By Brian Flood
Chapter 39 - The Rescuers Return
Within the Hullack Forest
East of Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Late-Morning, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
More than an hour after they left Amiel, five bedraggled and exhausted companions stagger back into the campsite. The ranger is dismayed to see that the limp bodies of Tiron and Salik encumber the returning adventurers. To make matters worse, Nathan and Declan support Malk between them. The bard has clearly been recently wounded.
"They're dead!" exclaims Amiel.
"Is Malk alright? What in the name of the Nine Hells HAPPENED?" growls Amiel, horrified.
"They be dead when we be gettern there," Velgardrin replies, "but two erv those who did this be dead, especially the one who be slashern their throats, she be a vicious one who tried such with Alain.
"Peakern of Alain, be we tryern ter ramain here or returnern ter teh Keep? I'm fer the keep but we be needern transport. That be a long way ter carry Salik and Tiron.
"And I be needern ter prevent those others from being livern dead. No one here be wantern the woman ter return, I'm thinkern. Der anyone be havern a shovel?"
"Yeah, we made damn sure that the first thing we did was slay the bastard that killed em!" chimes in Declan.
"But we was just too bloomin late, boss.... just too bloomin late," the fiery mage adds sadly, helping sit Malk against a tree.
"Sorry, we had to be killin 'er too, Amiel...we knows how ya like to find clues and such like...but we had to.
"There's somethin' going on in that cave!" he adds angrily. "There was this fat man, who watched us all the while...while we fought 'is mates. He did nothin' but watch, and then waddled back to the cave. We've got no clue as to who 'e is. But I'll know 'im if see 'im again!" he declares.
"Yes, sorry Amiel," explains Malk, "I thought I could move fast enough to keep out of trouble. This fighter was really fast.
"Still, at least we will each have company while we recover," adds the bard with a wan smile.
“Thanks to the rest of you for getting me back to camp," Malk tells the others. "I was really out it back there. Now I think I’ll just rest for a while and make sure this tree doesn’t move.” With that, he leans back and gently checks the state of his wounds.
Amiel curses as she struggles over to Salik's and Tiron's lifeless bodies.
"Damn, Damn, DAMN! This...this is terrible," she says as she stares at their still faces. Minutes pass by as the ranger kneels in silence, mourning her friends.
Looking up at the remaining 'Claws, Amiel's eyes are wet with tears. But other than that, her expression is nothing save determined.
"Malk, Alain are you alright?" she asks, eyeing their wounds. "Vel, can you do something for them? We need to return to town to recover...and bury our fallen. Anyone have any ideas for transport?"
The feelings that the large rotund man left for Nathan linger in the recesses of the young mage's mind. 'How he so calculatingly removed himself from the melee was eerie,' he thinks to himself, but the slight pain he feels in his foot from the bite of those cold steel caltrops also still bothers him.
"I am in complete agreement with the wise dwarf," Nathan says uneasily, "and his counsel to retrieve horse and cart for our journey back to the Keep. I have a bad feeling about lingering as well."
Alain lays Tiron down and looks to Amiel.
"My wounds are very minor and should heal quickly," he says. His eyes harden in anger as the warrior continues, "Of greater concern is the problems we keep having in battle. Despite just going over our battle plans, it seems that we still have a long way to go."
The party co-leader shifs his gaze over to Velgardrin. "If you can keep him from being raised, I'd say that Tiron would much rather be buried out here under the stars. Can you do that?"
"I be takern care of Tiron’s and Salik’s honors," the dwarven priest assures the warrior. "And I be takern care erv them we slew.
"But we be havern two problems whuch be prayern fer the dead, with thanks to the Father O’ Battles, and healern’ the living… and the barely living," Velgardrin continues, with a glance at Amiel and Malk.
“The dead be takern care of by me with help, but the living be takern time if I be the only healern now.”
A sigh escapes Velgardrin’s lips as he gazes at Tiron’s lifeless body.
“’Tis the livern be whole and safe is why I be thinkern of a horse and wagern.”
Trying to understand the dwarf through his thick accent, Alain raises an eyebrow, as he looks at Velgardrin.
"Ummmmmm does that mean you can keep Tiron and Salik from being raised if we bury them here?"
Velgardrin looks solemnly at Alain as he replies, “Clangeddin Silverbeard hisself will aid me in returning all four to Dumathoin where they will be safe from becoming livern dead. If Salik and Tiron be honored here before we return to the Keep, so be it. I need a shovel and wood fer makern two pyres, one of evil and one of Silver Claws.”
Pausing briefly, Alain answers, "I agree with you about needing to go to town, at least briefly, for everyone to heal. What do you think, Amiel?"
“I would be proud to sing over them to send their spirits to the gods," Malk interjects before Amiel can answer. "Milil will surely grant me strength for that.”
So saying, Malk fishes out his harmonica. He starts to play an odd little tune that speaks of the city and the wilderness; of humans and elves; of pride and sadness.
"Buryin' 'em both 'ere be a good thing," Declan offers as Malk plays. "I can git collect the wood fer the pyres now, Amiel," he goes on to say, "everyone else is a bit beat up."
"No one's going anywhere by themselves," Amiel tells Declan firmly.
A calm seems to settle on her as she continues, "Vel if you are sure that The Father of Battles will prevent our friends … and their slayers… from being raised, then we honor them and lay them to their final rest, here. Does anyone have a shovel? I seem to recall that Tiron may have had one in his gear."
"Alain," the lady ranger continues, "please go with Declan and bring back the wood as Vel wanted. We'll sort out what we do about returning to town afterward."
Declan nods to Amiel, accepting her words. He begins gathering armfuls of dead branches, boughs and the like. He tries to ensure that he keeps Alain in sight at all times, and that the pair does not wander more than twenty paces or so from the campsite.
Moving with the growing number of people collecting firewood, Alain adds his help.
Nathan, still feeling the horror caused by the deaths of the two party members, breaks his silence by asking Amiel,"Should I take watch in a nearby tree or some such vantage point? The smoke from our burning pyres is sure to be seen for miles around."
Finding he is becoming quickly short of breath, Malk stops playing. He sadly wipes his harmonica clean on a blood-free area of his tunic. He closes his eyes and rests back against the tree. Although his eyes are closed, his ears are not. Silently, his thoughts replay a song of praise to Milil for the 'Claws survival.
Velgardrin begins oversee the preparation of the pyres. With a frown on his face and some barely heard mutterings, he cuts the gathered wood to appropriate lengths with his battleaxe.
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