is over. What if she learns that I let a hag slobber on me?”

“I’ll write her,” said Zachary, defeated. The hag Yara wouldn’t bother opening the letter of a woman. The man starved being only had attention span when men were involved. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if she wasn’t an old woman with yellow teeth and breath constantly smelling of rotten fish.

“We thank you for your sacrifice,” chorused his friends, and Zachary dragged his feet up the stairs. When he went to sit behind the desk in the men’s room, he pulled out a parchment and a pen and began to write.


It is me, Zachary. I have found something that would fit right in with your newspaper. A plot most vile. The duke is forcing towns in lockdown, and he is charging outrages sums for entry, and, I would imagine, exiting, the towns.

We, my party and me, believe that the duke wants more serfs for his estates. You, as a paragon of truth, know that it is your duty to stop him. Show the people of Nathalas that they haven’t been forgotten.

If you do, I will come by your hut and make you your favorite meal, give your cat a bath and kiss you, on the forehead.



Zachary shuddered. Even promising that much was too much. Yara’s cat was a demon who would scratch at him as he tried to give it a bath. He made peace with the fact that his hands would look like someone tried to skin him alive, and tried not to think on the fact that he would need to kiss Yara.