By Brian Flood
Chapter 14 - The Day After
Along the Uldoon Trail
Within the Reaching Woods, The Sunset Vale
After Midnight, 23rd Day of Eleint, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
“I sense nothing unnatural about the cat!” Darius shouts. “If it appears again, call me and I'll try to have it leave the area.”
Kjira hollers “The trees!” as she watches in horror as the shelter before her smolders in the rain. “We've got to stop this from catching fire and spreading throughout the camp!”
The lady mage instinctively drops her staff and pulls her blue cloak off her back in a jerking motion. Cloak in hand, she begins beating at the flames that lick at the small stand of trees to the south of shelter that houses the burnt corpses of the enemy. “Someone check on Tomar and Ori,” she shouts over her shoulder while battling the flames before her.
Nodding, Kryian draws ‘Stardust’, his saber, and calls it to light. Tucking the tattered remains of his shirt into his trousers, he yells, “Put a bit ‘o wash on that shelter ‘n the tree – we’re not needing the whole forest to know we're here!” Then, seeing that Dolak is watching for further intruders, the mariner moves across the clearing toward Tomar, Ori, and the wagon.
Slyvia, on the other side of the line of shelters, drops her bow and moves to assist in fighting the flames. She grabs the roof of her own shelter and begins to dismantle it.
Still kneeling by Alric, Darius cries, “Cyzicus! Alric needs a healing spell. He cannot survive much longer in this condition.” The halfling trots across the clearing to Alric’s side, returning his weapons to their scabbards as he moves.
Kjira, aided by the torrential downpour, manages to douse the fire in the stand of trees. She then turns her attention to the shelter that was caught ablaze by her spells.
Slyvia begins heaving the collapsed pieces of her shelter into the woods behind her, creating a firebreak between the burning shelter and the remainder of the camp.
Zell whistles loudly but the thunder and staccato rhythm of the rain make it difficult for the others to hear. She repeats the whistle three more times and then scans the surrounding forest as if looking for something.
Kryian moves across the campsite and finds Tomar standing at the rear of his wagon. “Are you alright?” the mariner asks.
The merchant nods and adds, “Ori went to the front of the wagon. I think he meant to hitch the horses.” Kryian acknowledges Tomar’s statement with a grunt and makes his way toward the front of the wagon.
As Cyzicus reaches Darius and Alric, the druid says, “Only one spell for now. Any more will be wasted until he gets a chance to recover.”
Cyzicus nods and places one hand over the wound in Alric’s size while grasping a small silver medallion – crafted to depict a miniature buckler – with the other. His small hands begin to glow with a faint silver radiance as he prays to Arvoreen for healing magic.
As Cyzicus works, Darius yells across the clearing. “Does anyone see anything else out there?”
Dolak replies in the negative without turning his head. The dwarven smith continues to eye the southern woodline while fingering his gore-covered battle-axe.
Zell frowns as she continues to scan the surrounding trees. Finally, she moves to her shelter and reaches underneath, emerging with her backpack. She slings the pack over one shoulder and glances back one last time at the scene in the clearing. “Don't let the fire go out,” she yells. “I'm afraid there may be more in the area.”
She shrugs to herself and turns toward the forest. The black-clad woman heads west into the woods, disappearing into the forest and the storm.
Alric’s eyes flutter open as Cyzicus finishes his clerical ministrations. Darius sighs in relief and says to Cy, “Thank you. He will survive now.”
Kryian finds Ori at the front of the wagon, as Tomar suspected. The gnome is just finishing attaching the harness of the second draft horse to the wagon’s hitch. The small drover’s eyebrows rise at Kryian’s bare-chested appearance.
“Just thought to check on ya,” Kryian says. “You’re lookin’ to be alright, after all.”
“Is everything alright back there?” the gnome asks, gesturing at the clearing.
“Aye,” Kryian nods. “It’d be best for you ta stay ‘ere for a bit, though. In case somethin’ comes at us from the road.”
The gnome nods grimly and reaches to his belt to retrieve a small pick-axe. He grasps the weapon in his small hands and turns to watch to the north.
Kjira finally extinguishes the flames from her spell casting. Slyvia returns to where she left her bow and retrieves the weapon. Then, she stands watch, eyeing the eastern approaches to the clearing.
The party remains watchful as its members peer into the dark forest that stands at the perimeter of the tiny campsite and Darius’ area of enchanted daylight. Finally, after several minutes of silence, Alani speaks up.
says Alani to her companions. “Can
someone, give me a hand to get up? I'm
tired of getting rained on...”
Darius nods, “Indeed.” Addressing the others, the druid says, “We should move Alani and Alric under a shelter to keep them out of the elements. I am glad to tell you that both will survive their wounds, but they will need to rest tomorrow to regain their strength. Then, we need to return to our routine so that the rest of us we may get some rest out of this evening. It is still Alric and Alani’s shift, but since both are incapacitated, we will need to change to schedule. Dolak, you, Kryian and Zell should take the watch for the remainder so that the spellcasters can go back to sleep. We will need a long night’s rest to regain the strength we expended here tonight with spellcasting.”
Dolak and Kryian wince at the idea of spending the rest of the night awake. Both of them then shrug and nod at Darius’ orders.
“Speaking of Zell,” Lucas interupts, “has anyone seen her?”
The rest of the party shakes their head negative at the mage’s question.
Looking at the gloomy woods surrounding the campsite, Darius says, “I do not think it would be wise to venture out from the light. I believe she will be fine. She should be able to see this light from a distance and find her way back. Which reminds me, Kjira, you should be more careful with fire.”
As the lady mage begins to object, Darius waves his hands to interrupt her. “I know it was needful, but please be more careful,” the druid says.
“What about this campsite?” Tomar asks. “Should we move away from this location? By staying, we may invite others curious creatures investigate the noise of the battle and the light.”
The druid frowns before responding. “No, I do not think so. There are those among us that cannot see in this darkness. And besides, there are creatures that inhabit the night that are FAR more dangerous than those that live by day.”
“Very well, then,” agrees Tomar. “Just the same, I will leave the horses hitched for the rest of the evening. That will speed our departure, should it become necessary.”
“Now,” Darius continues after Tomar has finished. “Let us prepare ourselves for the remainder of the night. First, we need to move the wounded under shelter. Then, we can resume the guard watch. When and if this rain stops, those on guard watch should try to rekindle the coals so that we have fire to use. I think all of us should reflect on the happenings tonight. We can review the actions and propose changes when we stop for midday meal tomorrow.”
With that, the party proceeds to carry out Darius’ instructions. Under the supervision of Darius and Cyzicus, the wounded are moved to shelters. Alric is moved back to his own shelter and Alani is placed in Dolak’s (“since I won’t be needin’ it tonight” growls Dolak). The stout warrior stifles a yawn as he sits by the fire and begins to clean his axe by the light of Darius’ spell. Kryian takes a seat across from the dwarf and begins to clean the gore from his own weapon. The remainder of the party retires to their respective shelters and eventually falls into a well-earned slumber.
* * * * *
24th Day of Eleint, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The remainder of the night passes without incident and the two guards awake the other party members at first light. As the companions pack up their belongings, they notice that the rain has stopped and it is, in fact, slightly warmer today than it was the day prior. Glancing upward, they see that occasional rays of warm sunlight penetrate the thick blanket of clouds that covers the sky. A low, but welcome fire also burns in the firepit
After everyone has finished packing, the party has a small morning feast consisting of venison strips that remain from the previous evening’s dinner. Darius and Cyzicus inspect and change the dressings on Alric’s and Alani’s wounds and assist the feeble companions with eating their breakfast. After the meal, the spell casters move away from the center of the clearing to study their spellbooks or pray to their deities. Dolak and Kryian remain on guard, yawning as they study the surrounding forest.
After almost an hour of preparation, all the spellcasters have finished their preparations. Tomar offers the back of the wagon to transport the wounded by loaded. Darius agrees and then Ori flips back the back flap of the wagon. As the two characters are loaded onto the bed of the wagon, the party members notice that it contains about half a dozen variously sized trunks. Each of the storage containers has a large, sturdy lock on its front. Ori tosses the two wounded members’ equipment in the back of the wagon, closes the flap and then moves to the front to take the reigns.
The other party members finish arranging their belongings and untether their mounts and pack animals. Pausing Darius glances around the clearing one last time.
“It would appear that Zell has left us. May we all pray that she is safe and wish her luck in eventually finding her place in this world.”
After confirming that the coals from the fire are completely extinguished, Darius signals for the party to move out. The tiny caravan, now missing one character and with two others wounded, moves north to the road and then turns east to resume the journey to Asbravn.
The morning passes uneventfully as the party enjoys the cool, but dry temperature. The hardwood trees of the forest spread their canopies over the Uldoon trail, creating a never-ending show of shadows and light. The smell of a fresh rain lingers in the air and water drips from the green boughs and onto the forest floor.
* * * * *
24th Day of Eleint, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
At about midday, Darius and Soft-Fang – now scouting alone in front of the party – return with good news. They have located a small brook that runs along the road for a short distance. The party breaks by the stream for their midday rest stop.
Darius and Cyzicus check on Alani and Alric and find that the two wounded characters are resting peacefully in the back of the wagon. After ensuring that the pair’s dressings are still fresh, the two priests gently help them to debark the wagon and join the party around a small fire that Dolak has started. The others have already unwrapped items from their trail rations to eat for lunch. Kryian sits with his tattered shirt across his lap. He holds a needle and thread in his hand and is mending the torn garment.
“Well then,” says Darius as he rejoins the group. “I am sure all of us have an opinion on our current situation. Who would like to start?”
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