By Brian Flood
Chapter 38 - Hunter's Doom
Within the Hullack Forest
East of Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Mid-Morning, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The Hunting Party
The rock sails through the morning air, arcing behind and over the guard's head. With a rustle and thump, it hits the ground within the clearing's brambles in a spot that is to the man's left rear.
The man turns to face the sound, exposing his back to the two hidden adventurers.
"Who goes there?" the hulking man grumbles in a menacing tone.
Salik stands up and attempts to creep up on the man, intending to sever his spine with his scimitar.
The rogue has moved about ten feet when a stick, dried by days of no rainfall, snaps under his boot. Tiron, still prone behind the bush, hears the sharp sound that signals a loss of surprise. He gathers his legs under him.
* * * * *
In the Campsite
"Hey," Amiel growls, her voice thick with sleep. She sits up and shakes her head groggily, pausing as her vision clears.
"Hey, lads," she repeats with more conviction. "What did I miss?"
Lying at his lookout point, Malk keeps his attention to the front but sings a short song of thanks to himself and Milil at the sound of Amiel's voice.
"We be waitern fer yer health ter improve, Amiel," replies Velgardrin. "And Baulin's caravan 'be passing through now, too. We aid them if ther walking corpses er skeleterns be attacking, eh Alain?" The dwarf re-checks the sharpness of his axe as he answers the injured ranger.
"I see," Amiel says dejectedly. "I guess rushing into that cave was a damn fool thing to do! I've cost us valuable time," she says, chastising to herself. "I hope that you lads have been more productive than I this past day."
Looking to his wounded leader, Alain lowers his shining rapier. "Of course we have been busy, Amiel. As you can see, I have returned the shine to my sword." Grinning, the swordsman gives the weapon in question a quick flourish.
"Yeah, and I've been studyin' up on me spells and such like," Declan adds. "Don't beat ya self up too much about rushin' inta the bloomin cave. At least we know you've got guts! Feelin' any better, boss?"
"Now if only Salik and Tiron be returning, we be able to continue plannern,” Velgardrin comments. He continues keeping an eye on Amiel in case she overexerts herself again.
Amiel waves to the dwarf, as if to say, "Don't worry."
She considers something for a moment before asking, "Where are they? Guarding the perimeter?"
As if in answer to Amiel's query, the sound of a shouting voice cuts through the late morning air. The brief word or words are indistinguishable, but the tone is clearly urgent. The cry seems to have come from the north, in the direction of the stone door.
* * * * *
The Hunting Party
The guard spins around quickly. "Mendel!" he yells, turning his head to the north. He turns back toward Salik with a menacing yet confident look just as the rogue breaks into run toward him.
Moments before Salik closes into melee range of the guard, an arrow streaks by his arm. The missile strikes the man in his lower abdomen and pierces his armor.
The man grunts and doubles over slightly, causing Salik's scimitar to glance off his armor with minimal effect. Recovering with the speed of one used to close combat, the man counterattacks.
The blow takes the rogue across his unprotected neck. Were it not for the man's wounds, he most likely would have severed Salik's head. Even so, the broad sword slices the rogue's throat, leaving a grievous wound. Salik coughs back a mouthful of his blood as he realizes he is outmatched by this foe.
* * * * *
In the Campsite
Velgardrin immediately turns towards the sound and reaches for his axe. Nearby, Alain rises from the ground, tucks the polishing cloth in his belt, and looks at Amiel with raised eyebrows. Always ready for action, Declan jumps to his feet too.
At his outpost a few yards away, Malk also stands up, his sword ready, facing the sounds. A Sembian battle tune learned from his father buzzes in his head.
"Trouble!" Amiel snaps. "All of you, move!" she says in a voice far from forceful. "I'll be fine, here" she coughs.
At Amiel's words Declan looks expectantly at Alain. "Salik and Tiron?" the fire mage asks, not really expecting an answer.
* * * * *
The Hunting Party
Quietly invoking the name of his patron deity, Tiron begins to run toward the battling swordsmen.
"One day I'll be a bit wiser about these things," Salik thinks to himself as the blood runs down his neck. "What am I going to do now?"
Forcing himself to concentrate over the sharp pain in his neck and cursing the dry sticks of the forest, the rogue waits until the man next strikes. As the guard does so, Salik tucks himself and rolls past the man's legs and onto the trail that heads out into the brambles.
The guard grunts as his sword cleaves the dirt in the rogue's wake. Then his shoulder jerks as he tries to recover from the blow. A second grunt escapes the man's lips as he realizes that his blade is stuck fast in an exposed root. He looks up just as Tiron skids to a stop next to him.
Glancing over the man's shoulder, the half-elf sees that the merchant and the woman are standing at the foot of the cliff in front of the stone door. Their attention is directed toward the battle on the forest's edge.
* * * * *
In the Campsite
With a quick glance left and right, to make sure everyone is falling into their spots, Alain draws a parrying dagger in his off hand, and starts off towards the sound of the commotion.
"Let's go, everyone!" the warrior commands.
"Meet therm at the edge er the brambles," Velgardrin says as he heads towards the trail.and the bramble patch. "May Clangeddin's alagh be upon us. Claws, axe high!"
"Right behind, ya," Declan declares, following in Velgardrin's wake. The mage's brow is furrowed as he prepares to summon the magic energies that he has stored within his consciousness.
“I’ll watch the left,” Malk states. The bard moves purposefully to the left of Velgardrin. He stops slightly behind the dwarf and ensures that the priest has room to swing his axe without removing any parts to which the bard is attached. Malk's ears and eyes scan front and left as the group begins to move. His short sword is grasped at the ready, his senses are alert and a song is in his heart. 'At last ACTION,' he thinks to himself.
* * * * *
The Hunting Party
Tiron reaches over his back for an arrow as the guard, showing skill learned in battle, releases the pommel of his stuck sword and pulls a dagger from his belt. In the same motion, he lunges at Tiron, turning his back to Salik in the process.
Behind the guard, Salik recovers from his roll and reaches into his belt pouch for a handful of caltrops. He drops them on the ground behind him.
Tiron's stance leaves his midsection open and the guard's dagger penetrates the half-elf's leather armor and abdomen. Tiron winces from the pain as he takes an arrow from his quiver and begins to string it.
Meanwhile, thanking Tymora, the goddess of luck, for his reversal of fortune, Salik lunges forward with all his remaining strength, hoping that he and Tiron can dispatch the guard quickly. He knows that if the two adventurers cannot kill the guard before the others arrive, then the pair stands very little chance.
"Tymora!" the rogue shouts in desperation as he swings the heavy scimitar at the man's neck in retribution.
The goddess of luck apparently frowns at the rogue. His scimitar strikes the man's armored collar. The blow reverberates along the weapon and the weakened rogue cannot maintain his grasp on the pommel. It falls to the forest floor.
In the wake of Salik's attack, the guard adjusts his stance so that he has the adventurers to either flank. In doing so, he skillfully avoids exposing his back to either Salik or Tiron.
The attack gives Tiron time to draw back on the bow, and hold the string tightly against his cheek. "Yield!" the half-elf commands the guard in a surprising show of knightly regency.
As he covers the man, Tiron glancing again over the guard's shoulder and sees that the fat merchant still stands by the stone door. The woman is nowhere to be seen, however.
* * * * *
The five uninjured adventurers make their way out of the campsite, leaving the wounded and immobile Amiel behind. The move for a few paces before Alain starts to slow to a walk, trying to discern the faint tracks that make up the trail that leads from the zombie graves toward the clearing and the stone door.
As if in response to the warrior's search, the sound of another shouted word or two emanates from the north. Alain's head snaps in that direction and he begins to move northward. The Cormyrean senses that Velgardrin's stout legs cannot maintain a human gait. Alain notes that the dwarf is jogging steadily and so he adjusts the pace of the small group to match Velgardrin's speed. As a result, most of the humans in the band end up moving at a quick walk.
The small band of adventurers moves northward through the woods, vectoring in on the unseen location to the north from which came the earlier cries. As they move, Alain uses hand signals to direct the 'Claws into their agreed-upon formation. Alain and Velgardin lead the small group with Alain on the right of Velgardrin. Malk maintains a station a pace or two behind and to the left of Velgardrin. The two mages walk directly in the footsteps of the two front rank warriors, and a pace or two behind Malk's one-man rank.
* * * * *
The Hunting Party
A rush of pain and adrenaline hits Tirondalin as his body reacts to the violation by the cold steel and he finds it not only hard to hold his bow taught but also to keep an unclouded head and in a panic. As the guard turns his attention toward the ranger and begins to lunge forward again, Tiron reverts to his second nature and lets fly his readied arrow.
The missile strikes the guard a glancing blow to his left arm. The man winces from the wound but does not loosen his grip on his shield. The pain from the wound does, however, affect his attack and the dagger stabs only air as Tiron moves out of its way. The half-elf reaches over his back for another arrow.
Once again, finding himself at the guard's back, Salik takes advantage of the opportunity to retrieve his scimitar from the ground. Tucking his legs under him, he tumbles forward.
Unfortunately, he rolls directly onto a bramble-filled bush and finds himself entangled by the thorny vegetation and unable to immediately regain his feet.
Tiron strings and fires another arrow at the guard from point-blank range. This time, the missile plows a furrow along the side of the man's chest, leaving a bleeding gash in his armor.
Salik curses his luck and begins the painful process of freeing himself from the brambles. As the rogue struggles, the armored warrior grits his teeth and jabs at Tiron with his dagger.
The ranger nimbly sidesteps the attack. Then, with the hurried panic of self-preservation that is the hallmark of the green, inexperienced warrior, Tirondalin continues to attack the guard with thoughtless fury. He strings the missile, pulls back -- and is utterly shocked when the bowstring snaps, rendering his bow useless as a ranged weapon.
The guard capitalizes on Tiron's shock by backhanding with his shield. Despite the unorthodox method of attack and his own misfortune, the ranger still manages to avoid being hit.
As the half-elf and the guard square off again, Salik finally staggers exhaustedly to his feet. The guard adjusts his stance slightly, putting both adventurers in his frontal arc.
Trying to take advantage of Tiron's misfortune, the guard lunges with his dagger. Tiron dodges the attack and swings his longbow, using the elf-crafted item as a melee weapon.
The guard's shield intercepts the half-elf's attack. He continues the motion, turning the block into a sweeping attack with his shield against Salik.
The rogue sidesteps the shield, grimaces tiredly, and gives a quick glance to the heavens, wondering if some god up there has a personal vendetta against him today.
'Well there's only so much bad luck I can have in one day, surely,' Salik thinks to himself. Praying for a swift end to this battle, Salik swings his trusty scimitar in a low arc at the man's torso.
CLANG! Steel meets steel as the rogue's blade ricochets from the guard's shield.
Tiron steps in and swings his bow as a close combat weapon once again. The attack in intercepted by the guard's shield and the guard immediately follows up by lunging forward with his dagger. The half-elf twists away from the man's weapon, inducing a grunt of exasperation from his opponent.
Taking advantage of the man's attack against Tiron, Salik brings his scimitar to bear. The rogue manages to slice a bloody track across the man's thigh with his scimitar.
With a cry of agonized effort, the guard backhands with his shield at the enemy who wounded him. Salik is still recovering from his own attack and is unable to dodge the blow. The edge of the shield catches the rogue under the chin and his head snaps back with an audible crack.
The bloodied scimitar slips from numb fingers. Moments later, Salik's lifeless body collapses to the churned dirt of the isolated battlefield.
The guard now turns his full attention to attacking Tiron. His dagger thrust is dodged by the half-elf. Tiron continues his momentum and is able to connect with his bow. The man grunts as the ranger's elven weapon smashes into his side.
The guard, now suffering from critical wounds, strains to continue standing. Tiron tries to take advantage of the man's pain but the guard is still able to weakly intercept the half-elf's attack with his shield.
As the bow ricochets from the shield, the man's return dagger thrust in unsuccessful. He follows it up with a shield punch, however, and connects. The half-elf feels his ribs shatter and his lungs suddenly fill with blood.
Tirondalin falls to his knees, struggling unsuccessfully to breathe. The clearing, the guard, and the distant approaching figure of the rotund merchant slowly blur and then fade to black.
* * * * *
As the small band of 'Claws moves northward through the forest, they hear, at random intervals, the sound of steel on steel. After a minute or so of movement, there are no more noises from the north.
It has been about three minutes since the adventurers left the campsite when they can begin to see the edge of the forest, about fifty or so paces ahead of them. What they see is chilling.
At the spot where the faint trail leaves the forest and heads north through the brambles, stands a man clad in chain mail and holding a sword and shield. He appears to be standing guard over the two unmoving bodies that lie on the ground at his feet. The guard is clearly suffering from several wounds as evident by the blood streaks on his armor.
Continuing forward, Alain reminds everyone, "Stay in formation."
The urge to run to the site of battle wells up within Malk, despite the big warrior's instructions. The bard senses also the duty to maintain his battle station. But youth wins. He runs towards the armored and bloodied figure.
Velgardrin sprints forward, trying to close the distance to the armed man and the unidentified fallen bodies. Alain continue forward at Velgardrin's side, controlling his strides to match the dwarf's pace.
Behind the two warriors, Declan scans the surrounding forest for hidden enemies. Detecting none, the fiery mage runs in order to maintain his relative positions to Alain. Nathan mirrors his fellow mage's actions and follows in Velgardrin's wake
Malk's sprint, however, outpaces his four companions and he winds up in front of them. As he gets nearer to the man and the bodies, he lets out a cry as his -- and the party's -- worst fears are realized. The two motionless bodies are those of Salik and Tiron. Even from a handful of paces away, both bodies clearly show the signs of grievous wounds.
"Mendel! More of them!" the armored man shouts over his shoulder as the adventurers get ever closer. Looking past the man, the five companions can see a rotund being well over halfway into the clearing along the trail that leads to the stone door. He is slowly and carefully making his way southward through the briars.
"Hold them until Sascia arrives!" the man in the clearing shouts back at the guard. In response, the armored man shifts his weight slightly and prepares to receive the oncoming adventurers' attacks.
Malk arrives a little breathless at a position directly in front of the armored and bloodied man. As he does so, he finds himself straddling Tiron's prone and apparently lifeless body.
The bard begins to assume the en guarde position taught to him by Alain. He begins to position his short sword in front of him, intending to move it swiftly back and forth to protect his front.
But before the bard can fully set himself, the guard, who is rested and ready for a fight, aims a vicious attack at the bard's abdomen. Malk's shudders as he feels the cold steel of the broad sword slicing a path across his stomach. Suddenly, the short sword seems very heavy in the bard's hands.
Even as the guard attacks Malk, the other adventurers pull into supporting positions. Velgardrin stops a few paces out of the guard's reach and hollers, "Sheath that sword 'er Claws be slashern'!"
Alain takes up a position to the guard's left flank, facing the man's shield hand while standing over Salik's fallen, bloody form. The two mages come to a halt a few paces behind Velgardrin and begin to search their minds for useful spells.
Malk stands swaying determined to face his fate. He holds his sword out in front barely able to believe what has happened. He presses on the wound with his free arm and hand. A low moan escapes his clamped lips.
'Damn it,' the bard thinks, ‘it could at least be a musical moan.'
Meanwhile, cold furry and a sense of urgency over take Alain as he sees his friend so grievously wounded. Readying his slashing dagger, the warrior looks for an opening to get past the guard's shield.
"No way you live!" Declan snarls at the guard, from the back of the party, a fiery rage build within. The mage takes a step to the side and begins to mutter magical incantations as his hands move in an intricate pattern.
A few moments later, a flaming dart leaps from the mage's finger and strikes the armored man in the eye. The guard stumbles backward and then falls to the ground, his sword and shield slipping from his lifeless hands.
Alain glances to see where the other party members are positioned. He sees that Velgardrin has moved up to the slain guard's opposite flank and is kneeling down to check on Tiron. Nathan has moved a few steps opposite of Declan in the event he needed to add his own spells to the fight.
"Declan, Nathan, the fat man," Alain orders, using his rapier to point at the large being in the clearing.
Velgardrin checks Tiron's body, hoping to save the half-elven ranger. To his despair, the dwarf finds that his companion is beyond help. A bloody puncture wound to the abdomen and a slash across the throat are readily are readily apparent and both could have been fatal. Tiron's finely crafted bow lies near his outstretched right hand, its string broken or severed. Several linear blood streaks stain the half-elf's green cloak.
"Tiron be dead," Velgardrin reports in a somber voice in return to his leader's orders, "There's nothin' I kin be doin' for 'im."
"Then help Malk," the big warrior answers, using his dagger to point to the bloody companion.
As the dwarf finishes speaking, a brief cry of pain comes from somewhere nearby -- within a few paces, it would seem. But there is no apparent source of the exclamation.
Nathan immediately reacts to Alain's orders. The mage breaks into a steady run, intending to pass the warriors and the fallen bodies to close the distance to the man in the clearing.
Slaying the guard seems to stave off Declan's murderous rage. "No. Wait. We need to regroup!" he growls at Alain. But as Nathan moves, Declan follows with a curse.
Alain takes a step to stand over the downed guard. Then he leans over and slashes the man's throat with his dagger.
As Alain dispatches the guard, a shocked and wounded Malk strives to keep standing. The bard drops his sword and tries to stem the flow of his lifeblood by pressing on the wound before the pain fully kicks in.
Ignoring for the moment Alain's request to help Malk, Velgardrin steps past the bard and toward Salik's unmoving form. He kneels down, intending to check the fallen rogue for signs of life.
Next to the dwarven priest, Alain begins to straighten. He looks around as he does so and says, "Keep an e- ….oof!"
Before the warrior is fully erect, his orders are interrupted and he is thrown to his back on the ground as a figure appears seemingly from nowhere, tackling him and driving a dagger down toward him with an enraged scream. Alain gasps in pain as cold steel pierces the hollow of his collarbone.
Alain's attacker appears to be an attractive blond human woman. Or at least she would be attractive if her tight-fitting tailored leathers were not ripped in several places revealing countless scratches that cover her form and her hair were not mussed and soaked in sweat. She is panting heavily and her eyes are widened in fury as she withdraws the dagger and raises it to strike again.
Nathan passes the two struggling forms at a run and heads out along the narrow trail through the brambles. The young mage has only gone a few running paces into the clearing when he screams in pain. He crashes to the ground, and reaches for his right foot.
Declan comes to an abrupt halt to avoid trampling the downed adventurer. The fiery mage can see that an oddly formed pronged piece of iron protrudes from a hole in Nathan's boot, eliciting a trickle of blood. Several other similar objects are scattered on the ground along the narrow path.
Meanwhile, the overweight man far out into the clearing has stopped in place. He appears to be watching the scene at the edge of the forest from his position a few hundred paces away.
Malk moves his head gently, looking for a suitable tree to support him. On seeing one that looks strong and smooth like an elm, he tries to walk slowly to it with dignity.
Meanwhile, the woman on top of Alain drives her dagger downward again. Alain tries to intercept the attack with his parrying dagger but is not fast enough. Again, he takes a wound to the upper chest.
Grimacing in pain, Alain coolly reacts as only a trained warrior can. Unable to fully employ his rapier, the warrior punches upward with the basket hilt; unfortunately, the woman moves her head to avoid the unconventional attack.
Realizing he was next in the woman's line of attack, Declan turns from Nathan. The fiery mage lines up the woman and swings a mighty blow at her with his staff. The woman's struggling form presents a difficult target for Declan and his staff smashes into the dirt, barely missing Alain.
"Vel, help me with this lunatic," he grunts between swings.
Velgardrin's concentration is on Salik, however. The dwarf lays his axe on the ground and checks the rogue for signs of life. The dwarf finds several wounds on the Salik's body but is unable to detect any vital signs.
The rogue's throat is cut in two places -- once toward the base of the neck and a second time straight across the front. The second throat wound is very similar to the one that Tiron's body bears. A black-and-blue bruise has formed on the Salik's chin where blood began to congeal before it stopped flowing. His neck appears to be broken and a chunk of flesh is missing from his earlobe. The rogue's scimitar, which lies in the grass nearby, has blood on the blade.
Still laying on the trail, Nathan removes the barbed iron object from his foot with a painful yelp. The young mage struggles to his feet and prepares to pick his way through the insidious scattering of similar objects in order to continue on toward the fat man who still stands motionless on the trail in the center of the clearing.
Velgardrin recovers his axe and makes to stand up to help Alain. Meanwhile, Cormyrian warrior and the woman continue to struggle.
Alain punches up with his basket hilt again and this time he connects. With a crack, the woman's head snaps back as Alain's fist smashes her nose. A heartbeat later, the warrior's foe collapses limply on top of him even as Declan's staff connects solidly with the back of her head.
Velgardrin regains his feet at Alain's side. "Salik be beyond me help akin'", the dwarven priest announces.
Nathan finally regains his feet and slowly makes his way through the barbed objects the block the path. The young mage's attention then focuses northward toward the mysterious man who stands motionless watching the events at the forest's edge.
Still lying supine beneath the woman's body, Alain hollers, "Nathan, wait! Join Declan and guard our position until we get regrouped!"
After he sees that Nathan has stopped, the Cormyrean warrior turns to the Velgardrin, a fierce scowl on his face. "Velgardrin, we need you to start healing those who can be healed," Alain orders, as he motions to Malk and himself.
Velgardrin complies with Alain's instructions. The dwarven priest reaches out to touch the party leaded and utters a dwarven phrase. A heartbeat later, a silver aura flows from the Velgardrin's hands and over Alain's wounds. When it dissipates, much of Alain's pain is relieved.
Declan chokes at Velgardrin's pronouncement of Salik's passing. "That bitch may know a great deal as to what goes here. Let's try to take her with us," he suggests hurriedly to Alain, as he helps the warrior off of the ground.
Meanwhile, having reached a tree, Malk puts his back against it. Continuing to clutch his grievous wound, he leans back against his support and tries to take in what is happening around him. As the strength leaves his legs, the bard sinks slowly down the trunk.
Velgardrin moves to Malk and repeats what he did for Alain. When the prayers are complete, the bard's wounds have closed slightly, but he is still severely wounded.
"He's moving toward the stone door," Nathan announces. The other adventurers turn to look north and see that, indeed, the overweight figure is moving slowly along the bramble-bordered path toward the distant cliff face.
Alain nods a quick thanks to Declan for the help up, and surveys the area. "Velgardrin," he orders, "when you finish with Malk, help the girl." The dwarf walks from Malk and kneels down next to the woman to evaluate her condition.
The Cormyrean then warrior turns his attention to Declan and Nathan and continues. "Let him go. Continue guarding, and gather up those spikes." Alain then stands in the midst of the group, his weapons gripped firmly, watching making sure everybody is about their business.
Declan nods at the party leader. "The fat man is like to c' back w' reinforcements," the fiery mage says as he picks up the spikes around the party. "We best be leavin'" he states flatly. Declan keeps a wary eye on the trees and around them as he works.
“Thanks, Vel,” groans Malk through clenched teeth as Velgardin moves off to follow Alain's instructions. The bard decides that staying where he is definitely his best plan. He continues to put pressure on his wound but manages to look around for any extra danger threatening the 'Claws.
Meanwhile, Velgardrin checks the woman and her wounds. “She be dyern," the dwarf growls. "I herv only 1 healern to be givern. Der yer want it on her er on one o’ the Claws er save it?”
"Use it," returns the warrior. "Then find some rope and bind her." The grim cast to Alain's face increases as the situation gets tighter.
Declan completes his gathering of the spiked objects, collecting six in all. He drops them into a pouch while Nathan continues to watch the mysterious man move northward along the narrow path.
Without warning, the unconscious and bleeding woman suddenly shudders. Before Velgardrin can cast his curative spell, she goes limp in his arms.
"Velgardrin, search her body for valuables," instructs Alain, motioning to the dead woman. Then the warrior squats next to the body of armored man that lies within a pace of him.
The dwarf forgoes Alain's instructions long enough to speak his mind. "I agree that ther fat man will seek help ter slay us, too," he asserts. "And we be in poor shape ter deal with it. I be thinkern that we should send one er two ter the Keep ter rent a horse and wagern or cart and return ter haul all these and Amiel."
As the two warriors exchange ideas, Nathan continues to watch the mysterious man increasingly put distance between himself and the party. Declan leaves Nathan's side to move back toward where Malk sits against a tree.
Velgardrin begins searching the woman. "I could use ther shield," the dwarf remarks while he searches.
A few seconds later, Velgardrin has gathered a gold necklace and a handful of daggers from the woman's body. All of the daggers were concealed beneath layers of seductive clothing.
"Everyone get ready to head back to Amiel," instructs Alain. He then works at the grim task of searching the dead man for valuables.
A quick tug of the wrist breaks free a jingling coin purse from around the corpse's neck. Otherwise, Alain finds that the fallen fighter possesses just his clothing, armor, broad sword, shield and a dagger.
"And wha' about Salik and Tiron?" Declan asks, as he continues to scan the trees and help Malk to his feet. "We gonna carry 'em then?"
Velgardrin slowly rises and speaks. "They be Silver Claws. I'll not be leavern them ter beasts er worse," the sturdy dwarf shivers a bit as he completes his statement, "worse as livern dead."
Alain removes the shield from the dead fighter and passes it over to Velgardrin. His grim work done, the big warrior pockets the newly found coin purse, and moves to stand over Tiron's body.
The Cormyrian warrior bends down and briefly rests a hand on his fallen friend's brow. Then, with an almost inaudible sigh, Alain reaches down and wrestles the body into a carry over his shoulders.
"Declan, you and Nathan get Salik's body," Alain commands.
The two mages move to obey but Velgardrin beats them to it. The sturdy dwarven priest straps the shield to his back and then reaches down and, with a soft grunt, lifts Salik's lifeless body.
Declan signals Nathan over to come help him with the wounded Malk, with a casual jerk of his head. "Got y'self mighty beat up there, mate," he comments to the bard. "Amiel will 'ave our bloomin' hides for this."
With their various loads shared between them, the five surviving Silver Claws take one last look at the area. In the distance, the obese man is still moving slowly but steadily along the narrow path toward the stone door. The bodies of the fat man's slain comrades lay at the edge of the forest. Weapons and other miscellaneous gear -- as well as Salik's scimitar and Tiron's elven bow -- litter the ground around the corpses.
Velgardrin grunts and says, “Alain, are ye be havern the weapons and other picked up? I be tryern ter carry this Claw.”
Then, as he slowly heads out towards Amiel, the dwarf adds, “And I still be thinkern that a horse and wagern be helping us.”
Alain shoots a quick grin at his grumbling friends back before he looks over to Declan.
"Gather what you can," the warrior tells the mage. "Please get Tiron's bow -- I know he wouldn't want it left behind.
"Nathan," Alain continues, "if you would help Malk keep up, that would be a big help." Assessing that he has taken care of as much as possible, the warrior turns to fall in step behind Velgardrin.
"Hang about" Declan says to Malk and Nathan.
The mage returns warily to the clearing, almost expecting to be attacked again. He hurriedly grabs Tiron's bow before returning to his two companions.
Holding the bow and his staff in his free hand, Declan lends his shoulder to the wounded bard once again and the group resumes the march back to Amiel.
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