By Brian Flood
Chapter 49 - Elmont
Along the Dusk Road
Between Asbravn and Hluthvar, The Sunset Vale
Mid-Afternoon, 4th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
"Oh sure, yeah," Kjira says, even more caustic now than she had been with Lucas. "We just threw one hell of a party that got out of control." She rolls her eyes and turns back to tending Tomar, preparing the wounded merchant for travel.
The other members of the Company of the Iron Wolf stop what they are doing and direct their attention to the north. There, along the road about one hundred yards north of Tomar's wagon, they gasp at what their eyes detect.
A massive, armored, two-legged behemoth stands in the center of the road. Whatever it is, it stands at least nine feet tall and must weigh as much as three grown men, even without the immense suit of plate mail armor that protects its large, stocky frame. A strangely crafted great helm - resembling a hippopotamus' head, of all things - rests atop its shoulders. Over its back, the massive warrior wears a huge sword that is larger than even the standard two-handed version of the weapon.
"Hold your fire, small one," the large being bellows, apparently speaking to Ori who holds his crossbow pointed directly at the huge warrior. "My name is Lieutenant Elmont Stryker, leader of the Hluthvar militia, former member of the Wildspace Marines of Bral. My soldiers are in the vicinity and we spotted an unusual attack of sorts from this direction, so we investigated." As he speaks, Elmont stands with his arms down at his sides.
Lucas straightens his robes somewhat and frowns when he notices that they are still torn and bloodstained from the earlier encounter. Then he steps forward a bit from Tomar's wagon. Raising his voice so that the giant can hear Lucas speaks.
"Greetings tall one! We are the members of the Company of the Iron Wolf," says the red-robed mage as he gestures to his companions.
"We are guardians for our present employer, Master Tomar the merchant," he adds, pointing at the unconscious Tomar and his wagon. "We invite you to come closer if you mean us no harm. Are the two riders with you as well?"
After speaking, Lucas turns around and eyes Kjira. Holding his voice down that the new arrivals cannot hear, he says, "Please be a little civil Kjira - they may be legitimate. I don't think any of us care to play with the giant right now." Lucas then returns his attention towards the approaching giant and company.
Cy's eyes just about pop out of his head as he shouts, "Wildspace? You one of 'em SPACE giants - Giff, I think that bard called 'em. Thought he was pullin' me leg, I did."
Dolak steps forward to stand next to Lucas and looks at the giant, sizing him up. Then the dwarf turns his head to Lucas, speaking in a low volume. "What's a marine? And who's this Wildspace he works fer? Is Wildspace one o' them barons er lords in Waterdeep?" Dolak looks back at the giant with a crease in his brow.
Darius, sensing nothing 'unnatural' about this creature, quietly prepares himself for the creature's advance, knowing that the more vocal members of the Company will talk to it. He goes over the prayer of entanglement in his mind while watching, and looks around for more of this fellow's 'soldiers'.
Dolak rumbles a little with quiet laughter, and then shares with Lucas, "Now that I'm thinkin' about it, Wildspace is prob'ly some elf lord. They's always t' namin' theirselves strange names like that." During his comments to Lucas, the warrior maintains a casual stance - casual for a dwarf, anyway - with his axe in hand.
The huge stranger puts his right hand up to the Lucas, points to himself and then points to the party, signaling that he is coming closer. Once he is within one hundred feet or so, he replies, "Yes, I am a Giff, though I would not call my race one of giants."
"Are any of you in need of aid? The rest of the militia is nearby and ready to assist any law-abiding travelers in this area," he remarks to Lucas, occasionally looking at Dolak as he speaks.
Cyzicus is the first to respond to the giff, saying, "What would you call someone twice your height? Sounds like a giant to me."
Then Lucas nods his head in Elmont's direction as he introduces himself. "I am Lucas of Silverymoon. And as I stated, I am a member of the Company of the Iron Wolf. Are you with the local militia that patrols these roads? If so, we are in need of some assistance, perhaps. Is there someplace close where we may safely camp, or an inn?"
Turning to the others in the small band, the conjurer asks, "Does anyone else have any needs or anything to add? I would like to set up camp as soon as possible, but if an inn is not too far, then mayhap we could ride a bit to reach it. Let's see what the militia says."
"An inn, dear Lucas, an inn," Kjira says dreamily at the mention of the word. "If there's one within a reasonable distance, of course."
She looks up at the strange giant-like creature, the 'giff' as it called its race. Now that it was closer, she cannot tell if the hippopotamus helm is really a helm after all. Perhaps it was the creature's head. In any case, it is a curious looking beast speaking to them from up high.
She looks up at Elmont. "We have wounded here, tall one," she says loudly to the approaching patrolman. "Wounded who are in need of aid we cannot provide. We were attacked by a vicious witch who nearly slew several of our companions before our valiant fighters dispatched her."
"Is there a temple or an inn nearby we could seek succor from tonight?" she asks. "To tend our wounded and rest our bodies? We escort Master Tomar, book merchant, on his trip across the Sunset Vale...I fear we ourselves may need an escort to safety tonight, though."
"Aye, indeed," adds Cyzicus, "though it shames me deeply, as a guardian, to say so."
"Yes, we could use some help," says Darius, having decided that the giant means no harm to the Company. "There is a campsite that we were ready to investigate when we were attacked. It's over there," he says, pointing toward the northwest.
"Well met, Lucas of Silverymoon," the giff responds, "and to you lady, as well as the rest of you."
Elmont gives a 'come forward' signal over his shoulder, directed at the two mounted riders who still sit almost a quarter mile away. As the riders trot forward to within less than one hundred yards, the giff points to one of them gives another signal. That rider stops and begins to do something with his crossbow; the second rider continues forward.
A few seconds later, the first rider launches a flaming quarrel northward. Then he reloads his crossbow with a second flaming missile and then sends it on an identical course. As the second arrow sails northward, Elmont points to the crossbow user, then northward, and then circles his hand over his head. In response, the rider salutes, turns his horse to the north, and then canters off in that direction along the road.
"Help is on the way," Elmont says, turning back to Lucas. "Who is in immediate need of aid?" he asks.
Lucas watches with curiosity as the rider launches his arrows northward. Turning his attention back to the giff, Lucas responds, "Almost all of us are in some kind of need at the moment, though our employer Tomar is in most dire needs, it seems." The red-robed man gestures to the man that lays unconscious in the wagon next to the gnome with the crossbow still pointed at the giff.
"I might be able to help him," Elmont says as he walks over to the unconscious man. "Back up, please," he says as he looks down at Ori, the gnome.
The large Giff kneels by the man, and pulls off his right gauntlet. Placing his purple hand on the man's forehead, he intones, "Helm, please grant your servant the power to heal," as he casts a minor spell of healing on the man.
A comforting halo of light flows from Elmont's hand and over Tomar's wounds. When the glow has faded, the wounds still remain unchanged.
Lucas frowns when he sees that Elmont's healing has no effect on Tomar. "It seems that Master Tomar was even more grievously wounded in the fight than I thought. All the more reason we should get a move onto finding a suitable camp soon."
"Thank you for your assistance," Kjira says somewhat disheartened as the giff's healing attempt apparently fails. "I am Kjira. Perhaps he is in need of rest and further help in a city or a temple "
"That may verily be the case," replies Elmont. "I am a warrior of Helm and I am blessed by his good eye," the giff says as he frowns that his spell did not awaken the man.
"Well met and my sincere thanks fellow Guardian. I am Cyzicus of Arvoreen, at your service," says the halfling warrior-priest by way of introduction.
"Well met yourself, Cyzicus. I am familiar with your god, he has followers on the Rock," Elmont replies as he nods to the halfling.
The young man clad in peasant clothes walks up slowly to about ten paces from Elmont along with a large grey wolf. He yips and growls something to the wolf. Both he and the wolf sniff in the direction of Elmont as if trying to determine what he is, and then the wolf yips something back as the young man nods and the two move closer.
"Greetings Sir Elmont of Helm. I am Darius and this is my friend Soft Fang. You said many strange words when you told us who you are, but your smell is right. Welcome and thanks for your help."
"My pleasure, Darius and Soft Fang," the giff says to the boy and the wolf. "It is my duty to help those who need aid," he nods to the two. "And please Darius, it is Lieutenant, not Sir," he replies with a smile.
"Has anyone tried to heal this man?" Elmont continues with a frown. When he is answered by a few nods, he chuckles, "Next time, I ask before I beseech Helm," as he shakes his head. "We need to get this man medical attention that is beyond my meager abilities."
Lucas asks, "How many more are with your patrol? I saw the two riders. And how far is your camp or patrol base?"
Elmont replaces the gauntlet and answers Lucas. "Our patrol will be here in a few minutes. We will be able to further aid you then," he says with a nod.
As if to reinforce the giff's words, the road begins to tremble under the adventurers' feet. Looking northward, the Company sees a small band of riders approaching. The sun gleams brightly off of their highly shined plate mail armor. As the ten riders pull up to a halt near the wagon, it is evident that they are well armed. In addition to the crossbows and quivers that hang from the pommels of the medium war horses' saddles, each soldier also wears a large sword over his or her back.
Kjira turns as she hears the riders approaching, relieved to see more friendly arrivals. Her attention quickly returns to the large lieutenant standing near her over Master Tomar.
"Is there a city or temple nearby we could find some comfort and respite in tonight? Or should we prepare to make camp once again outdoors?"
"Camp would be a good idea," Elmont suggests to Kjira. "Excuse me while I confer with my Sergeant," he says with a nod to the woman and before he turns his attention to the soldiers.
One of the riders walks his mount slightly closer to Elmont. The others quickly fall into a disciplined formation behind him.
"Sergeant Alexi reporting as ordered, Lieutenant," the man says to Elmont.
"Good job, Sergeant," Elmont responds. "We have encountered the Company of the Iron Wolf. Their benefactor as well as some of their number has been wounded. Obviously base camp is too far off. Please consult the maps to see if there is a town or village in closer proximity," Elmont orders the Sergeant.
Turning to address Elmont, Lucas says, "As our friend Darius was saying, there is a campsite just a short distance to the northwest from here that they were investigating before we were ambushed. It sounds like the person at the camp was another victim of brigandary of the road. You might want to have your men check it out.
"Also, they was a vulture flying about the camp before the attack that Alani," Lucas gestures to slender elven woman holding a short bow, "noted was acting strangely. She attacked it and it glided off wounded. I believe it might have been a familiar for the brigand conjurer that ambushed us just before you arrived."
Looking back at Alani, Lucas asks, "Alani, can you tell Elmont where would be the best place to look for the foul bird?"
"Easily," replies Alani with a start. The pretty elf maid's slanted eyes are wide as she stares up at Elmont. "Uh, sorry Lucas I haven't seen anything that BIG before " she mutters to her companion.
With a shake of her head she sends her dark hair spilling down her back. "Well met Lieutenant Elmont Stryker. As Lucas has just informed you, I am Alani," she says formally to the giff.
Before Elmont can return the elf's greeting, Sergeant Alexi speaks. "Lieutenant," he begins, "The maps show no settlements between here and either Hluthvar or Asbravn. From what you and I spoke of before, we are some thirty or more miles from our base. That would put us almost two score miles north of Asbravn and the patrol areas of the Red Cloaks. With this wagon, we should be able to return to Hluthvar and the temple within two or three days' time, I think."
"But there are still details here that must be addressed," interjects the leather-clad man from atop his sleek riding horse. The man nods to Elmont and the soldiers. "Greetings, I am Corax Winterhorn. I would like to examine this woman that we have slain. Did you recognize her, Lucas? As well, we have this strange bird and the mysterious campsite to consider."
"Well met, Corax," Elmont says with a nod to the man on horseback before turning back to Alexi.
"These are my thoughts on the matter. Sergeant, take all the troops but four with you back to camp as quickly as possible. Report to Command on the current situation and ask them to send at least one mage to investigate unauthorized and potentially unlawful use of magic."
Once Alexi prepares the troops for their return, Elmont turns to Alani and says, "Well met, miss. Pardon my rudeness, but matters of command must be taken care of before pleasure," he says with a nod of his head to the woman.
Turning back to Winterhorn, Elmont tells the man, "I can join you to examine the deceased woman, while my men will help Darius set up camp."
Lucas shakes his head with a negative to Corax's question. "Nay, I did not know her, though her magics were very familiar to one of my schooling. My masters were very thorough on many of the magics she cast against us. A casual observer might think she came from such schools as Silverymoon, but clearly she was not of the caliber that we of Silverymoon are," finishes the red-robed mage as he smoothes his robe.
Turning slightly back to Elmont, Lucas adds, "I left her over there," as he gestures back towards the northeast from the group's position on the road.
As Elmont and the party discuss their next moves, Alexi departs northward with six of the mounted warriors. Four of the soldiers remain behind.
"Lieutenant," says one of the soldiers, "Sergeant Alexi ordered us to stay behind to assist in establishing a camp for these travelers. Where is it that they wish to do so?"
Overhearing the soldier ask Elmont where the Company of the Iron Wolf wants to camp Lucas pipes up, not wanting to stand about on the road any longer then necessary. Addressing the soldier, he says, "We were just about to move northward down the road about a half mile then select a site to set up camp. Did you by chance see a suitable site when you made you way southward? I for one am ready to set up camp and to see to our wounded, myself included."
The soldier is question shrugs as he looks from Lucas to Elmont. "It is mostly the same to the north as it is here - grass as far as the eye can see. Who of you will come with us? With the lieutenant's permission, we will provide a protective perimeter while those of you who are able proceed with the campsite preparations."
"It shall only take us a moment to be ready to move," says Lucas to the soldier. The conjurer turns to his fellow company members, "Shall we be off to camp?" He then moves to take up a position on foot next to Dolak and his cart as the Company of the Iron Wolf prepares to move northward to set up camp.
As the small caravan begins to move, Corax turns to Elmont. "Well then, let us go and take a look at the woman." Wincing slightly at the movement, the wounded man turns his horse and starts to slowly make his way to where the sorceress fell. Elmont moves on foot beside him.
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