By Brian Flood
Chapter 16 - Moving On
Along the East Way
Near Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Morning, 17th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
After a brief but otherwise uneventful rest, the companions rise in the morning and begin to ready themselves for the day ahead. Velgardrin finds that his weakness has passed, although his wounds still remain. He and Tiron both fall into silent prayer to their respective patrons, beseeching them for their assistance.
Declan also moves off a slight distance. Producing a large tome from his pack, the mage sits down and slowly pages through the book, studying the spells that he deems he may need for the day ahead.
Yawning, the four companions selected for night watch – Amiel, Malk, Baulin and Alain – ensure that the campsite is still secure from unwelcome visitors. Nearby, Salik and Cob awaken and begin to break their fast on the leftover game from the prior evening’s meal.
When the others have finished their personal hygeine, prayers, and magical studies, they too gather around the smoldering embers of the campfire. Soon, the talk turns to the events of the night before.
Finished with his morning meal, Tiron stands and addresses the company with his usual vitality that was absent after the previous night’s encounter. “Before we plan our actions for today, I am still eager to find out what happened last night. I remember little except healing Salik and then going to sleep. My dreams of talking, shrieking birds were particularly unhelpful,” he adds with some humor – although some of the companions notice that the thought of the previous night brings a far-off look to his face.
“Could you fill me in on what happened? Amiel, you seemed to see the most action,” he asks, gesturing at her torn armor, “although I’d welcome an explanation from anyone.”
Malk finishes a breakfast of cold meat from the night before and says to the group as a whole. “Before we press on, I too am keen to learn what really happened.” He turns to Tiron and says, “Tiron, I’m sorry that I had to hit you, but you and Cob were ensorcelled. Do you or Cob remember the song starting? What did you think was happening? Was anyone else under the spell?”
Clearing his throat, Baulin begins to speak. “Aye, I remember the song startin’. Woke me up from a dream about swimmin’ in a vat o’ dark ale…but that bit is nae important right now. I remember feelin’ a tug, some sort ‘o callin’, I think. Then it passed…that’s when the two others ‘ere,” he relates, gesturing to Cob and Tiron, “spinted off inta the forest.”
At Baulin’s lead, the others start to add their own bits and pieces to the tale. Soon, a pattern is developed as one companion describes what he saw or did and the others chime in with how they percieved that and how they reacted. Slowly, a record of the previous night’s events begins to take shape.
* * * * *
“…’an then we walked back inta the ring o’ light that Declan ‘ere had crafted,” Baulin says, bringing the tale of the evil bird-woman to closure some two or three candlemarks after is began. “Quite a beacon, lad!” the dwarf declares in admiration to the mage.
Declan smiles and nods in acknowledgement of the compliment. He shrugs and starts to say something, but then he stops when Salik starts speaking.
After listening to everyones account of the past nights events, Salik turns to look at Amiel. “Thanks for standing by me back there...without you I’d be birdseed! Did you recover all your daggers by the way? If not, you can borrow some of mine if you’re low.”
Declan looks like he is about to say something, but then thinks better of it.
Amiel suddenly digs into her leather vest and retrieves a small purse. “I found this around the neck of the bird-woman, “she says holding it up. “There’s a small vial inside, with a dozen or so platinum pieces. Does anyone know of how to identify the vial’s liquid?” she asks.
Tirondalin responds to Amiel’s question with a shake of the head. “Perhaps there is someone at the Keep who can help us,” he replies, trying to help before finishing off the remainder of his meal.
Salik fumbles in his belt pouch, Amiel’s mention of the purse having jogged his memory. Mumbling curses, the rogue finally finds what he’s looking for, and pulls out a jewelled earring of some sort.
“The creature was wearing this,” he says, allowing the others to see the item. “It looks like it may fetch a fair price at the market. It’s possible that it’s magical of course...does anyone have any skill at detecting magical properties?”
Declan looks up, “Eh. On the morrow I might be able to. Was there a matching ring?”
“Not that I saw,” the rogue answers. “Why? Do you recognize the earring? We could go and check the body again if you want to.”
Looking to steer the conversation away from the earring, Amiel regards her spell-casting companions thoughtfully before speaking. “I’m interested in what spells you learned,” she asks a little hesitantly. “There’s a lot I don’t know about magic. And I guess I never will know as much as you do...but if I knew what spells you could cast, and what these spells did, perhaps Tiron and I would be able to organize our little band better?”
Declan replies to the ranger, saying, “As ye may ‘ave surmised, right, I’m a fire mage. The magic of fire and the burnin’ is wot fascinates me and keeps me usin’ the chuffin’ Weave like a babe at ‘er muther’s tit.” Declan smiles embarrassingly at his description before continuing.
“I ‘ave this magic that allows yer ter put out a fire, right, makin’ just smoke. I’ll get out me spoons. And it can be reversed so that the chuffin’ fire can burn twice as bright as before, but that causes the chuffin’ fire ter use all its wood. Don’t last right long. More efficient ter use torches like I did in last night.
“Anuvver of me magics yer seen me use on the chuffin’ zombie yesterday. Me ‘ands erupt in flame and spew out in a fan. Right effective and quite a bit dangerous if I’m not careful.
“I can also charm a geezer -- make ‘im me mucker and more mately and the chuffin’ like towards me. I don’t like usin’ it ‘cause it is a mind-affectin’ spell.
“And I can also cause a witch light ter float up in ter the bloody air and do wot I want it ter do – follow me ‘round or go off in a direction. I like this spell -- me light ‘ave a looks like a wee bobbin’ flame. Wen I cop better, I will be able ter make more than one! Oi!
“Me uther combat spell, right, so ter speak, right, is a flamin’ dart that goes where I want it ter do. Yer seen me use it in the fight wiv the zombies. It just shoots out of me finger and ter my target.
“And me last spell, yer seen also. I summon a wee elemental that moves stuff ‘round for me. Not real strong or fast, right, but useful for fings like diggin’ up the chuffin’ dead, or the undead, right, bodies,” Declan smiles at this last.
As Declan describes his spell-casting capabilities, Velgardrin lightly lays a hand on Amiel and prays to Clanggedin Silverbeard for her healing. In response, a silvery aura appears around the priest’s hands and spreads itself around the ranger’s wounds. When it vanishes, only a slight scratch remains.
Stepping over to Cob, Velgardrin repeats the process. Again, the silvery aura surrounds the priest’s hands. Then it envelops the hunter’s head. Cob smiles in unspoken gratitude when he feels the pain from his head wound disappear completely.
Tirondalin watches Velgardrin’s healing efforts with patience and addresses the dwarf when he is complete.
“Would you share with us your magics of the divine?” the half-elf asks with noted interest.
Velgardrin responds with, “This day I prayed for healing magic – which I used on Amiel and Cob. I am yet sore wounded but felt it more important to have our scouts well. I will manage if necessary. I also prayed for the magic that allows me to pass Clanggedin Silverbeard’s blessings on to those around me. Lastly, I prayed for the ability to cast a warning upon one of us that would allow me to know if they are in danger. I felt that this would be most appropriate to use on one of our scouts since they are not always in sight. Bear this in mind though, once my last is cast, I have no more available of any magic until the morrow.”
Tirondalin nods in understanding at his fellow priest’s spiritual powers. Then he stands and turns his attention toward Amiel. “Allow me to offer you a portion of Solonor’s mighty vitality in return for your heroic bravery,” he offers, his head tilted to the side with a playful smile. It is unclear whether he means the honorific in jest or in all seriousness.
Amiel nods, indicating her willingness. Tirondalin then removes his silver holy symbol from beneath his leather jerkin and clasps it one hand. Words flow from his mouth in a series of incomprehensible words, words that a mother would whisper to her sick child – words that have no meaning but are filled with warmth. It is warmth that Amiel feels in her chest, even though her healer’s hands fall short of touching her wounds. It is warmth that dissolves the dull pain and the weariness brought about by her deeds of gallantry the night before. When it dissipates, Amiel finds that her remaining injuries have healed.
The spells ends and Tirondalin turns to the party and smiles, “That, my friends, is an example of my magics. Keen Eye, The Great Archer, The Forest Hunter, or Solonor Thelandira blesses me with magics that I use for the good of the Natural Order. I must pray dutifully for access to such powers, however, and I also must keep in line with his teachings. The latter I find the easiest, the former however requires time that I would much rather spend adventuring,” he says mirthfully, enjoying the crisp morning and the warmth of friendship.
“Now, to answer your earlier question Amiel,” the half-elf continues. “Today Solonor has seen fit to grant me with three powers. First is the ability to heal only minor wounds – but wounds nonetheless. Second is the ability to trap my foes with the surrounding plants and trees – whose assistance I do enjoy. Lastly, he has given me the privilege to bestow the blessing of Solonor Thelandira on anyone willing to accept it. And a helpful boon it is,” he finishes, hoping his explanations will help foreplanning.
Velgardrin pauses for a moment then adds, “Tiron, if yer would, I could use some of Solonor’s healing. I am quite weak yet -- but can at least think clearly today.”
Without hesitation, Tiron indulges the dwarven priest’s request with yet another casting of his healing magic. When he is finished, Velgardrin is completely cured of his remaining wounds.
But then Tiron sighs, saying, “Alas, that was my last tapping of Solonor’s graces for this day. I will not be able to use my powers again until the morrow. And Velgardrin, I believe, has only remaining opportunity for his own deity’s powers remaining.”
Velgardrin nods wordlessly, confirming Tiron’s estimation. Across the fire, Amiel frowns as she momentarily considers the current situation.
Standing up, the tall woman addresses the group, “It seems to me, my friends that we are not as completely healthy as we should be to continue chasing the raiders. Whilst our wounds have healed, we are now stripped of all healing magics for– except for one spell each from Vel and Tiron. There are numerous options available to us. One, we can head to the Caves and investigate them. Two, we can follow the trail that Salik and I found that leads north from the graves, and see where that takes us. Three, we could stake out the gravesite and see if those who buried the bodies there return. Someone animated those corpses for a reason after all.”
Amiel grins wickedly at this, “I DO so love a good ambush. Finally, we could return to the Keep and report our findings to Jadale.”
After digesting the happenings of the night before, and perhaps feeling a tale coming on to pay for a few suppers, Malk turns his attention back to the future. “I don’t suppose this is the thing that has been causing the problems to the people of Kendal Keep? If it is, we can go and claim our pay now. Plus, of course, we can get healed, and I can get my ass back.”
Velgardrin offers his opinion with a shrug. “I be not carin’ if we go er stay here. Me purse be weak fer sleepin’ at an inn though.”
“As far as today goes,” adds Tiron, “my intuition is guiding me toward a return to the Keep, and my mind is now trying to conceive the reason for that feeling so that I may express it to all of you. Perhaps we do not need to return, perhaps we could stay another night here, although I’m sure there is risk there. But that will cut down significant travel the following day.
“I would like to investigate these caves,” he continues, “they seem to be the most suitable place for a base of operations for a band of thieves, assuming that is what we are dealing with here. Or we could make a foray into the forest following that trail that Amiel and Salik scouted...” he trails off as he realises that he is giving many options but few reasons for taking such paths of action.
He sits back down amidst his companions and shortly adds, “I am for returning to the Keep for a night,” he says with finality. “But I am always open to discussion.”
“I think that returning to the Keep would take far too long,” replies Salik, offering his own opinion to those already voiced. “If there is a band of theives in the caves, then the longer we wait, the more we run the risk of them learning about our approach. I suggest we make our way there as soon as everyone is ready.”
As his comrades, discuss their options, Velgardrin slips back into his armor. Pulling a hammer out of his pack, he begins tapping the new dent out of his helm. As he repairs it, his brow furrows the others can see concern in his eyes as he brings up another subject.
“Tiron and Amiel,” the dwarf begins, “when we finish our discussions – but befer we leaves – aye wouldst discuss something concerning me deeply. Our combat strategies with the zombies were confusing and very poor. We best be better than the rabble we was – lest we be zombies arselves.”
After performing his morning toiletry, Alain joins the group. “I would prefer to stay out here,” he says. “It seems to me that our strength is just growing. Our practitioners of magic are coming back into their power,” he proclaims, gestureing to the various spell casters. “We have also defeated several foul creatures, forever removing them from the rolls of our enemy.”
Alain looks to Amiel. “My congratulations on your brave stand against that winged monstrosity – you have my deepest respect.”
The warrior then continues to address the party in general. “And probably the most important is that we are learning to act as a team. I think that with some healing aid, our party would be in full fighting order by the next morrow. If we should be attacked in that time, I say good, it will give us the chance to further weaken our enemies, strengthen our teamwork, and ‘tis time that these foul creatures learned that they are not the masters of our fair Cormyr!”
Alain clears his throat and looks around a bit sheepishly. “I am sorry for the sermon, I should leave such things to people who are better suited. But, I feel very strongly about this debasement of my homeland.”
“I’m sure you are not alone in your feelings, Alain. And I feel saddened for having to slay the creature rather than a sense of pride. My coup d’ grace was not a shrewed cut,” adds Amiel with a slow shake of her head. “However, let us focus on the decision on what we do next: Tiron would prefer to return to the Keep while Salik feels that we should explore the caves. I’d prefer following the trail. I fear that it will be lost if we tarry here or return to the Keep. Similarly, the caves should be at least scouted BEFORE we head back to the Keep because we can then equip ourselves to handle the threats we find there,” she finishes.
Tirondalin listens carefully to the suggestions put forth by Alain and Amiel. “I do agree with that, Amiel,” he answerts, “scouting the caves would be a very good idea. I think this expedition itself has tested us sufficiently and any knowledge that could be gained on our next theatre of exploration would be beneficial indeed. I would like to explore that trail you found, and I suppose that a return to the Keep would take much time off any head start we had against these elusive bandits. But I first believe we must rest at least another night before we are at full strength as a party,” he concludes, absent-mindedly twisting a long blade of grass around his finger as he speaks.
Salik shrugs. “Alright, we have a few differences of opinion…but we elected Tir as our leader to avoid these problems, so what Tir decides is fine with me. If we are to rest here another night however, I suggest we scout out our surroundings carefully, in order to avoid the same things as last night.”
“Why don’t we spend that day of rest near the caves...observing who comes and goes?” asks Amiel.
Tirondalin looks at Salik and Amiel as each speaks their part and then returns to the blade of grass, which he soon throws away and looks up at the party. “Well,” he addresses them in a strong but perhaps unsure tone, “Amiel and I, before my, um, sudden wish to run into the forest, were discussing a change of leadership while we were on watch. I asked her if she would take over the position from myself as I rather dislike giving orders and cannot expect people to carry through anything that I would inflict on them. But that is what is often required of a leader, something I have learnt over a very short time," he says, offering a smile to his companions, inviting them to share the recollection of the past day’s turbulent events.
He continues after a short pause, “I hope I am not forward, Amiel, in bringing the issue into the open like this but I felt we should discuss it as a group. So if you would accept, and the rest of these fine adventurers were to agree, I would ask you to become leader of this party,” he finishes with his eyes on Amiel, awaiting a response.
Malk looks up in surprise. “With respect to Amiel’s skills as a leader, if we are going to make this kind of change to our group, shouldn’t others have the opportunity to consider if they would wish to put themselves forward? If we are stopping here another night, we have time.”
Amiel raises her eyebrows and shrugs. “That could not have been an easy admission, my friend,” she says carefully to Tiron. “It is good to see such commitment to the team, rather than oneself.”
Addressing the group, she shrugs again. I’m happy to take over, but if anyone else here would prefer the role, I’d be just as content to still remain as lieutenant.”
Velgardrin speaks up in his normal gruff voice. “I be havern only one problem with Amiel as leader. ‘Tis an excellent scout she is, but I be thinkrn that a leader should be with the main group.” Then he grins and continues, “But I be not seekin’ that job. And this would be part of ther combat strategy I be wantin’ to talk about later.”
Malk quickly adds his comment, “I do not wish the responsibility of leadership either.”
After thinking for a while on what the group is saying about the leader being with the main party most of the time, Malk puts forward a suggestion. “If the only problem to Amiel being our leader is her role as scout with Salik, could the scouting be done by Salik with one of the group to go with him and help guard his back? If acceptable to Amiel and the group, I would suggest either Alain, Tiron or myself as being the quickest moving.”
Looking at each member of the group, Alain nods his head with each person’s input. “I think that if Tiron is going to step down as leader. Amiel, as his second in command, is the person to take charge.”
Shifting his stance back on to his heels, Alain rests his hands on his weapons belt and looks at Malk. “I may be fleet of foot, Uncle Seth made sure of that by chasing me around the yard with a switch. But, I have all the stealth of a battering ram knocking on the front gate. So putting me in a scouting party would be a poor idea.” Smiling at himself, he continues, “I would however like to volunteer for the position of Lieutenant, if Amiel is accepted as leader.”
Tirondalin stands and stretches tall, before replying to Alain with quite the cheeky smile played across his features. “Well, there may be some debate about who is party leader, but as for replacing Amiel in a scouting role, I think I am clearly the the only choice,” he states with mock arrogance.
The handsome half-elf strides over to his open pack and removes his water-skin from a leather throng where it hangs, and takes a sip. “Well, do we need to take a vote?” he asks, walking back into the circle of friends, “or does our vibrant Amiel have no competition? I’m sure she'd enjoy a challenge,” he states with a wink in the ranger’s direction.
Malk nods and says, “That seems to have been settled equitably. It gets my vote.”
Declan nods his agreement, “Fine with me as well boyos.”
“That seems fine ter me also,” responds Velgardrin. Bowing his short and stout body to Amiel he continues with a grin. “Now ehr we sendin’ out scouts or what this day or what. I still have me warnin’ magic should we be wishin’ it.”
Amiel, who has remained silent as her companions offer their opinons on the party’s leadership, finally speaks. “I hope your trust and faith in me will be vindicated in the following weeks, my dear friends,” she says solemnly.
Taking a deep and cleansing breath, she continues, “Let’s go through things one by one shall we? On the replacement scout issue, I agree with Tiron and Alain. Tiron would make a logical replacement. As to whether Tiron is now ‘lieutenant’ or Alain is, I’m not sure. Tiron has said he feels uncomfortable with the role of party leader, but as second-in-command? That’s a decision for him as to whether he wishes to take on that role. If he does not, then I will be happy to work with Alain.”
“Onto the matter of what we do next,” she says, “I share the view that we need to rest more, especially to recover valuable healing spells. But time passes and events move afoot. Let’s move camp to somewhere within the treeline north of the grave site, and stake it out.”
The ranger winces prettily at this, “Eeeck. The thought of having those creatures so close makes my skin crawl. BUT we should find out who raised those unfortunate souls in the first place and why.” She looks around at the rest of the party. “Any opinions?” she asks.
“I am for that course of action, Amiel,” Tirondalin states plainly. “Unless there are more bodies hiding under that damned earth, I don’t think we have any undead foe to contend with...but then there are the living,” he adds hastily. “As for the position of second in command, I would ask that Alain take on the role, if he is willing of course. He has the manner of a gentleman but the strength of a dragon. Well, not quite,” he concedes with a smile in the warrior’s direction.
Malk grins at Alain and asks, “Are you sure Tiron didn’t mean ‘the manners of a dragon and the strength of a gentleman?’” Displaying a wide grin, the bard continues, saying, “Congratulations; it looks as if you are elected to second in command, if you’ll take it.”
Then Malk addresses the group as a whole. “I don’t mind if we stay or move as long as we decide something,” he states plainly. “What are we going to do?”
Declan pauses and then gets up from where he is sitting. “I say we back back ter than,” he proposes, “if for no uther reason than ter resupply. I am sure we are runnin’ low on bandages,” he finishes, motioning toward the members of the party that have bandages still applied.
Moving over to his pack, Alain rummages around and pulls some hard tack from his rations. Retrieving some of the roast boar from the previous evening, the warrior plops down next to Malk and breaks his fast by taking a large bite.
Chewing his food he leans into Malk and shoots Tiron a mock spiteful look. “I could have sworn he said I have the table manors of a dragon, and an ungentlemanly strong odor,” he says in jest.
“As far as camp goes,” the warrior continues, “why move? We are already set up here.”
Alain finishes his breakfast, wipes his hands, and brushes any stray crumbs from his lap. Rising, he looks to Amiel, “If we stay here, we save time, you can take out scouting patrols to asses the lay of the land. I could stay here with the rest of the party providing security – allowing the injured time to convalesce, and the magically talented time to study or pray.”
Amiel thinks this over for a moment, “No Alain. It took us an hour to get here from the gravesite. That’s too far if something happens. I’d rather the scouts be only several minutes away. So let’s move. We’ll find a suitable, well-concealed campsite within the woods, rest and observe for the remainder of the day, sleep well during the night and in the morning pray/ memorise spells. THEN should be ready to tackle all comers!” she finishes extravagently.
Alain nods to Amiel’s reasoning and begins gathering up any stray equipment. Packing any leftovers, Alain makes sure that everything in his pack is secure.
“Everyone make sure you have all of your bedding,” he advises. “Baulin, after you finish packing, please fill in the fire pit. Tiron, could you please bury any of the leftover carcasses from our exquisite dinner. Malk, please gatherup everyone’s water skins and make sure they are filled before we leave. Velgardrin, you were pretty severely wounded yesterday, will you need any assistance with your gear?”
Malk packs up his belongings in to their usual places, props his pack against a tree, and has a quiet grumble mostly to himself. “By Milil’s Harp, there are more Ogres than Orcs in this party! Alright, alright I’ll go and get the water skins filled. Anything as long as we get moving.”
After filling the water-skins he returns, checks his pack, shoulders it and says. “Right, are we ready to move? What’s our marching order Amiel?”
With an ill-disguised wink at Baulin, Velgardrin adds his opinion of the marching order. “If bringin’ up the rear is wher you wish me ter be, it’s what I’ll do but I be thinkin’ that one of these long-legged lovers o’ the forest might do a better job keepin’ watch on our backs. I be much more at home in a tunnel than out here.”
Then Velgardrin slips his ruck on and smiles at Alain. “I be managing this just fine.”
The dwarven priest next turns to Amiel and continues, “Then I also be thinkern that we needs better order in the battles we be fightin’. Our tactics of ‘fight, no, run, no, fight, no, whadiver’ seems like we can make better. Hime much better at meetin’ a foe face-to-face as it were. But Cob, here be best standin’ back with a bow. There’s what needs decidern.”
“Let’s revise our march order to suit the new circumstances,” Amiel says in response to Alain’s question. The ranger kneels and begins sketching the new marching order with a twig into the sand.
“Salik and Tiron will serve as scouts and I will replace Tiron in the main formation, with Malk beside me,” she begins. “Cob, you stay in your original position. As Vel is still injured, we’ll place him at the centre of the formation with Declan. Baulin and Alain are rear guards.”
Looking up at the rest of the group, she asks, “Any questions or suggestions?”
Tirondalin is already standing before the new leader, pack strapped tightly to his back and bow in hand. “Can I call you milady now that you’re in command?” he asks with a wink. “Oh, and the carcasses are buried Alain – the boar provided some resistance but I got him!”
The ranger is obviously excited about his assigned duty as scout and looks about for Salik. “Hurry along rogue,” he calls, “the turkeys will have set up an ambush by the time we’re ready, let alone our bandit friends!”
Salik walks over to Amiel and pats her on the shoulder. “I’ve noticed that in the last few days we’ve been scouting together, we’ve often needed to tell one another to circle round an enemy. I propose we devise a few hand signals to make it easier and quieter to communicate.”
He extends both index fingers and draws an imaginary circle in the air. “I suggest something like this to mean ‘circle around the enemy’ and this…” he holds his hand flat and pushes down towards the ground, “means ‘find cover and hide’. Can you think of any other essential maneuvers that we may need?” he asks.
Tiron strides over, "I’m in agreement with those hand signals of yours. Perhaps an extra signal would be like so,” he says as he holds up his five fingers of his left hand and touches each with the index finger of the other. “In order to count out how many contacts, followed by a point in the relevant direction. Other than that, we’ll learn as we go along!” he exclaims, finishing with a smile.
But soon the half-elf’s jovial demeanor is blanketed by a cool, calm seriousness that is the responsibility of the scout. Then, he and Salik start toward the gravesite as well as another adventurous day.
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.
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