By Brian Flood
Chapter 6 - Snakebite
The Sword Coast Backlands
Late Afternoon, 30th Day of Eleint; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The second day of travel proceeds much as the first. After waking at the crack of dawn, the four travelers take time to break their fast and establish their morning routine. Rashid notices that Aris takes a small book from one of her saddlebags and studies it for several long minutes before returning it to its original location.
After about an hour of absolutions and eating, the quartet breaks camp and resumes its journey. The weather remains mild as they travel throughout the day, gradually making their way southwestward across the prairie.
As the sun dips toward the western horizon, the four travelers select a spot within sight of the road for the evening's camp. They have just begun to unload their mounts when Yassir gives a yelp and falls to the ground, clutching his lower leg.
Rashid rushes to his D'tarig friend's side, drawing his aziir as he moves. His eyes scan outward for danger as he approaches and the ground once closer, ready to strike.
He catches a quick glimpse of something that rapidly slithers into the tall grass. For that instantaneous glimpse, the creature bears a remarkable resemblance to a dead stalk of grass. In less than a second, however, it is gone, vanished into prairie vegetation.
"What is it, Yassir? Have you been bitten by something?" he asks.
The D'tarig thrashes on the ground in obvious pain. "Yes!" he grunts through gritted teeth. Then he begins convulsing, bending at his waist as he retches onto the earth.
"What is wrong?" says Aris. The minstrel stands behind Rashid, concern etched on her face. Behind her, Rashid sees Aranor standing with his legs spread and his longbow in hand. The elf is scanning the area, providing watch while the others see to Yassir.
"Yassir has been bitten by something," Rashid replies, sheathing his swords and kneeling by his friend. "I think that it may have been a snake of some sort, as I saw something slithering into the grass there," he adds, pointing to where he last saw the creature. "It resembled a piece of dead grass, which will be why we did not see it immediately."
Turning to the D'tarig, he asks with concern, "Where were you bitten?"
But Yassir cannot answer. The stout desert nomad is writhing in agony, doubled up from the pain. He convulses violently as he expels the contents of stomach onto the dirt.
Rashid draws his jambiya as he reaches for his friend's leg. Using the short, curved blade, he slices through the trouser to the knee, shouting to Aris over his shoulder for help.
As he examines the leg, he asks the elves, "Do either of you have any knowledge of drawing poisons from snake bites?"
"No," replies Aris. Then, Aranor appears at Yassir's side.
The elven warrior sets his bow and the ground and grasps the D'tarig's shoulders, trying to pin the stricken traveler to the ground. "Keep watch," he grunts to Aris as he applies his body weight and muscle to the task of immobilizing Yassir so that Rashid can look for the wound.
With his friend stabilized, Rashid quickly finds the wound on the leg which the D'tarig was grasping before he started to convulse. Two closely set puncture wounds decorate Yassir's calf muscle. The skin around the area has already begun to get puffy and red.
"We have to do something," Rashid says, looking worriedly at his friend. "We cannot let so brave a person die in such a fashion. I have heard that it is good to bleed the wound, to let the blood take the poison to the sand, which will drain and purify the wound as it scoured the bones of those that die of disease."
Saying this, he draws the blade across the two punctures in the leg. He then removes his sashling, and ties it tightly around Yassir's leg. "One of the village elders also tied the top of my brother's leg to slow the flow of blood, and the spread of the poison, when my brother was stung by a scorpion. Unfortunately, he reached my brother too late, and he died from the wound."
As he works on his friend's leg Rashid mutters to Yassir in the D'tarig tongue, <We will fight it, my friend, as we have fought before. I will, as ever, need your help in this, as I cannot do it alone. We have not traveled and faced dangers together to be separated here by a serpent's kiss!>
The Bedine then reaches for a waterskin and a wineskin, and pours some of the latter on the wound. "I once heard my mother talking with a friend. She said, 'Red wine to clean the wound and to help the blood to do it's work, and water to wash away the evil of the poison that may have gathered."
As he speaks, Rashid pours water on the wound. "Is there anything that you have heard that may help? I have never done this before, so can only hope that it will help." The last comment carries a hint of desperation with it.
"What thee said has merit," Aranor grunts as he continues to pin the D'tarig to the ground so that Rashid can administer to him. Seeing her brother struggling with the violently thrashing patient, Aris comes over and helps by holding Yassir's feet.
After a few minutes, the convulsions cease. Yassir stops his thrashing and vomiting and simply lies still while breathing heavily. A glistening coat of sweat blankets his face and he moans weakly.
"Sit him up slightly," Rashid instructs Aranor, then leans close to the D'tarig. Addressing him in his own language, he puts the waterskin to his friend's lips. <Drink this, my friend, that you may wash the foul taste from your mouth.>
Yassir sips weakly from the waterskin and then his eyes flutter as he slip into a feverish sleep. Beads of sweat roll down the D'tarig's face and his robes are already drenched from perspiration.
Rashid looks worriedly at the two elves. "I think that he will be alright now," he says. "If you could finish unloading the animals, I will look after Yassir. Once you have unloaded, if you could pass me a blanket, I will wrap him in it."
The Bedine then proceeds to mop his friend's face and again cleans out the wound in the leg. He also loosens the sashling to allow the blood to flow through the wound.
Following Rashid's instructions, the two elves finish unloading the horses and camels. Staking the mounts out so that they do not wander away in the night, they then begin to prepare the night's supper of trail rations and water. After several minutes, all is ready for an evening of vigilance against any more unseen dangers.
* * * * *
Early Morning, Higharvestide; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Rashid wakes the next morning to the soft sounds of elven music. He opens his eyes carefully and finds that his two elven traveling companions are in the midst of some sort of performance for an unseen audience. While Aris plays a light tune on her beautiful elven harp, Aranor spins and leaps in an intricate weave of movements, his long sword drawn and in hand. With a cresendo of stringed melody, Aranor completes the dance and finishes with on one knee, his head bowed and sword point plunged into the earth.
The elf breaks from his trance-like state to see Rashid watching him. Gathering himself, Aranor returns to his feet and slides his sword back into his scabbard. "
"Good morning, friend," the elven warrior says to Rashid. "And our wishes for a bountiful harvest."
"And a good morning to you both," Rashid replies, rising from his blankets. As he moves over to check on Yassir, he says, "Those were very interesting and beautiful movements. Is it some sort of ritual dance?"
"Indeed it is," confirms Aris. "It is a celebratory dance of our people that farewells the summer and welcomes in the autumn and the coming harvest. Do you have similar celebrations in the great Sand Sea?"
As the minstrel answers his question, Rashid proceeds with his check of Yassir. He finds that the D'tarig is still feverish and weak but is otherwise not in danger of dire consequences from the snakebite.
"We do not," replies the Bedine. "We do not have the bounty of a harvest, a truly wondrous thing that Falin has described to me - almost as wondrous as the great waters flowing without ending."
"That is a shame," Aris says sympathetically.
"What of thy friend," Aranor then adds, changing the subject. "Although he is still ill, is he fit to travel? Our instructions were clear that we must convey thee to Hill's Edge by mid-Marpenoth."
"We do not have much leeway, do we?" Rashid turns to look at his friend as he continues, "He is, I think, out of danger. He is still weak, however, and I suspect it may take a couple of days, or possibly more, until he is fully fit. If he is well enough to travel, we will need to push on, although it may be slow going initially."
Saying this, the Bedine warrior leans over to his friend and shakes him, addressing him in the D'tarig tongue. <Yassir. Wake up. How are you feeling this morning? Are you well enough to travel?>
Yassir's eyes flutter open and he opens his mouth to respond. Immediately he rolls over on his side and suffers from a case of dry heaves. With a moan, he rolls back over on his back. Coughing he responds in his native tongue. <Nothing worse than what comes from spoiled camel's milk, I can travel I think>.
Rashid glances over to the two elves questioningly, helps his friend to sit up, and hands him a water bottle. <Here my friend, drink this,> he tells the D'tarig. <It will at least put something into your stomach. If you can face it, you should eat something. My mother used to make us eat bread and dry fruit for energy when we were unwell.>
<No food > Yassir gasps, <just water.> He obediently takes a sip from the offered water bottle.
The two elves watch helplessly as the two desert natives converse in the D'tarig tongue. Somewhat frustrated at his inability to follow the conversation, Aranor snaps, "Well then? Is thy friend fit to travel or not?"
Rashid rises and turns on Aranor, the fury of a desert storm in his face "Yassir will travel because we need to travel," he growls at the elf. "And in answer to your question, and as should appear apparent, no, he is not!"
As Aranor stiffens and prepares to respond in kind, Aris quickly steps between the two warriors. "Fighting amongst ourselves will not get us anywhere!" she asserts, a calm yet forceful tone in her voice.
"Aranor," she says to her brother, "ready the horses for travel. We may have to move slower, but we will apparently be able to travel today."
"And you," she says, turning her admonishing gaze to Rashid, "you must learn to control your temper. That quick-to-anger attitude may get you by in the parched seas of Anauroch, but it will NOT help you succeed in this journey nor in whatever quest waits for you in Hill's Edge."
"I understand that your friend's illness disturbs you," she continues softly but firmly. "But YOU must understand that WE cannot speak your tongue. We have no idea what passed between the two of you - we assume you were assessing his condition. You also must understand that we have a mission to perform; we are to get you to Hill's Edge by mid-Marpenoth. The timelines of the journey was stressed."
"Now," she says, the icy cold look in her eyes slowly warming, "please see that you and your friend get ready to travel. The sooner we can leave this cursed prairie, the sooner we can rid ourselves of any more slithering dangers."
With that, the elven woman turns away and moves toward her horse. She carefully packs her harp into a large saddlebag and then strokes her mount's face, speaking soothing words in a voice to low to be heard.
Rashid's fury subsides somewhat, to be replaced by a hint of respect for the beautiful elven woman who is willing to stand up to him when angered, something that he has not experienced before. With a final glance in her direction, he turns back to Yassir to help him to his feet.
"Come," he says quietly to the snakebite victim. "We had best prepare for the day. Whilst I know that you will travel the day, I also know that you are weakened. It will not be a weakness to stop to rest from time to time should your wound or the poison still in your system demand this."
With Rashid's assistance, Yassir climbs into the saddle of his camel and nods weakly, signaling that he his seated. When all of the riders are ready, Aranor snaps the reigns of his war horse and the quartet resumes its trek southwestward across Pelleor's Prairie, this time moving slower to account for their stricken comrade.
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