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Aldrich hunched down and took off the keychain. There were many keys around twenty or so all in a state of disrepair. Aldrich looked around and saw a wooden cart covered with ropes.

He untied the ropes and saw many bags and even clothes piled together in what could only be called a mess. He started searching but it was too dark.

Aldrich picked up the torch and brought it closer to the messy cart. With better light Aldrich finally found his bag and most importantly the sword that Isger gave him.

Aldrich opened his bag and was relieved that nothing was missing. It seems that the goblins didn"t bother checking the contents they just piled everything they looted here and when they returned to their hideout they would check everything at once.

This was only conjecture it might be wrong. But Aldrich felt like it is true, if the goblins knew that this bag had twelve silver coins they wouldn"t just dump it here.

Aldrich searched a bit more and easily found the bag of the halfling Tarzin. It was blue and had the mark of a red bull, though he couldn"t see how the bull was supposed to be grinning.

Aldrich picked it up and made a quick run back to the halfling"s cart cage. The halfling was excitedly telling Aldrich to hurry it up while Aldrich was trying the keys one by one.

When he tried the thirteenth key it worked. Tarzin quickly got out and they shook hands.

"Let"s get the hell out of here, my friend." Tarzin whispered, as he checked the paperwork in the bag.

Aldrich looked around at the cages nearby, all the people there were passed out. He looked at the keys in his hand.

"No. Before that let"s open the cages nearby." Aldrich refused.

"What? Shit, fine give me half the keys, that way we"ll finish faster."

There were six other cages behind Aldrich"s own cage, there were many more after it. But Aldrich just couldn"t afford to waste more time.

Aldrich and Tarzin opened the six cages and awoke the people there. He told them to run but most were still out of it and could hardly stand.

Aldrich didn"t have much time so he and Tarzin escaped together into the woods. Tarzin told him that he could see very well in the dark so Aldrich decided to follow.

Maybe if that woman didn"t betray him and threaten him afterwards she would"ve been one of the people that had a chance to escape...

Aldrich followed Tarzin through the trees and thickets for while. A sweet scent hung around the air, not cloying or overly redolent but delicately rich and refreshing.

On some vines, roots of flowering trees poked out of the vines upon which they were planted. Tarzin was very agile but slow. Frustratingly slow.

Soon the halfling started panting and breathing roughly. Aldrich, not wasn"t about to waste time talking, he quickly grabbed him and hoisted him on his left shoulder.

"Hey! What"re ya doing? I can run just fine."

"You"re slowing us down. Just tell me where to go."

"Fine. Have it your way. Let me just tell you back when I was young I was the fastest one among my brothers and cosines and the relatives of said cosines—"

"Shh, something"s not right. Shut up." Aldrich lowered Tarzin back to the ground and looked around suspiciously, sword drawn.

All was quiet but Aldrich felt that something or someone was watching them. Aldrich picked up a stone and threw it to where he felt the danger.

A cry rang out of the tree shadows to reveal a grey wolf. Now exposed, the wolf lunged at Aldrich, it was too close and too quick.

Aldrich fell down, the wolf on top of him. The wolf attempted to cut open his throat but Aldrich clamped its maw with his hands. He then kneed the wolf to the side and got up, sword in hand.

He and wolf remained still, eyes locked at each other. The wolf gave Aldrich one last look before it turned tail and ran into the woods again.

"Man, o"man. That was dangerous huh." Tarzin climbed down one of the trees.

"When did you have the time to climb up there? Alright, let"s get going. The wolf might bring his friends here."

Aldrich carried Tarzin and ran even faster than before. Aldrich was impressed by his own prowess, doubtless without the increased attributes he wouldn"t be like he is now.

The hit he gave the wolf must"ve rattled it into escaping.


The sun banished the darkness of the night and a new day arrived. Aldrich and Tarzin decided to take a some rest by a flowing brook.

Aldrich and Tarzin drank the cold water with thirst. Aldrich didn"t forget to filled his waterskin, then shared the dried meat with Tarzin as they rested by the shade of a tree.

"You"re sure this is the right way?" Aldrich repeated.

"Of course, of course don"t even worry about it! When have I, Tarzin of Tenberry let you down?" Tarzin assured.

"You didn"t.... I guess." Aldrich was a little uncomfortable with the energy that Tarzin had. They only met a few hours ago so Tarzin didn"t really have the chance to let him down so technically he wasn"t wrong.

"My brother and I run an inn at the Lunsken district, it"s called the grinning aatex when you come to Voryhrm be sure to pay me a visit. You are coming to Voryhrm right?"

"Yeah, I must study in the academy to become a Crestmaster and then I"ll an adventurer. So about the invite, don"t mind if I do."

"I knew it! Someone like you definitely has to be a Crestmaster! Actually my nephew is graduating this very year. He"s gonna be the pride of the whole family." Tarzin proudly boasted.

"Such happy news, then you have to treat me for free when you"r nephew graduates." Aldrich was quite impressed.

"Hahaah, you bet! My nephew is actually not much older than you, you guys must become friends. My nephew is actually quite talented he might join the Knights of the last sustar!"

"Wow." Aldrich exclaimed audibly. The Knights of the last sustar is one of the oldest and most renowned adventuring guilds in all the land. It was famous not only in Vorian but the entirety of the empire. It was not simply an adventuring guild but also an independent order.

Even Aldrich who lived in the extremely remote Wakefield heard about it. This guild had a history of hundreds of years and many legends had their names.

There were even some rumors that the founder of the guild fought in the liberation war. Though its disproved by most.

"When you come to Voryhrm I can pay you for saving my life. But if you can wait for half a year or so then I promise you a reward that is hard to buy with money."


Abruptly four hands appeared from thin air and strangled Aldrich. He was taken back and no matter how much he tried to fight back by punching or kicking nothing worked.

He then opened his eyes properly and looked at his assailants. There was man in a soldier"s uniform, the soldier"s face was unrecognizable because it was crushed, broken beyond repair. Fresh blood dripped off the soldier"s uniform.

The second was a woman in tattered clothes and an exposed chest, she had a hole in her throat, the blood from which sputtered on Aldrich"s face.

Both were talking together in overlapping voices, they said:



"No, wait," Aldrich pleaded between gasps as his neck was choked harder, "I didn"t I—was...!"

Suddenly Aldrich felt a splash of cold water cover him. And the two dead people were replaced by a worried Tarzin.

"Wha-what happened? Did I fall asleep?" Aldrich trembled.

"No, you didn"t sleep. You were talking and then suddenly you started chocking yourself and talking to yourself... I think you need a bit of sleep actually. We"re about an hour away from the main road. Take some rest."

Aldrich looked at his own hands that were stuck to his neck and didn"t know what to think. Even though logically he convinced himself that he was in the right, and he indeed is in the right, that emotional toll is not easily brushed off.

Aldrich looked at his reflection in the water for a moment and then punched his reflection causing the water to splash everywhere.

He drank a mouthful of water and washed his head by submerging it in the water for a moment.

Aldrich decided to take a nap for a moment, hoping to go back in the nightmare realm. He"d come up with a plan to defeat the armored husk, this time without fail.

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