Seelah stands quietly, her eyes on the town in the valley below. Lini steps up beside her.
‘There is your problem,’ she says, ‘You became involved in this town and the people in it.’
Seelah is silent, her knuckles tighten on her sword-hilt.
‘I just did not want you to think you were the only fool around’, says Lini.
Sajan the monk has been sitting cross-legged, hands on knees and eyes closed. He springs to his feet and flexes his fingers.
Seelah breathes through her teeth. ‘I think I shall walk back to that town.’ she says.
Amiri is already halfway down the hill.
The Crusaders approach the town at a run, splitting up as they near the outer walls and ducking around hedges and buildings for cover. There are goblins carousing in the streets, but no sign of Ripnugget or the turncoat Tsuto.
Seelah gestures for Lini to scout the Old Light rocks again. She fared badly last time, but she is the only one with the smarts to make sure it is safe. Lini nods and heads off with her pet snake spiralling around her arms.
Amiri stands guard at the City Gates. With two short stabs of her fingers, Seelah directs Sajan back to the Cathedral. Seelah herself runs around the edge of town to the doors of the Rusty Dragon. She squares her shoulders, kicks open the doors and charges in.
Lini is being more careful at Old Light than last time. She casts an Augury spell before approaching the rocks and sees a vision of an Ogre on one side of the peak. She promptly circles around in the opposite direction and finds Tsuto Kaijitsu signalling to someone in the distance. His keen senses alert him to her presence and he spins to attack, but Lini’s snake is too quick and he goes down in a cloud of dust as it coils tighter and tighter.
In the Rusty Dragon, Seelah finds a barely-conscious Guard who points vaguely in the direction of the cellar. Vaulting down the steps, she surprises a Goblin Henchman who is busy draining the kegs. Seelah tosses her warhammer at his head. He dodges to one side, but she quickly draws her longsword and skewers him to a barrel. Beer leaks from the keg and onto the cellar floor. It is red as wine. She heads back up to the tavern and is greeted by the owner who thanks her profusely.
Amiri is besieged by Zombies at the City Gates. One of them bites through her shield as she fends it off. She calls to the Night Watch for help but he runs away. Cursing at his retreating back, she rounds on the Zombie and lops off its head.
In the Cathedral, a Hellhound erupts from the crypt in a gout of flame, but Sajan flips up onto the pulpit to avoid the fire then leaps onto the monster’s back and punches it behind the ear. It explodes in a burst of heat, singeing Sajan’s impassive eyebrows.
Seelah is searching through the ruined stalls and banners of the abandoned Festival. She waves to Lini to help Sajan, so Lini sends her crow and tiger into the Cathedral. The two pets soon find a Goblin Henchman trying to bite open a relic case with his teeth. Lini hits him with an Inflict spell and there is a flutter of wings and a gnashing of fangs and the Cathedral is secure.
Lini and Sajan head back to the Festival to help Seelah. A Werewolf and another Goblin Henchman shortly bite the dust. The Villain’s henchmen are falling fast, but there is no sign of the Chief himself.
“Enough of this”, says Seelah, “We need to draw him out.” She signals to the others and they make a stand around the monument in the Town Square. Waves of undead minions rise up to attack them and then, finally, Ripnugget rides into the square for the showdown. Lini touches Seelah’s arm.
“I’ve got this”, she says.
Lini’s gnome figure seems tiny in front of the goblin chief looming high astride his giant lizard mount. There is a moment’s pause, and then he charges.
Lini dodges to the side. Her crow swoops into Ripnugget’s eyes and the tiger’s paw sweeps him out of his saddle. He rolls in the dirt.
The giant gecko Stickfoot swings around and pounces at Lini but she is ready. The earth shakes under the lizard’s feet and her tiger locks its jaws around its throat. As the dust settles, the tiger stretches and pads back to her. She gathers both pets together and whispers her thanks to them.
Seelah sheathes her longsword. Ripnugget is lying in the muck, trying to reach his cleaver. Seelah walks over and takes it from him. Ripnugget looks up.
“You come back”, he gasps, “Why?”
Seelah crouches and says, quietly, “When I first started as a Paladin, a man said to me, ‘Seelah, you cannot afford to care’.”
She looks down at him, “That’s my problem.”