By Brian Flood
Chapter 43 - Recomposition and Retreat
Within the Hullack Forest
East of Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Mid-Day, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Velgardrin instantly steps in front of Kerielle and cries out, "Hold, Kerielle! These be the rest erv the Silver Claws with ther two corpses. I be thinkern that Sascia and Devdas be therm. May Clangeddin's alagh be upon us this day!"
Malk cries out with pure pleasure. “Alain, Declan, Nathan! It’s good to see you. I see you were successful. Tell us what happened?”
Not making any sudden moves, Alain stands perfectly still as a bead of sweat, caused from his heavy burden, drips into his eye. Not taking his eyes off the arrow pointed at his head, he demands of Velgardrin, "What is going on?"
In response, the dwarven priest casts his shield aside and belts his axe. Stepping forward to Alain, he offers, "Let's lower that corpse ter the ground."
Then he points at Nathan, saying, "This be Nathan and the red-haired one be Declan."
With a sweep of his hand back to Kerielle he concludes, "This be the lady, Kerielle. And," he adds with a wink at Kerielle, "a nocked arrow seems to be ther way she be greetern people."
Slowly lowering her bow, the elf maiden slackens the tension of the string. "Well met, then, Silver Claws. Forgive my welcome - there are few friends to be found in these parts, it seems."
Relaxing somewhat, Kerielle stands down from her offensive posture, though it is clear she is not completely ready to trust strangers just yet, even with an introduction. "As the dwarf, I too am eager to hear your tale. From what these two have told," she says, indicating Velgardrin and Malk, "it seems linked to my own experiences this day."
Nathan enthusiastically drops his half of the woman's corpse with a heavy sigh. "Well met, adventurer! Was she trying to sell you some arrow heads, Alain?" Nathan asks in jest with a broad smile on his face.
"Aye, g'day," adds Declan to the chorus of greetings and introductions as the woman's limp form hits the earth. Then the young mage turns to Alain and asks, "Are ya wantin' to git on w' the burnin', then? Sure s'not, that first pyre be bringin' some unsavory blokes 'fore long. I still be havin' a few bits o' me fire left t'day."
While Declan waits for an answer, Kerielle walks over to the burning pyre, determination warring with revulsion written plainly on her face. The smell appears to cause her great distress.
The elf can discern the smoldering remains of two persons. Both bodies are burned beyond recognition, although it would appear that they were of average height for a human. One item catches the archer's eye. Lying at the feet of a body is the charred remnant of what appears to have once been a bow of elven make.
“Something you’ve seen before, my Lady?” inquires Malk, who has been watching her closely.
Kerielle ignores the bard's question. "Who were these people?" she asks urgently.
"These slain Silver Claws were the human, Salik; and the half-elf, Tirondalin," answers Velgardrin. "Were yer be knowern therm?"
"No, no," Kerielle slowly replies. "I merely recognized the hand of an elf in the making of his bow. It brought back memories. Memories I would as soon forget -- for a time..."
Meanwhile, greatly relived that no more arrows are pointed in his direction, Alain deposits the body of the warrior near the unused pyre. The two mages follow the warrior's lead and place the body of the leather-clad woman next to that of the guard.
Turning to the elven woman, Alain performs a quick half bow. "Greetings, Lady Kerielle. I'm sorry we have no time for proper introductions, but I would be well away from here before nightfall," announces the tall warrior.
Then addressing Velgardrin, Alain continues. "How long for the rites to be said so these souls may not rise?" he asks, gesturing vaguely to the dead bodies.
“Twill be quite short other than ther actual time erv burnern,” Velgardrin replies. “The gods be understandern our haste I be thinkern.”
"Good," says Alain, "then give me a hand stripping the armor off of the man. I'd like to see if it is useable. If not, maybe we can get a good price for it."
Velgardrin helps remove the armors and comments, “Perhaps yer should be switchern ter this now, Alain. It needs a little work ter be whole but looks ter be fittern yer.”
"Let us do what must be done, and be away," says Kerielle. "I have no wish to tarry here."
So saying, the elven woman follows Alain's lead and begins divesting the dead woman of her garments. While she would never sully the shell of a fellow lian, she feels no such compunction for a dead human. Her search reveals nothing of value, however.
As Kerielle does her search, Alain quickly inspects the stripped-off chain mail and begins preparations to change into it. After unbuckling and setting aside his weapons belt, the big warrior strips off his sturdy reinforced leather armor. When that is done, Alain sets aside the leather, dons the padding for his new armor, and then wriggles into the mail. He next bounces for a moment to settle the new protective suit. Satisfied, he retrieves his weapons belt and straps it back on.
Declan waits until Alain has finished donning his new armor before speaking. "S'now wot?" the mage asks. "Are ye ready t' do the blessin' er whate're an' le' me git on w' the burnin'?"
Velgardrin picks up the corpse of the man and places it on the pyre. Then he gets the woman’s corpse and adds it, as well. Lastly, he steps back and grasps his holy symbol.
“Light ert," the dwarf commands and then begins chanting in dwarven.
"Gladly," replies Declan with a glimmer in his eye. The mage steps toward the pyre, muttering an enchantment and bringing his thumbs together with his fingers spread and pointing at the pile of wood. Again, a fan of flame flashes from the pyromaniac young man's hands and instantly ignites the corpses and the tinder.
After the pyre and the bodies are burning well, Velgardrin stops chanting. “It ers done," he says. "And we be needern ter get ter the Keep ter heal and rest.”
With his new armor firmly in place, Alain moves about the mundane tasks of getting everyone moving. Hefting each of the fallen members' packs to gage their weight, the warrior quickly rummages through each, making a quick mental inventory. Satisfied that he has a rough idea of the contents of each, he tosses Salik's pack to Velgardrin's feet. "Can you carry that one?"
Velgardrin grabs his own backpack and wiggles it on. Then he reaches down and grabs Salik’s pack and says, “I be carryern this well enough. Shall we be headern to ther Keep?”
Nodding to the impatient dwarf, Alain continues, "Nathan, would you please carry Amiel's pack?"
Not waiting for an answer, the warrior next turns to Malk. "Can you make it unassisted, or will you need some help?"
“I’ll try to keep up” the bard replies. “If I can’t, you’ll here me whistle.” With that, he gingerly picks up his belongings and tries to arrange them as comfortably as possible. He straightens up slowly and with a final act of bravado salutes, touching his forehead with his sword blade before sheaving it. “Right, when are we leaving?”
Continuing on in hopes of getting the party moving soon, Alain looks at Kerielle for the first time. "I'm sorry if I seem unduly hasty milady, but I'd be away before the smoke brings down more enemies on us. If you would not mind, would you give Amiel a hand?" So saying, the big warrior gestures at the wounded lady ranger.
"You will hear no argument from me, Alain," answers Kerielle. "I have no liking for fire, nor burnt flesh, and we would do well to be away in haste. I would be most glad to assist a wounded fellow hunter."
So saying, Kerielle assists Amiel to her feet and, supporting her by looping Amiel's right arm over her own shoulders, makes ready to leave. "I feel I may be of more value however as a scout, once we are away from here. I have some small skill in the woods."
"Very well," announces the elf once she is ready to move, "if we are all ready, I suggest we depart this place in haste." Then, belatedly realizing that she is not the leader here, nor even a member of the band, Kerielle looks questioningly at Alain and quirks an eyebrow.
"Noble leader?" It is the closest any of the company have seen the serious and stern elf maiden come to smiling, or making any form of jest.
"Yes, lead on!" Nathan adds enthusiastically. "And I shall lend a shoulder to the stout bard should he need one. I also hope to alleviate any hostile glares as I laugh at our tumbles while we make our way back to the Keep. I am not the strongest or most nimble in our party, but I can carry another pack and possibly keep our bard from falling too hard on me what with all the extra padding I am toting," Nathan says with a laugh.
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