By Brian Flood
Chapter 12 - Aftermath
Along the East Way
Near Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Late Morning, 16th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The rustling noises soon reveal their source as Amiel and Salik come rushing out from the underbrush. Both have their weapons in hand and are breathing heavy.
As the others breathe a sigh of relief, Tiron kneels down, shoving Salik’s bothersome ruck out of the way and lays his hands upon the still warm body, closing his eyes. “Solonor Thelandira the omnibenevolent,” he intones, “if Death finds its prey in this young dwarf, so be the will of Fate. But if it be Your will, give him a second chance at the great hunt that is life,” he chants softly, and gently.
Slowly, a silver and green radiance spread from Tiron’s hands and envelops the fallen dwarf’s head. As those nearby watch, the trickle of blood from under Velgardrin’s helm stops. And then, the priest’s eyes open slowly.
Relieved, Tiron sits back on his haunches. With all of the known enemy slain, a sudden hush falls over the graveyard.
Resheathing his weapons, Alain gingerly removes his backpack and begins stripping to the waist. After removing his shirt, he examines the hole rent in the arm. “Blast, it’s a new shirt too.”
Looking around him the young bard Malk says quietly, “I don’t think we are going to get far until our brother here has recovered somewhat. Can I ask the scouts - have you seen somewhere near here, defensible for us to rest regroup and plan?”
Amiel and Salik can only stand and gaze in awe at the sight of a dozen rotting, corpses that litter the formerly peaceful stretch of grassland. Equaling surprising are the number of freshly exhumed graves that are in evidence – several more, in fact, than were identified before the two scouts left on their tracking mission.
Velgardrin moans softly then mumbles, “Uuuuuuhhhh! Must meet Clanggedin Silverbeard. Never know Amiel and Jadale. Unnnhhhhh!”
After a few moments of silence he then exclaims feverishy, “Declan! Declan! Don’t dig up the grave! Doooonnnnn’t diiiiiggggg.” His voice trails off, his eyes glaze over, and he is unresponsive.
Kneeling next to the feverish dwarf, Tiron takes off his heavy pack and lays his bow over the top of it. His hands move quickly and he is silent, obviously not content with Velgardrin’s current state and focusing his mind upon the task of alleviating some of the unfortunate dwarf’s discomfort. He removes the warrior’s heavy helmet and sets it on the ground nearby,
“What is everyone doing?” the half-elf asks. “Gather ‘round, we need to think of where we go from here,” he states with a note of urgent impatience. The half-elf rummages through Vel’s pack for the blanket he bought at the store and upon finding it, shakes it loose and dutifully covers the dwarf’s body. “Does anyone have anything we can use as a pillow?” he asks, looking up at his companions.
While looking for a new shirt, Alain hears the party leaders request, and pulls a blanket out of his pack. Handing the blanket to Tiron, Alain looks to Velgardrin, a worried frown on his youthful face. "How is he?"
Tiron takes the blanket from Alain and slides it gently under Velgardrin’s head. That done, the ranger-priest stands tall and stretches his back and upon relaxing, looks about for Alain, “Warrior, can I offer Solonor’s blessing to aid your wounds?” he asks.
Alain looks back to Tiron, his frown changing to a smile. “I would be honored to receive Solonor’s blessing,” he replies.
Tirondalin walks over to the warrior and extends his hands, taking hold of Alain's injured arm. Then he closes both his hands about the crudely bandaged wound and his eyes to allow for little distraction before beginning a prayer, “Solonor Thelandira, this brave warrior was injured in the defense of thy Natural Order against magicks most unnatural. I humbly ask that you bestow your blessing of health upon him.”
As before, a greenish-silver aura surrounds Tiron’s hands as they close over the wound. When it fades, only a slight scratch remains on Alain’s arm.
Alain begins tearing his ruined shirt into strips and some larger squares. When finished, he uses some water from his waterskin and some of his newly made bandages to wash out remaining wound. When he is satisfied that the wound is clean, he folds a bandage and presses it to the wound to stanch the light bleeding, and ties it in place.
His field dressing firmly in place, Alain looks to Baulin and Malk. “Many thanks, Baulin – your timely warning saved me from being surrounded; and Malk, your song was as encouraging as the sight of you engaging that second horror.”
Baulin looks at Alain. “No problem my friend,” replies the dwarven warrior.
Rummaging through his pack Alain pulls out a new shirt and dons it. Moving over to Cob, Alain puts his hand to his shoulder. “You my friend make me proud to be a Cormyrian. Your bravery I will speak of, on many a cold winters’ night to come.”
Looking to the rest of the group, Alain continues dressing. “We should probably make camp close by. I’m no healer, but moving Velgardarin is probably not a good idea.”
Trying to stretch his arm slowly, Alain continues, “To tell the truth, I could use some rest myself.”
“I don’t know what I feel,” Malk replies. “I am pleased to have come through this. I am proud to be in such company. I feel sorrow for these that were people. I think of the songs I shall sing of Alain and Baulin’s brave stand; of Tiron’s speed and Declan’s magic; of the steadfast Cob; I may find a half verse for me. I worry that what did this may be around still. But most of all I am worried about Velgadrin, and repeat that we should find somewhere defensible, make camp and then discuss this incident.”
Velgardrin’s eyes flutter open and he appears to awaken. Then he weakly mutters, “Mother? Mother? Thuldul caused me deladaraugh. Clanggedin will take. Hold me. Hold me. Hold me.” His eyes close and he is unresponsive again.
Glancing at the prone dwarf once again to make sure that he is still conscious, Tirondalin then looks to the other assembled party members, “If I may say so, that was our first true test! And if I take it further, we did remarkably well considering our complete unpreparedness. We will discuss it further and learn each other’s thoughts as to what to do better next time, but first off, I feel it important that everyone offer each other congratulations,” he says with a broad grin, himself suddenly elated at the party's triumph.
“Declan’s deadly magic was phenomenal, and Alain’s chivalry was most noteworthy, equal to Baulin's ferocity!” he exclaims, offering each a smile, “Those creatures did not like your fire Malk, and Cob, well, for a man used to hunting deer and rabbit, I doubt whether a zombie will trouble you again!”
But the reality of the situation quickly catches up with the celebrating Tiron and his smile fades, “I feel it best we set camp and do it nearby,” he states bluntly. “But first, Salik and Amiel, did you discover anything of note on your journey into the forest?”
Malk shrugs his rucksack onto his back. He turns to ask Tiron and the scouts, “Is there a place we can go? If so I’ll follow and give a hand with our wounded and their possessions. I for one wish to leave this place – I do not fancy searching what is left here.”
Salik shakes his head at the question. “No, we didn’t find anywhere decent to camp I’m afraid, we were busy examining the tracks when we heard your shout. We didn’t have a proper look around, but the forest seems pretty thick in these parts for camping. I suggest we move onwards for a bit and hope we find somewhere with a source of water.”
Salik looks at Vel’s inanimate body trying to gauge the weight. “What are we going to do about this poor guy? We’re going to have to separate his stuff and split it between us, really...unfortunately, I didn’t allow for such eventualities – my pack’s already almost more than I can handle.”
He rubs his chin thoughtfully. “However, I think I might have some twine in my pack if we want to try and make a litter for him,” he looks hopefully around at his companions. “Unless anyone has any magical means of transporting him?”
Declan who has sat down nearby looks up, “No luck from me, me boyo. I used all my spells in the battle. But I think we are relatively safe here, if we want to camp. However, someone should burn those bodies.” Declan waves as the inanimate zombies lying about.
Alain stretches his arm slowly. Seaming satisfied, the warrior retrieves his ruck and slips it onto his back. “We should rebury these bodies; it would be uncivil and very disrespectful to leave them where they lie.” Alain looks to the reclining mage.
“By the way Master Declan, did you learn the information that you where trying to find?”
Not waiting for an answer, Alain steps into the closest grave and begins to scoop it out by hand. When it is deep enough, Alain drags the closest corpse into the shallow grave and begins to cover it with dirt.
Declan stretches his arm and then moves to help Alain, “Not really, things happened awfully fast.” Declan pauses, then concentrates, calling the unseen servant to resume its work. Quickly, the invisible retainer begins tossing handfuls of dirt onto the corpse, assisting in Alain in reburying the tortured soul within.
As Alain and Declan proceed to bury the first of the corpses, Baulin looks at Vel and shakes his head. “This is bad,” the dwarf announces, assessing the situation. “He needs some help. I suggest we move from this spot and set up camp or head back to the Keep to get him healed up – even of that means we have to carry him.”
Declan examines the body that his servant and Alain are slowly covering with a layer of dirt. The mage can discern that the re-slain cadaver was once a human male. Like the first corpse that was uncovered, this one is also clad in rotting leather armor. Huge, fraying gashes in the decaying armor indicate that some sort of slashing weapon killed the unfortunate man.
Tirondalin, leaving a glance with Vel to make sure he is in a stable condition, moves to help Alain and Declan, but then stops and addresses the group, including the laborers. “I’m going to get started on a litter. Baulin, could you help me? Your strong axe should be useful and we’ll need one more person to help while the rest, if you please could, help Alain and Declan? ‘Tis not a pleasant task but one that makes sense and the sooner it is finished, the sooner we move on and set up camp to eat and rest,” he states to the group with purposeful tone and then waits to see the response.
Hearing no objections, the half-elf motions to Baulin and moves toward the forest to cut some saplings, picking up Velgardrin’s fallen battle-axe along the way.
As the two adventurers head toward the forest, Tirondalin voices this thoughts on the task ahead, “I am guessing that the easiest way would be to cut two sturdy but light saplings which we could use as poles to wrap Vel’s blanket around and then placing him on top. I am not entirely in favor of cutting down young trees...” he pauses, “my grandfather said to ‘cull the old and weak from the herd so that all species may prosper.’ Perhaps we can find some sick trees – but, if not, I feel we are doing this for the greater good of a forest defiled by evil.”
Tiron wades through the tall grass and speaks as he nears the woodline, “The biggest problem however would be the fastening of the blanket to the poles. Any ideas?” he asks with a hopeful glance in his companion’s direction.
Tirondalin then sets about searching the edge of the woods, looking high and low for appropriately sized trees or sturdy branches. “We only need something about four or five feet!” he calls out to his companion.
Spying a suitable tree, he cuts it with Vel’s borrowed axe and then strips the small twigs and leaves from the wood with his stone knife. He stamps the butt of the pole on the ground, admiring his handiwork, before looking up to see what Baulin has come up with.
Back at the gravesite, Malk makes sure his rucksack is intact, and then – after tying a rag over his nose and lower face – he moves to help Alain and Declan. The three companions – assisted in their task by Declan’s unseen servant – labor on for quite some time while Salik, Amiel, and Cob stand watch for any more unwelcome intruders.
As the bodies are buried, the adventurers note that all of the bodies except one are human. Of the eleven human bodies, six are clad in the remains of rotted leather, studded leather, or ring mail armor. Two of the remaining corpses are clad in simple peasant clothing. The last three wear the tattered remains of robes. Three of the corpses have long since lost their boots or sandals due to decay, leaving dirt-encrusted, decayed feet exposed. Lastly, they note that the majority of the bodies – seven of the eleven human cadavers – are male.
As for the last corpse, it is apparently the mortal remains of some sort of humanoid creature. It stands about 6 ½ feet tall, and its hair-covered hide is a dark, reddish-brown. Its ears are pointed and the teeth that fill its jutting jaws are a stained brown. The creature wears the remains of a tattered chain mail jerkin. A stained and tattered blood-red cloak drapes around its neck.
Seeing the damage done to the armor, and not knowing if it is worth saving, Alain shrugs his shoulders and continues to bury the poor individual.
Besides the wounds inflicted by the party, almost all of the corpses show signs of old wounds from both piercing and slashing weapons. A rare few have purplish marks around their necks that hint at having been forcibly choked by someone or something.
The burial duty continues for just over an hour. Throughout that time, Velgardrin continues his pattern of waking briefly and then falling asleep or losing consciousness. When the ugly process is finished, Alain and Malk are covered in dirt stains and quite exhausted. They pause for a few minutes to catch their collective breath.
At about the same time, Tiron and Baulin return from the forest. Working silently, Tiron constructs a litter using two freshly cut saplings and Velgardrin’s blanket.
Alain bows his head, and sends a silent prayer to whatever deities might be listening. Looking to the group, he announces, “I can probably carry Velgardrin’s equipment, or I would be happy to take a corner of the litter. If I carry the equipment I would be a little overloaded, but I could probably keep up. And as far as where we head, I would prefer to camp by the river than to head back to the Keep.”
Malk takes up his pack and volunteers to take a corner. He takes his short sword in his free hand.
“OK, comrades where to now – as Salik hasn’t spotted anywhere?” he asks. “I suggest that we set up camp nearer to the road and stream, it gives us options depending on how Velgadrin is in the morrow; back to the Keep or on to the Caves for shelter.”
“I would like to continue to the Caves tomorrow,” Tiron announces. “Or, alternately, we may want to consider moving into the forest following the trail that Amiel and Salik found. Regardless of what we do tomorrow, we need to consider matters at hand, first and foremost.
“First,” he declares, “I agree that we make camp now close by to the river, as Alain suggested. May I have the map Declan?”
After the mage has handed over the document, Tiron studies it for a moment before nodding and pointing to a place about six or seven hundred yards further north along the East Way.
“Here,” he says, “where the East Way intersects with this tributary of the Goblinwater. I think there may be a bridge here. And, if you look at the map, there is an outcropping of forest on the right hand – that would be east – side of the road.
“As long as its not too far,” Malk replies. “It’s times like this that I really feel that I should have kept my hands on my ass and not left it hanging around in Kendall Keep. Who would have thought someone this size would weigh so much? Now I’m going to shut up and save my breath.”
“I assume none of us has tents,” the half-elf continues, “so we should be able to camp just inside these woods where it is not so thick and where the road is partially visible. But where we – hopefully – are not.” Tiron hands the map back to Declan and moves to the side of Velgardrin’s litter.
“Damn!” interjects Malk. “I wasn’t going to talk, but I’ve left a perfectly good tent with that ‘son of an orc’ mule. I swear I’ll not be so easily separated from my ass in future!”
The three volunteer litter-bearers – Alain, Malk, and Tiron – bend down to pick up the feverish Velgardrin. Tiron and Malk each take one corner in the front, and the exceptionally strong Alain takes the two back poles on his own. Heaving, the three adventures lift the litter containing Velgardrin, his equipment, and his backpack off the ground.
Malk soon groans and the three companions quickly set the litter back down. The bard grimaces as he rubs his shoulder. It would appear that his share of the heavy litter is too much for him to carry. The dwarf’s backpack is removed from the litter and the three try again. This time, with effort, Malk manages to maintain his hold on his corner.
At Tiron’s signal, the litter is once more placed on the ground.
“It would appear that the three of us will be able to manage – just barely – with Velgardrin’s litter,” Tiron announces. “Someone else will have to take his pack, however. And, I would still like everyone’s opinion on my suggested camping spot.”
“Fine Tiron,” sighs Malk. “Anywhere; just make it soon please – we’re not all built like Alain.” Malk hangs on to his corner of the litter for grim death. He sets his jaw, and whistling tunelessly (for him) through gritted teeth, gets set to move off.
“I’d like to help with the pack my friends,” says Salik apologetically, “but I’m having enough trouble with mine. I think I packed a bit too much! I have to scout ahead too, although I don’t think there will be any trouble in the direction we’re heading.”
The rogue then nods at Tiron in appreciation of the camp location. “It’s as good a place as any...let’s go!”
Tirondalin, seeing that his companions are ready to move off, moves to pick up his end of the litter but then stops. “Yes Salik, could yourself and Amiel do your regular scouting duty ahead to the camp site and examine it? But when that’s done and you’re satisfied, please return to meet the party – I do not want to be caught with a further reduced party as we travel this dangerous road,” he finishes.
Waiting for the pair’s acknowledgement, however, Tiron spies Velgardrin’s forgotten pack lying on the ground. He looks around at the group. “I would volunteer to carry that baggage,” he states, gesturing toward it, “but between my own and Vel here, well, Solonor gifted me with only so much strength.”
Alain looks around at the group, seeing no one step forward, he moves to Velgardrin’s pack. Removing his own pack, Alain lifts the extra pack and slips his arms through the straps, so that the pack is on his chest. Then retrieving his own pack, Alain dons it the regular way. The straps from the second pack cover and lock the first pack's straps in place.
The half-elf watches Alain as the warrior shoulders the second pack and smiles gratefully. “Perhaps you’d also be able to take the litter by yourself?” he asks, trying a joke that is perhaps out of place among the weary companions.
Alain smiles at Tiron’s jest. “We all do what we can for the betterment of the group. Speaking of which, Malk how bout a rousing song, something lighten our load and refresh the sprit of our wounded companion.”
Salik glances slyly at Malk, amused. “Although I’m sure a rousing tune about Malk’s ass would amuse a lot of us, I don’t think it’s the most prudent way to proceed in these dangerous lands. After all, why bother scouting ahead if we can be heard from Kendall Keep!?”
Then, he turns to Amiel. “Right, let’s go on ahead. You take the east side, I’ll take the west.” With that, Salik slides quietly into the woods ahead of the party.
As the party is ready to depart the scene of the grisly battle, the Hawkeye details the marching order. “Cob, if you could lead please, and then the litter and those carrying it will come behind you; Baulin and Declan will be on vanguard, left to right,” he orders, eager to get moving. And it is in that manner that he hefts his corner of the litter with a strain and an uncharacteristic oath to Solonor that his mother would be deeply displeased to hear.
Moving back to the stretcher, Alain lifts his end. “Lets get a move on—I’d rather not carry this load too long.” Any one listening closely might be able to hear Alain mumbling about missing Malk’s ass, as well.
Baulin nods in agreement. As they start walking, Baulin starts to sing a heroic ballad to help encourage Velgardrin a speedy recovery by getting him fired up for battle.
Declan sighs, hikes up his pack, and follows.
The content of Company of the Silver Claws is the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Return to the Company of the Silver Claws main page
Return to Campaign Logs