When Garrick entered the Wretched Wyrm, heads turned. The beastkin patrons usually grew apprehensive when humans entered, other than Shio's group or the few other humans who entered the bar on occasion. Garrick's imposing physique and ornate armour intimidated those who didn't know who he was, but those who recognised him as he entered the tavern looking solemn and serious merely nodded in greeting, and the bodyguard nodded back to them.

"'Ey, Garrick! How's the Phoenix doing?"

"She- She's fine," Garrick gave the rabbit beastkin girl who had spoken a thin smile as he headed up to the bar where Rowan and friends were speaking to the Reptilian barman, Gringore.

Rowan smiled at Garrick when he saw him, "Ah, Garrick! How are you?"

"I'm well, Sir Rowan," Garrick returned the smile, "And how are all of you?"

"More well-off than yesterday," Alsten answered the question even though it was obviously intended for Rowan to answer, "We had a big, lucrative job fighting some no-name gang yesterday, and what's more, we now have Shio back with us full-time as of today!"

Garrick gave Shio a smile, "Ah, that's good news. I'm sure Lanoi must have started getting on your nerves a little, with her cryptic ways and her subtle jabs…"

Shio grinned, "I think you're the only one she acts that way towards, Garrick… You and Kinsa, anyway…"

"I fear you're right," Garrick gave a theatrical sigh, then turned back to Rowan, "Listen, Sir Rowan. I come bearing even more good news… Well, potentially…"

"Potentially?" Rowan looked hopeful, as if he had a specific wish for what Garrick was going to follow his claim with, "Well, go on, Garrick, tell me…"

"Well, the thing is… I've decided to help Lady Kinsa make her escape from home for good. I've come to believe the constant influence of her father isn't good for her, and it won't be fair to her if he becomes Lord Ruler and puts this place in danger while she sits at home. I know she feels that way."

Rowan looked like he couldn't believe what he was hearing, "You're serious? When?!"

"I'm thinking the night after tomorrow," Garrick said, "I'll need to figure out a plan, and direct Lady Kinsa on how to carry it out, and…"

"How can we help?" Alsten interrupted.

"Yes, we'll do anything!" Shio reassured Garrick, "Rowan, this is great! I'm so happy for you both!"

"That won't be necessary," Garrick said, "The more of us there are in the vicinity, the more chance of things going wrong. The security my Master… Erm, I mean Kobrick, has enlisted of late to keep Kinsa in is particularly… Dangerous."

"So I've heard from Kinsa," Rowan said, "Especially this Breaker person… He seems formidable. That's exactly why it shouldn't just be the two of you, Garrick. At least let me be around the mansion at the time, just in case something goes wrong and you need backup."

Garrick deliberated silently for a moment, then, knowing that Rowan was as strong-willed as Kinsa and only wanted to do this because of how much he cared and so wouldn't take no for an answer, nodded, "Fine, Sir Rowan. Do as you will. But I'll have to ask you to conceal yourself somewhere outside."

Rowan nodded in return, "That's fine. All being well, we'll rendezvous outside and make our getaway."

"It'll be refreshing having the Phoenix back, eh, everyone?" Zeke said, "Hopefully all goes well…"

Garrick turned to Zeke, "You, I… I recognise your voice."

"You do, sir?" Zeke seemed slightly flustered, "But I don't think we've met!"

"Yes, we… I don't believe we have," Garrick agreed, "I am Garrick, Lady Kinsa's bodyguard."

"I've heard of you," Zeke said, "My name's Zeke, I'm a friend of Lady Kinsa's."

"Pleasure to make your acquaintance, then, Zeke," he held his hand out, and Zeke shook it somewhat nervously.

"Zeke's a good guy," Alsten said, "And, Zeke, Garrick's a good guy as well."

"I wouldn't say that," Garrick said, "But… I hope to change for the better. This is the first step… If this place is going to be in danger then I will not serve the man who is presenting the threat."

"You're making the noble choice, Garrick," Rowan said, "And hopefully three days from now we'll all be here together celebrating Kinsa and your escape."

"First Shio comes back to us," Jisa smiled, "And now we'll have two more permanent additions to our little family down here! I can't wait!"

"Thank the Gods we'll have another girl around, Jisa," Shio laughed gently, "Up until now it's only really been us and Lanoi in our little group…"

"True!" Jisa grinned, "The guys really outnumber us! We gotta look out for each other!"

The two girls laughed, and Alsten was glad they seemed to be becoming closer. He remembered when Jisa had divulged to him her guilt about initially being wary of Shio, and was proud of her for overcoming that and of how far she had come as a person since arriving to Ulstad.

"With any luck, yes, we'll all be together soon," Garrick said jovially, hope breaking its way into his normally anxiety-ridden heart, "Although I suspect Lanoi will take more pleasure than ever in joking at my expense once I'll be readily available and not just a once-in-a-while visitor…"

"If she gives you a hard time, come to me," Tormald said, having just returned from the bathroom, "I can handle that elf!"

"You really can't, Tormald," Shio grinned at her vertically-challenged mage friend, "Your another one she can read like a book. You let her get to you easier than Garrick, I'd wager! It's kind of sweet, actually…"

"Nothing sweet about it…" Tormald grumbled, "A headache is what it is…"

"There's another?" Garrick grinned, "Sir Tormald, thank the Gods that another knows my troubles!"

"Er… Yeah…" Tormald answered, confused as if only just realising who was here, "What brings you here anyway? Delivering another letter to lover boy?"

"It would take too long for me to recap, Sir Dwarf," Garrick chuckled, "I must be on my way, or my Master… Kobrick, rather… Will be wondering where I am…"

"You'll be free of him soon," Rowan said, "You both will. The mansion, the night after tomorrow?"

"Yes… Try to be there around midnight," Garrick said, "Although I hope your service won't be needed."

"I hope so too," Rowan smiled, unable to contain the happiness after hearing his lover would be coming to the Depths for good again, "I'll see you then, anyway."

"You will."

Garrick made his exit, heads turning again as he did so, the beastkin curious as to what he was up to speaking to the Alcarn's group.

"So, what is going on?" Tormald asked, "What's this about him being freed from that Bastell bloke?"

Rowan sighed theatrically and gave the dwarf a weary smile, "Maybe you should time your bathroom breaks better, Tormald…"

"I can't choose when nature calls, lad!"

As the group laughed, Rowan felt a warmth within him with the knowledge that soon Kinsa would be laughing here with them soon enough.

We just have to get her out of there safely…

Well, here's Chapter 24. This was a chore to get out as I've been having laptop problems all week since the last update for whatever reason. My laptop is like 5 years old. was fairly cheap and I literally use it every day so I think it might just be getting tired. Sorry if this chapter was another less exciting one, but I promise the main action of Episode 3 is on its way, with some big surprises in store that I may or may not have foreshadowed a little here and previously. I want to give a big congratulations here to CrossPaladin who recently wrapped up the first arc of his story Chronicles of Sword and Spell, which I highly recommend. With that being said, I'm not sure when I'll have the next chapter out, but I promise it'll be as soon as I can get it out. Hope you're enjoying the story!