Provided by our DM:
Vigo the Whisperer plodded lightly down the stone steps, ducking expertly wherever the blocks of the stone ceiling hung low. He was a thin, gangly man, but tall, and had to take great care not to crack his head in the narrow dungeon corridors beneath the castle. There were nine such hazards on this particular staircase, and bile rose in his throat as he recalled how many times he’d traveled these steps. At the bottom, he saw the flicker of torchlight beneath the imposing oak door, but did not hear the customary screaming. It was as he expected.
Upon entering the room, Vigo took in the scene around him. Chained against one wall was a badly used man in black robes. The manacles pulled his arms tightly above his head, and the distinctive tattoo of an eye shone on his forearm. Kas Guerrian was his name, and he appeared remarkably calm for one in his situation. Two guards flanked the man, armed to the teeth and clearly on edge. On the other side of the room, one of the interrogators was brandishing various implements of pain, explaining their devious intents, and becoming increasingly frustrated that his victim was not exhibiting the typical response. Idiot, Vigo thought.
“Leave us!” Vigo commanded. Underneath the commanding façade, his stomach rolled. He hated this room, and despised the long hours he’d spent here over the years.
The guards regarded Vigo warily, but obeyed. It was known that he advised the king and held great power. They did not see the sense in Vigo’s request to be alone with the prisoner, but they would not defy him. The interrogator, on the other hand, seemed to think his services were indispensable and was thus exempt from the order. He exited quickly after Vigo threatened to chain the man up and use his instruments against him. After all three had departed, Vigo was left alone with Kas Guerrian and the echoes of slowly dripping water.
“I know you,” Kas said, “You’re Vigo the Whisperer.”
“Yes,” Vigo replied, walking toward the man.
“You’re not going to torture me?” Kas asked curiously.
“I know it won’t work.”
“Oh? How do you know that?”
Vigo smiled, “I know a secret.” He walked closer, “In fact, I know a lot of secrets.”
Kas Guerrian smiled back, “So do I. And I am very curious about one of those secrets right about now.”
Vigo took two more steps and was standing directly in front of the captive. He was wearing a long, quilted coat, as was the king’s style at court, with enormous cuffs and flamboyant lace sleeves underneath. It was ridiculous but excellent for concealing things. He deftly fetched the key from his sleeve and unlocked Kas Guerrian’s manacles. “Brother, let us talk and exchange secrets, always one for another, for with sacrifice comes boon, and with every gift comes a cost.”
As the manacles clicked open, Kas slumped, barely able to support his own weight. Vigo helped him onto a stool, and the man rubbed his bruised wrists. Vigo fetched a skin of water from the interrogator’s table and offered it to Kas. He drank furiously for several moments, water streaming down the sides of his mouth. Then he sighed and looked at Vigo for a long moment. “You’re one of us.”
“So you have given me the gift of knowledge,” Vigo replied, “So I must honor the Shadow Pact and pay the price.”
Kas nodded and waited.
“The king has fetched Duke Corbin to Springhollow to set order to the town. This leaves Grand Marshall Or’fevre in charge of the northern front. The Duke is most displeased by this development.” Vigo said.
Kas wrinkled his nose, “This is not a secret.”
“…and he has made inquiries with the royal assassins, behind the king’s back.”
Kas raised his eyebrows in surprise, nodded, and took another drink of water.
“Now, it is my turn,” Vigo said, “The elven provost sent emissaries to make an alliance with the Hierophant.”
“So you have given me the gift of knowledge,” Kas replied, “So I must honor the Shadow Pact and pay the price. The emissaries killed Kas Drachma and his underlings, and no agreement was reached.”
“But the Provost will have his alliance,” Vigo added.
Kas looked at him, debating how to respond. It was not exactly a secret that had been shared.
“And,” Vigo continued, “He is one of us. He works even now to form alliances behind Mythrandril’s back, and desires to see the boy king deposed.”
Kas nodded approvingly, “Yes, Kas Luthien will have his alliance.” He took another long drink of water, held up the skin, and nodded toward it. “You guys have the good stuff, here. The water in the east tastes like rocks and feels like oil on your tongue.”
“Interrogations don’t work on the Dark One’s followers. Most do not understand this.” Vigo nodded toward the interrogator’s table with its various implements still laid out from the earlier presentation. “They think pain will eventually break any man.”
Kas swallowed quickly and replied, “So you have given me the gift of knowledge –”
“They don’t understand the magic.”
“Vigo, you have shared much brother, now I must speak or my debt will become too large.”
“It’s not that you do not break. You DO break. All men break. But you are unable to reveal your secrets outside the constraints of the pact.”
“Vigo, why do you share so much?” Kas was becoming agitated and started coughing.
“What our fine interrogator doesn’t know is that by the time he breaks you, he’s already lost, for those inducted into your order embrace a sacred pact with the Dark One. In exchange for promulgating his secrets across the land, he protects you from unwanted or even accidental disclosure of precious information.”
Kas dropped the waterskin and doubled over, clutching his stomach and coughing violently. A small trickle of blood ran down the side of his mouth.
Vigo stood up and began walking around Kas in a circle. “The magic is ingenious. Torture is useless and in fact almost merciful. Your dark god’s magic would kill you before you experienced true pain; you simply choose to give in and his magic takes over, snuffing you out of existence.”
The stool clattered loudly across the floor as Kas fell to the ground, spasming. White foam was forming at his mouth and the front of his shirt was damp with bloody spit.
“Naturally, the first thing I tried was trickery. Perhaps I could trick one of you into slipping up and revealing something accidentally, before the magic prevented you from speaking. But alas, the magic protects you not only from consciously revealing a secret, but also from accidental revelations.”
A low thump-thumping echoed through the room as Kas Guerrian’s body convulsed and slammed itself on the floor repeatedly.
Vigo leaned down and stared into the man’s eyes. “A great many of you died in our custody having provided no information. But then I discovered two very curious things that, taken separately seem innocuous, but taken together provide me the tiniest loophole. First, your pact does not restrict you to exchange secrets with those of your order. In fact, the whole point is to exchange secrets with those outside the order, in hopes that you can convert them.” He picked up the stool, righted it, and sat down. “Second, your pact does not require you to affirm the veracity of the secrets you receive. Which means I can tell you secrets, or at lest things I think might be true, and you can confirm my suspicious. So long as I know where to start, I can extract a tiny bit of information before your dark lord’s magic does…” Vigo gestured to the flopping body on the floor, “this.”
The thump-thumping ceased as Kas Guerrian’s body seized up one final time and his eyes rolled back in his head. Vigo smoothed his coat, straightened his sleeves one by one, and left the room. The interrogator was standing outside. When the door opened, he looked into the room. “My lord! The prisoner has died! Now we will no longer be able to provide us information.”
There was a smug look on the interrogator’s face, as if to accuse Vigo of botching work that should have been handled by a professional. It was useless to correct him. Vigo understood the truth: All servants of Vecna served as his eyes and when captured were not liabilities, but rather spies behind enemy lines. They needed to be used quickly and disposed, for the Dark One was watching. This simpleton was not capable of understanding the underlying brilliance of this structure, so he stared at the man until he moved aside, then began climbing the stairs. He was late for a meeting with his king.
The king’s council had already begun when Vigo arrived at the small chamber. Archon Marriq was waiting at the door for him.
“Vigo, I must speak with you.”
“Not now, Marriq.” Vigo looked through the crack in the door and saw Mal Zeral standing and speaking confidently. He cursed under his breath. “How long have they been going?”
Marriq moved his jaw slowly back and forth. It was a characteristic sign that the man was thinking, and that he would provide truthful information. It was important to know every man’s tell.
“Since I’ve been here, at least… an hour?”
Vigo cursed again, “So they started early. Damn the Archmage.” He reached for the door, but Marriq grabbed his forearm. It was uncharacteristic.
“We need to talk,” Marriq whispered urgently.
Vigo jerked his hand away, “Archon Marriq, what is of such importance that you accost me so?”
“It’s about the Silver Fox.”
Vigo rolled his eyes, “The elven patriot?”
“He’s undermining the king’s loyalty mandates.”
Vigo cringed at the mention of the mandates. They had enough challenges at present without inciting an elven revolt in Solstar. Unfortunately, this was a matter on which he had a difficult time controlling his liege. “And? What’s your point?”
“I believe I may have a solution,” Marriq said, “I’ve been contacted by a bounty hunter, one I believe has the capabilities to end the Silver Fox and his band. But he appears to be… unconventional.”
Inside the king’s council chamber, Mal Zeral was making an emphatic point. Frustration boiled in Vigo’s belly, but he forced himself to consider Marriq’s words, taking deep, practiced breaths to control his emotions. “Thank you, Archon Marriq. I will speak with you on this matter after the king’s council has adjourned.” Marriq nodded respectfully, stepped back, and Vigo entered the chamber.
Mal Zeral had just finished speaking when Vigo took his seat. “Well, what have I missed?”
Father Montagne spoke in a somber tone, “Vigo, I believe you already know. We cannot fight a war on two fronts.”
Vigo’s eyes went to Dante Alighieri, seated next to the king. He had a quill in his hand and a parchment in front of him, covered in writing. The ink was drying, but it had not yet been signed by the king. For his part, Luc III seemed to be pouting. It was clear the council had pushed him down a path he was not comfortable with.
Mal Zeral observed Vigo’s eyes on the parchment and explained, “We intend to strike a peace –”
“A temporary truce!” the king interjected, “Not a peace. I am not going down in history as a weak king who makes peace with a bunch of arrow-chucking elves just because they made too much noise.”
“Right,” Zeral corrected, “A temporary truce. We will end hostilities, but that is all. Mythrandril remains a pretender and we do not acknowledge any of the forged documents the elves have produced related to land rights.” The king nodded approvingly.
“I’m afraid that will be quite impossible,” Vigo whispered quietly. All eyes turned to him, and when he judged their attention sufficiently captured, he explained, “It is impossible because they are on the same side.” A small gasp of incredulity went through the room.
Father Montagne was the one to speak, “Vigo, they have crossed swords with the Dark Army as much as we have. What you say does not make any sense. You know what happened at Wellfort.”
“Those are Mythrandril’s lackeys. As you all know, he is a weak pretender, and not our greatest concern.” The council was definitely not convinced on this point, but it was what the king believed, so they all nodded in affirmation. Vigo continued, “It’s the Lord Provost we should be concerned about. My sources tell me he has connections to the Dark Army, and I just confirmed from our prisoner that he is himself a follower of the Dark One. From now on we shall call him Kas Luthien. He is working as we speak to strike a secret alliance with Maodeus and the Hierophant, so that they may attack us from two sides.” He left out the part where Luthien was trying to assassinate Mythrandril. “So you see, even a temporary truce will not be possible.”
Scanning the room, Vigo drank in their reactions. Montagne looked shocked whereas Alighieri simply seemed sad. The archmage’s face was a mask of cold rage, and the king was sputtering indignantly. What followed was an hour of incoherent, rambling anger from the monarch as he reviewed once again the many slights he perceived from their elven neighbors. The meeting concluded with orders to escalate the offensive against the elves in order to preempt any joint military move. The king’s councilors left the room quickly once dismissed, thankful to be free of his wrath, but Vigo hung back.
“Those bastards!” the king swore, “Those long-eared bastards! How dare they!? Vigo, I want them rounded up, and the loyalty mandates enforced!”
Vigo nodded, “Of course, my liege. My archons are ever vigilant.”
King Luc turned and jabbed a finger through the air at Vigo, “And another thing, I want this Silver Fox dealt with! It’s embarrassing. People are saying I’m weak, that we’re weak!”
“Lies, my liege.”
“I know that, but we need to show the people how strong we are. We need to make an example of this brigand!”
A smile crept onto Vigo’s face, “I believe I may have a solution for that as well. Does my liege care how we apprehend the Silver Fox?”
Luc waved his hands dismissively, “I don’t care how, just catch him.”
“As you wish, my liege.”
Luc sighed heavily, “What would I do without you, Vigo?”
“I am only doing my duty.”
“You’re fixing my problems,” the king asserted, “while the rest of my advisors just talk.” He shook his head, fatigue from the previous hour’s rant finally setting in. “You have my authority to do whatever is necessary to sort out the situation in Solstar and restore order. Now, go!”
Vigo nodded and silently left the room. Thankfully, Marriq was still standing outside. “Archon, we need to talk.”