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Jon thinks for another stretch. "Taking him would let us question him further, though we have to keep him under our protection and watch. If he is murdered or escapes, then we lose a great opportunity. Still, it may be best to send him now, a token of good will...it's hard to see the right path, much is at stake."
"Letting him go won't matter too much. And if we do take him back with us then that just gives the other gnomes a reason to attack the village again. We shouldn't take him back with us. Interrogating him is not the answer, open talking is. Imprisoning him will ruin any chance to talk with the gnomes."
"I'm in it to break up bar fights and track down thieves, that's all. They're not paying me enough to make this call, which is why I'd rather the sheriff make it. But if you want to take responsibility..." the deputy signals his acquiescence with a shrug.
Huril sighed and shook his head, looking at the others. "It's only right to let him off. Send him with our best regards though," Huril said, liking neither decision overly much, but least of all did he want to witness another raid on the town.
I'm against it. What if he decides to ambush us with his people after being released. They know our faces now. We don't even know if he likes us enough to deliver our message. At least as our captive, we know where we stand with him. But if the rest of you take responsiblity, I'll stand by you guys. We got ourselves in worse messes I reckon (he laughs a little)
Jon nods, then turns to Mika. "Please ask him to go to his people, offering a meeting in, let's say a week's time? The mouth of the canyon may work, easy withdraw for either side. Noon, ten people each. I know it is inviting an ambush, so I cannot ask anyone to go against their will, but I must make the attempt. Hopefully the town will agree. Is there ought else we should say, other terms for the meeting, if it happens?"
Jon shrugs. "Couldn't hurt, I guess. If they are going to betray us, it will hardly matter if we say so, but we may as well in case they decide to honor the agreement in a technical way while still trying to harm us."
Jon watches the figure disappear into the dark. Once gone, he turns back to his companions. "Well, ought we head back to town, or should we continue to the other mines? We need to send word back somehow and I as soon be there to stand for our decision, but we came out here for another purpose. This seems to have been the origin of the attack, but we don't know if the other mines were struck. If their is any chance there are survivors elsewhere, I would not abandon them."
You backtrack through the caverns, moving much faster since you don't have to watch every step, and reach the outside to find that the sun has sunk over the rim of the canyon. You mount, tying the min donkey together so they'll follow you and head out. The deputy leads you to a pair of smaller mining sites: a creek staked out by a collection independent placer miners, most of them fled, and another hard rock shaft, this one well defended by nervous men behind a low wall. There are no signs of more gnomes.
The light is fading as you leave the final mine, but you can make it back to town before it's too dark to travel.
Jon watches the fading sun. "We have covered good ground and have significant news to bear, so let us return to town." He stretches tiredly. "Though I expect our news will prevent us from sleeping much when we arrive. I have no illusions that our plan will be well received and do not relish the arguments that will be needed to bring it to fruition." If its anything like the politics back home, tongues will be running on for days.
"There's nothin' to it. For all th' talkin' they'll do, they either get out here diplomatically, or get to another fight, one they might not be so well off against, since we might be outta here by then," Huril said with a shrug as they rode off towards the settlement. They had a job to do, and it was done, the sooner they got out of this blighted town the better, getting on their employers bad side seemed a worse fate.
"It isn't only the gnomes numbers but also their creatures as well. The zombies are a problem and worse yet any more summoned creatures." Mika shivers at the thought of the Nanuet. "Hopefully the people won't be fueled with a want for revenge. It will only make things worse."
You make to the town shortly after dark. The new stockade hasn't made it out this far yet, but a rough barrier of flammable debris (soaked in lamp oil, if your noses aren't mistaken) rings the town.
The Sheriff meets you at a break in the barricade where it meets the road to the mines. She's accompanied by the dwarf you rescued at the bridge, now completely healed and dressed in clean clothes. "Any news?" She shouts as you come in range of the many bonfires set outside the defensive line.
"You're trusting the word of race you know nothing about, other than that just destroyed one town, animated the dead residents, and attacked another with them? And they treat with Proteans, not exactly a sign of a people bound to follow their word." the Sherriff shakes her head, but doesn't explode in anger as one might have feared.
"If they do hold the peace, though, a week should be enough time to get reinforcements from Anchor's End. It's not like we've the manpower to attack them in their holes, even if we knew where they were." Cuts in the dwarf.
Jon frowns. "We know full well that it is a slim chance that they will hold the peace, meet without violence, and honor any agreement, but we must try and act faithfully on our end. If they bite the offered hand, then we have done our duty and must prepare for war. We know too little of them to risk open conflict without attempt to avoid it and I would not see it so even if we did."
"They may have know honor. I don't know. But we do."