By The Grace of Gretel

By Ricky Temple

Gretel Vesta, the former Dungeon Maid turned Greenwarden, was on her daily patrol part of which took her through the small market place of Greenshades village, which she was currently making her way through. She smiled and nodded her head in greeting to the traders that she knew were either unaligned but honest or were Powers That Be aligned. While she regarded the shifty, rogue and Opposition aligned traders with a cold suspicious look.

Just then her spyglass, which hung from her belt just beside her quiver of arrows, began to buzz indicating someone was trying to contact her. She quickly moved out of the way of the bustling crowd of market patrons, so as not to cause any obstruction to the business of the marketplace and found a quiet spot in which to carry out a conversation. "Greenwarden Gretel Vesta, responding" she said "Who wishes to speak with me?" The spyglass fizzed and buzzed a bit more but soon enough the face of Gretel's mentor and superior in the Greenwarden service Gwendoline, the Greenwarden's star agent, appeared in the screen.

Gretel smiled and saluted "Yes Warden Gwendoline what can I do for you?" Gwendoline smiled at her young protégée. "Warden Gretel an assignment has come up that I think it would be good for you to participate in" she explained. "What dose the High Council of Greenwarden's wish of me?" Gretel asked "The assignment dose not come from them Warden Gretel" was Gwendoline's response which served to only confuse Gretel. "It comes from Lord Dunselhelm himself" Gwendoline clarified "From...Tregaurd?" Gretel said softly at the mention of her former employer The Dungeon Master and leader of The Powers That Be Sir Tregaurd of Dunselhelm.

Gwendoline smiled and nodded "Yes it seems a problem has arisen in one of the more far flung outposts of the realm and they are sort of Dungeon Ranger's at the moment due to other missions. So they have sent a request to have one of our agents temporarily seconded to their forces in order to deal with this issue. I think you would be the ideal candidate for this mission given your past history as a servant to The Powers That Be before joining out ranks...That is of course if you feel up to it. Given how your time with them ended I'd understand if you didn't wish to take this posting."

Gretel thought hard about this situation she was being presented with. It had been a very long time since she had served directly under Tregaurd & The Powers That Be before the...'unpleasantness' had occurred, she made her mind up. "I'll take the posting Gwendoline, I'm up for it." Gwendoline smiled "I knew you would be Gretel and I have confidence in you to be able to complete this task successfully. Your to report directly to Dunselhelm Castle to be briefed on the situation" Gretel saluted "Okay Gwendoline...but could you give me any kind of hint of what it is they want me to do or where it is I'm being sent?"

Gwendoline nodded "Yes I can on both counts. It seems that there is some trouble happening in the port town of Krakenden." "Krakenden..." Gretel said "You mean the port from which adventures following The Quest for The Dragon's Egg set sale from?" She asked referring to the rarest and possibly the most dangerous quest that could be taken by an adventurer seeking to earn their place on the roll of honour of Knightmare Castle and be proclaimed A Champion of Chivalry. Gwendoline nodded "Yes well it seems their having issues with certain shipments the Powers That Be are trying to bring in through the port and they believe it is Opposition related. Anyway you'll be briefed by Sir Tregaurd and Calwain the chief Dungeon Ranger when you report to Dunselhelm Castle. Warden Gemma has already been dispatched to take over your patrol, just wait for her to arrive and then you can set off for Dunselhelm." Gretel nodded, saluted again and deactivated the spyglass.

She waited for Gemma to arrive and after handing over her patrol to her she set off for Dunselhelm Castle. Oddly she found that even though she hadn't been to the castle for a long, long time she instinctively knew the route and remember the best way to get there quickly.

She soon found herself approaching the gates of the castle the last time she had seen them had been when she had had to leave the castle and her old life as a Dungeon Maid behind and set out into the realm and start a new life. Memories flooded back to her some good, some bad and some very unpleasant as she was lost in her memories a door in the large gates opened and a man stepped out.

He was a small and lean looking fellow, though you could tell at a glance he could easily handle himself in a fight. He had a mop of brown hair and was dressed in a plain pale yellow shirt he was obviously Scottish as he was also wearing a kilt, strapped to his belt was a long highland sword and a dirk.

"Hey there lassie" he called out in challenge "State yer name and yer business here. If yer a friend then declare it if yer be a foe then prepare to meet yer maker cus no one servant of fear gets in to Dunsenhelm while Frazer McCrimmonis on guard duty." Gretel blinked taken aback by this "I...Is there something wrong with your eyes? I'm a Greenwarden! You Highland Clot!" she said getting rather annoyed "Why do you think I'm dressed in this green uniform and carrying this bow!"

Gretel resisted the urge she felt to stamp her foot like a petulant child to punctuate her sentence, which was something she had used to do in her younger days. Instead she continued speaking in a calmer manner. "My name is Gretel and I'm here at the request of Sir Tregaurd. He requested that The Greenwardens send someone to undertake a mission for the Powers That Be."

Frazer looked at her "Gretel? The lassie who cost ol' Skarkill his eye?" Gretel smiled awkwardly, even though the Goblin Master Skarkill was a vile human being she was never really sure how she felt about being the one who had blinded him in one eye and being recognized for said same act, but she was that person so she simply nodded and said "Yes that's me" "Aye? Well Gretel the Greenwarden dose you have the Dayword to prove you're who you say you are?"

"Unitas" Gretel said Frazer smiled and stood to one side "Enter Gretel" Gretel smiled and walked forward "The Dungeon Master and Chief Ranger are in the antechamber do you think you could find your way there or do you need directions?" he asked "Oh yes" Gretel said "I think I can remember the way" she said with a smile and made her way into the castle and towards to the antechamber.

As she approached she suddenly felt very, very nervous. Would Tregaurd remember her, did she even want him to or would she prefer it if he didn't remember the young petulant dungeon maid who had once flitted about in his castle catacombs aiding young would be adventures and just playing and having fun when she wasn't cleaning and cooking.

She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and knocked on the door. "Enter!" a deep, commanding and familiar voice called out from behind the door. Gretel closed her eyes for a few moments and swallowed before she grasped the handle, turned it and entered into the antechamber.

The sight that greeted her was both familiar and reassuring while at the same time being unwelcoming and stomach turning. Tregaurd sat in his chair looking at her with an inscrutable look on his face, the fire burning away healthily. In front of the fire stood a man she had never seen before but she guessed that it must be Calwain the Chief Dungeon Ranger. He was in his late 30's; she estimated, had a very military bearing about him and was dressed in a ranger uniform, though with gold embroidery on his shoulders and wrists, obviously to denote his rank. His hair was black but with some specks of grey appearing in it which added to the air of authority he had about him.

Gretel curtsied and then saluted to the two men. Treguard smiled at her "Well, here's a familiar face. Greetings Gretel Vesta, I must say I wasn't expecting it to be you that the High Council of Greenwarden's sent, but I'm glad to see you're doing well in your new life." Gretel smiled he did remember her and it seemed in a positive way, that made her feel more at ease. "Thank you Milord" she said "I am indeed the Greenwarden sent by the High Council in answer to your request and I am at your service for whatever it is you require."

Tregaurd smiled and nodded "I'm glad to hear it Gretel you were always a loyal servant of the Powers That Be willing to do what was needed for the cause of Chivalry, Truth & Light and I'm sure that will not have changed." Gretel smiled "Thank you for your confidence in me Dungeon Master I promise I will do my utmost to justify it. Now what do you require me for?"

Tregaurd looked at Calwain and nodded. Calwain cleared his throat and began to talk. "Warden Vesta as you may or may not be aware the Powers That Be and our allies use the port city of Krakenden to import and export cargos of importance." Gretel nodded "Well a group of reprobates who call themselves The FreeDragons have been attacking any cargo ships putting into port there for some time. At first these attacks just seemed to be random attacks of opportunity with an eye to looting the ships but then recently we noticed that they appeared to be suddenly targeting Powers That Be cargo ships exclusively."

"This, as I'm sure you can appreciate, Gretel" Tregaurd said "Is a very worrying development as it would appear that Lord Fear & The Opposition or some other power faction in the dungeon opposed to the Powers That Be have gotten their claws into these hijackers and is setting them against our trade routes."

Gretel nodded "Yes Dungeon Master I can see why this would be a very undesirable situation." Calwain & Tregaurd nodded "Of even greater concern Warden Vesta is that recently we have agreed to bring into the realm some very valuable and, in the right hands, powerful monastic scrolls and relics." Calwain explained "Should these items fall into the wrong hands Gretel the power and knowledge contained within them could tip the balance of the power in this realm in a most alarming manner." Treguard said finishing the explanation.

"I think I grasp the implications of the situation Dungeon Master." Gretel said "Your mission Gretel Vesta is to go to Krakenden and help protect this important shipment and if possible to bring an end to The FreeDragons little reign of terror." Gretel nodded and saluted "Yes Dungeon Master" "You're to set out for Krakenden immediately, a horse will be provided for you from the stables. When you get to Krakenden you will have to make contact with both the local Powers That Be Agent a magic user called Witch Hazel and with the two monks who are organising the transportation and protection of this shipment. A church chronicler called Brother Leo & a former Knights Templar called Brother Constantinople." Calwain instructed Gretel listened intently memorising these names and instructions.

"Is there anything you wish to say or ask?" Treguard said Gretel thought "Any chance I could have some backup Dungeon Master? I'm not sure I'm to keen on walking into a possible confrontation with a gang of Hijackers who may also be Opposition allied on my own...even with my Greenwarden training. I know you have no spare rangers but what about another Powers That Be warrior, magic user or Agent?"

Tregaurd pondered this request "Hmmmmm do we have anyone we could spare Calwain?" Calwain thought "Well Stiletta is buys on a thieving expedition in Melipath, Airel Martinez is tied up with an investigation on the Winterian border, Gundrada I believe is hunting Goblins and Miremen in Goth, Tom Troughton, The Hobo Magician is working with the elf warrior Velda & The Lock Master Fidjit trying to sort out the problems in The Corridor of The Catacombs..."

"What about that Highlander you have on guard duty at the moment" Gretel said quickly "Frazer McCrimmon?" Tregaurd said Gretel nodded "He's a bit green when it comes to field action" Calwain said "He's only done guard duty at the moment" "Well he'll have to learn sometime" Gretel said "and he looks like he could handle himself in a fight."

Tregaurd nodded "Both valid points Gretel...okay Calwain go tell Frazer he has been given a new assignment and brief him on it. Gretel go down to the stables Frazer will meet you there you are both to set off immediately" Gretel bowed "Thank you Dungeon Master" Tregaurd nodded "Farewell Gretel Vesta and may good luck and fortune attend you and Frazer on this mission. I look forward to hearing of your success."

Gretel left the antechamber and made her way down to the stables to collect her horse and wait for Frazer to join her. She smiled softly to herself she felt strangely elated she was back working directly for Sir Tregaurd & The Powers That Be it felt good to be back in this role again and if it was just for a one off? Well then she was being presented with a chance, in her mind, to write her own ending for her direct association with them to replace the one that had been written for her by the actions of others and she was determined to write the kind of ending she wanted for that chapter of her life a happy one.