By Brian Flood
Chapter 51 - Revelations
Along the Dusk Road
Between Asbravn and Hluthvar, The Sunset Vale
Early Morning, 5th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The night passes uneventfully and the Company rises the next morning to break their fast and decide on their next course of action. After the night of rest, each adventurer feels slightly better as his or her wounds begin to heal by natural means.
Upon being awakened, Corax, Dolak, and the four soldiers provide security. Meanwhile, the party's spellcasters focus their efforts on praying to their respective deities and studying their spellbooks in order to receive magical means by which to overcome the challenges that face the small band. After a few candlemarks, the spellcasters have completed their devotions and studies and move to the fire pit to join the others.
Moving to the fire pit to warm up a little, Darius sits down next to Soft Fang and looks around. Speaking to the group, but Elmont and Cyzicus specifically, he says, "It seems that we are still in bad shape after that battle yesterday. Tomar is unconscious, and Lucas is still held by that amber light. I suggest we use our deities' blessings this morning, perhaps each of us saving one, to cure up our wounded companions."
"Helm blesses me with but two castings per day at this point, so I can provide two healing spells," Elmont replies. "I suggest we take this day for rest and healing and perhaps the mages of your group can decipher Lucas' book in order to break the spell that has frozen him in his current state."
Cyzicus responds with, "Aye, sound good. Then he goes to check on Tomar.
The halfling finds that Tomar is still slightly feverish. The night of rest seems to have helped. Cy estimates that the merchant will need another six hours rest or so before he is able to receive magical healing.
Next, Cyzicus moves to Dolak and bestows Arvoreen's healing graces on the dwarf. He judges the progress made by the spell and then repeats the prayer. After the second healing blessing, the dwarven warrior's wounds have completely mended.
Elmont, meanwhile moves first to Kjira. He calls upon the god of guardians to cure the wounded lady. When the prayer is complete, Kjira finds that she is fully healed.
The giff next moves to Darius. Once again invoking his deity's healing graces, Elmont speeds mending of the druid's wounds. Although this prayer is not as successful as it was with Kjira, Darius feels much better for it.
Without waiting for an answer, Darius looks at Alani, and continues to the group, "Soft Fang and I have a need to hunt today. Alani, would you like to join us?" The druid then waits for answers from Elmont, Cyzicus, and Alani.
Alani looks across the firepit to Darius. "Yes, I will hunt with you," she answers. Then she stands, her enchanted short bow in hand.
As the hunters prepare to leave, however, Corax stands and holds up his hand. "One moment," he implores. Then, to all of those around the firepit he says, "With all the excitement yester'eve with Lucas, I neglected to tell you all what Elmont and I discovered when we went back to the sorceress' body."
The rogue gathers himself and then continues. "I studied the woman's face. Although her hair is a different shade, I believe that the woman who attacked us is the same woman that I saw in Asbravn with your friend the mariner. What did you all find when you searched her belongings? Any clue as to her true identity?"
Dolak, still tentatively probing his newly healed wounds, looks up sharply after Corax's announcement. "Well, given what she said a'fore she died, we've likely been follered - or maybe hunted is the right word - at least since the festival. When Tomar comes 'round, we'll have to find out if he knows her. It may have been a personal thing 'tween her and Tomar, but I got a hunch she was ordered to kill us. If'n it was personal, she'd not've referred to him as 'the merchant'. Probably woulda called him some right personal names."
"Definately not a run o' the mill bandit since she took pleasure in Tomar's death and not his gold," the dwarf continues. "If'n she was on a contract fer money, she'd a fled when things got bad fer her and then come back at us later. She stayed to the end, though, which hints she was some kinda fanatic. She also served a dark god, or at least called out t' him at the end."
"She was probably sent by someone t' kill us," Dolak speculates. "Question be who? We'll have somewhat more problems once they find out she didna succeed."
"I didna get a look at her belongin's," the dwarf says in response to Corax's question. "Lucas did, but he's not gonna tell us much right about now."
"If we're gonna stay here the day, we may as well check the animals' shoes and I'll need to sharpen me axe again," Dolak states. "I kin break out part o' me shop and work some new shoes today and sharpen weapons fer those that be needin' it. Me axe got a few nicks yesterday. Ori could ya help me check some o' the shoes?"
"Aye," Ori responds from this place in the wagon next to his fallen master. With reluctance, the gnome dismounts the merchant wagon and moves to the unhitched pair of draft horses. Gently, he raises their feet and begins inspecting their shoes.
While waiting for Corax and Elmont to finish questions about the, now, dead lady mage, Darius kneels down and once again talks to his friend, <We will hunt. First, Silvanus' blessing on you friend>. The druid then gives additional healing aid to Soft Fang. He also mumbles a prayer to the skies and grass around them, and casts a spell on himself also.
Now fully healed, Darius tells Elmont and Cyzicus, "I still have blessings for today. I would be good to save one of them for when Tomar is able to receive its benefit, and for when the arcane among us get Lucas out of the amber light. For now, let us hunt."
"Aye," agrees Cyzicus. "I had similar thought as I too retain a blessing from Arvoreen. That is, if Tymora is kind to us this day."
The druid looks at Elmont. "This is another blessing from Silvanus," he says as he leans over forward and changes to a large grey wolf with a sandy colored neck hair. He looks and yips at Soft Fang, then he, Soft Fang and Alani take off into the grass looking for game.
After the three hunters have departed, Dolak commits himself to retrieving the items from his cart that will allow him to do some simple smithing. A small anvil, a miniature forge, and a vat for water are taken off the cart and set up nearby. With steadfast focus, the dwarf begins to prime the anthracite that he will need to fire the forge.
Meanwhile, Corax turns his attention to Kjira. "Did your studying this morning go well, lady mage? I mean, do you now have what you need to study the woman's belongings? Since we will apparently be spending the day here, I think it would be best if we did a detailed search of her things to find some clue to her identity or purpose."
"Indeed I did," Kjira laments. "But I don't think I'll be able to do much for our encapsulated friend Lucas at least not without potentially endangering myself or another as well."
"After mulling it over through the night," she continues, "I doubt that Lucas will have the necessary magical inscriptions in his book to cast a spell that will dispel this field holding him. Something like that would be too powerful for such a young mage.
"It is possible that the dark witch has such a spell in her spellbook, and it may be possible for me to cast it directly from her book however, the results could be messy and the remainder of her book may be destroyed in the process. Likewise, there's still the possibility of another trap or similar sigil waiting to be triggered on the book."
She looks over at the still, unmoving amber form that was the party's defacto leader. "And I'd hate to end up like that if it could be avoided."
"In the meantime," she announces, "I think I will examine the woman's belongings to see if any are of a magical nature. Perhaps while I do that, the rest of you can brainstorm and see if you can figure out a way to transport Lucas in his current state..."
With that, she turns her attention to the sorceress' belongings, putting them into a neatly arranged pile before casting a spell of her own. When the mystical incantation is finished, several of the items glow with a soft blue light to include a dagger, the woman's robes, two vials of various colored fluids, and a rolled parchment.
"Well," Kjira begins somewhat relieved the spell worked properly, "a few of her belongings appear magical in nature - though it will take someone more skilled than I to identify them."
"We should prepare ourselves to move to the city and figure out what to do with Lucas. Do you think we could fit him on your wagon, Dolak?" she asks the dwarf.
Dolak looks to Kjira, "We kin fit most o' the witch's stuff in the back o' the cart when I load it up again. Lucas is a differ'nt tale, howe'er. He may fit in Tomar's wagon, but not back here. I'd wait t' load him 'til we're ready t' go. I dinna think we ought t' be leavin' here until tomorrow, once we can git Tomar and everyone else on their feet again."
"With help, I could move Lucas into the wagon, just make sure it is clear," Elmont says with a grin as this is not how he was expecting things to turn out.
"May I ask where you all were going before the woman ambushed you?" the giff asks the party.
Cy says, "Aye, that may be a good idea - or Tomar's wagon if he has not the room. However, we probably should stay here for the day, to be sure all are in the best of health including, Tomar!"
Having gotten that off his chest, he continues, "As for the witch's items, I see nothing of which I would be interested in. Especially considering what has happened to Lucas."
After pondering for a moment more, the halfling adds, "Perhaps we should decide on an interim leader. As it appears, it may be some time before Lucas is back among us. We know it be at least until we get to town, maybe longer. Either then, there may not be a powerful spellcaster in town or we may not have the resources to hire one."
Corax, in response to Cy's remarks, says, "Well you may not be interested in the rest of her objects, but I most certainly am." His actions mirroring those of his comments, Corax picks up and examines the necklace with the runes and continues speaking. "I guess none of you are interested in self preservation as it would seem this," referring to the runes, "Zhent assassin was awfully bent on your, and now my, destruction."
When Corax shows the engraved runes to the others, Kjira immediately notes that the runes on the front of necklace pendant - an interwoven 'Z' and 'C' - match the sigils on the cover of the sorceress' spellbook. The spellbook, of course, now rests in Lucas' hands within the amber force field.
Without waiting for a response to his rhetorical question, Corax next selects a sheaf of rolled parchment that lies in the pile of the sorceress' belongings and begins to unroll it. He begins shuffling through the pages as he listens to the responses.
"Zhents?" Kjira responds quizzically. "What would the Zhentarim want with us and a book merchant?" She peers over Corax's shoulder as he starts to unroll the non-magical parchments.
Meanwhile, having finished priming the anthracite in his forge, Dolak prepares to fire the forge. At Corax's announcement, Dolak pauses his work.
Mirroring Kjira's question, the dwarven smith asks, "How kin ya be sure she was a Zhent? Ya lost me in your leap o' logic. I kinda figured the assassin part, just never got the Zhentarim part fer sure."
The dwarf goes back to the forge and fires the coals to begin work on work six new shoes to replace the worn ones.
"Could you please sharpen my blades as well," Cyzicus requests of his friend the smith.
"Of course, Cy, give me a few minutes to finish these shoes and I'll take care of yer blades." Dolak resumes stoking the fires to ready his forge.
"Thank for this service good smith," Cyzicus responds.
Corax absently mentions that, "these five pieces are blank." He then responds to Kjira and Dolak's questions by waving the medallion in the air over his back while picking up the single, non-magical, separated piece of parchment and unrolling it. "Does anyone else have any suggestions as to what the rune that looks like a 'Z' could mean?" he asks. "I was just sort of making a logical assumption about it, as I've - fortunately - had little actual contact with the Zhents."
Cy jumps and grabs the medallion when he sees the inscription. Then with a pained look on his face, he says, "The rune on the back - the one depicting a castle on a cliff with a bolt of lightning overhead. It is the sigil for Darkhold - the Zhentarim stronghold that lies in the Far Hills. Its existence is a threat to my home town, Corm Orp, as well as the rest of the Sunset Vale!"
"Cyzicus is correct," Elmont adds. "The bearer of this medallion was an agent of the Zhentarim. What do you all know about Tomar? Obviously he is more than just a dealer of tomes," Elmont asks.
"I guess that settles it then," Dolak declares. "The Zhents are in on it."
As Corax reads the single piece of parchment he cocks one eyebrow and states, "Well, 'Zhent' may or may not have been correct but 'assassin' couldn't have been more on the mark." Corax then begins to read aloud the letter of bounty that he has discovered.
'23 Eleint, 1370 DR
Your services are required once more. There is a book merchant, Tomar of Iriaebor, who has been asking too many questions of late. We suspect he has connections with Those that Harp.
Your quarry recently visited Berdusk. Our sources indicate that he was last seen headed eastward along the Uldoon Trail, toward Asbravn. He travels in the company of a small band caravan guards, most likely sellswords of the typical sort of rabble. They should arrive in Asbravn within the tenday.
It is imperative that he be eliminated. Use whatever means you deem necessary. If his guards pose a threat, they are to be eliminated as well.
Your fee for this assignment will be two thousand gold coins plus an additional two hundred gold for each of the guards that you eliminate. You may claim your prize from the 'Hold once you provide proof of your success.
I am confident that you will not fail us.'
Corax faces the document toward the rest of the party and says, "It is sealed with some sort of rune - one that I do not recognize." He points to the strange glyph that resembles a triangular obelisk surrounded at its base by two concentric circles.
He pauses for a moment, then says, "I guess that we have a decision to make. Do we continue to travel with Tomar now that we know his accompaniment places us in greater danger than we were aware? Do we ask for more money - the price of his deception? Or, finally, do we leave this caravan to its own devices once we reach the safety of the next town?"
"Hold it, friend Corax," Kjira starts off as her companion speaks. "It's not clear from this letter that Tomar was expecting any trouble on this trip or that he would even be aware he was in danger from this mysterious writer. To ask for more money now or leave the caravan would amount to nothing more than blackmail at this point and I'm afraid I couldn't in good conscience do it."
"My final concern," Corax continues, "is that we will be unable to move Lucas until this spell is dispelled or it runs its course - also Master Tomar's responsibility. Once Master Tomar is revived we should exact the payment for all the necessary magical services that Lucas will need. We should immediately dispatch someone to attain those services as we will be stuck until Lucas is free unless of course you let the elements take their course with him the way you have left the other dead."
"Yet again I must disagree, Corax," the lady mage pipes up once more. "We can hardly expect Master Tomar to pay for any services needed to unleash Lucas from his amber tomb. It was not in protection of the caravan or in defense of the party that he found himself so enchanted - it was his own hasty curiosity afterwards that resulted in this unfortunate occurrence. Would you expect Tomar to pay for your treatment if you were wounded whilst sparring for training with Dolak, for example?"
"I think not," she says in answer to her own question. "That would be an action you had to accept responsibility for yourself. That being said, however, we do need do something with the amber statue. Dolak has said there is no room on his cart for such a burden but perhaps, as he said, we could fit him on Tomar's wagon. We should ask Ori if he thinks this can be done."
"If so," Kjira continues, "we can resume our travels shortly and get treatment for Lucas in the nearest city. To send for help and await their return would not only delay our journey by days, if not a fortnight, but may endanger the messenger on his or her trip."
"There is no real way to tell if this Zephra was being watched in any way by her employers," the lady mage says, "though I must admit I doubt it from the tone of the letter. She was told to claim her payment with proof from some hold. We are probably reasonably safe from similar assassins until we reach the next major village or city. Once there, however, agents of her employers are sure to report her failure. Sending for aid to one of this cities may also alert them to this fact."
Kjira looks at the giff for a moment and then back to the party. "In fact, if the Lieutenant's men report ahead as he ordered, then we may have trouble on our hands sooner. It all depends on how deep the claws of this mysterious enemy extend." She looks around for Ori to ask the gnome about lugging Lucas around in Tomar's cart.
Elmont has silently allowed the caravan members discuss the matter amongst themselves, but interjects when Kjira mentions his troops. "I will not believe that anyone in the Hluthvar militia has any dealings with the Zhentarim," he spits out to Kjira. "Many of the men on patrol with me were hand picked by me and I will not tolerate any besmirchment of my name or theirs!"
He then adds, "I will agree there is Zhent activity in the area, as that is what we are here for - to protect the Vale from the incursion of evil!"
Dolak's hammer pauses in midflight as he listens to Corax read the scroll and the ensuing argument between the rogue, Kjira, and Elmont. He considers the import of the scroll for a moment and then says to Corax, "I didna think she was a paid assassin so much as some soul's personal fanatic assassin. But she was in for the gold as much as anythin'. I've no dealin's with the Zhents a'fore, so I dinna know if this is their style. I wasna saying you were wrong, I just didna know if ya were sure if she was a Zhent. I suppose it could be them as easily as another. Probably more'n likely it is the Zhents."
"As fer Master Tomar," the dwarf adds, "I signed on fer this trip, and I aim to see it t' the end. I dinna know if he knew some soul was tryin' t' kill him when he hired us or not. He did speak up fer us in Asbravn when he coulda left us with the militia and hired new guards. The gems and other items found on the lady mage will probably be ours t' keep, so that should augment yer income. I dinna know if the amber will be comin'off Lucas at all, but if he is still like this in the morn, we best ask Master Tomar to put Lucas in his wagon so we can move on."
"I am a bit put off that these killers think Master Tomar is worth ten golds fer every gold I'm worth," the dwarf states indignantly. "I mean I'm not just some wee rabble sell-sword. I CAN smith, as well." He resumes the vigorous swinging of his hammer as he pounds out the new horseshoes.
Cyzicus hotly retorts, "I for one will not abandon our charge - he did not tell us all about himself. Well I know I have not told my whole life story. I am sure we all have our secrets."
Still pained, the halfling says, "I can tell you from personal experience deep indeed." With thoughts of further assassins in mind, he then adds, "We have a further concern."
Looking at Simon, Cyzicus asks, "Lieutenant, do you know of somewhere an orphan can be taken in safety?"
Corax patiently listens to the retort to his suggestions facing each of the speakers in turn. He then adds, "In lieu of any easily made agreement, and with Lucas in the 'amber freeze,' I suggest we wait for Master Tomar to fully recover from his wounds so as to ascertain the truth about any allegiances he may have. If the story of his connection to the Harpers is true we can ask their assistance in helping lucas before we continue in any route. While we wait for Master Tomar to recover, I will investigate the small campsite and the first body. I find it curious that an assassin would feel the need to kill someone wholly unconnected to her quarry - why would she draw more attention than is necessary?"
Corax completes his thoughts over his shoulder as he puts the piece of parchment in the waistband of his breeches and walks toward his horse. "My decision about staying or leaving will wait until I get some answers from Master Tomar - I'm not a blind servant."
The rogue takes to the saddle of his horse, Doom. His eyes scan the road for any sign of the downed vulture as he starts the horse moving back down the road toward the mysterious abandoned campsite from the day prior.
Dolak's hammer rings true on the anvil. Four shoes, finished and ready for the animals, hang from the side of the cart. Two remaining shoes rest in the coals. The dwarf pauses for a moment and watches Corax ride away.
"Someone ought t' be goin' with the lad," he suggests, "so he dinna get int' trouble out there. Like as not, he'll find some animal lookin' fer dinner. He's somewhat upset with the pay and the party right now. He'll not be keepin' a weather eye out fer trouble. Who'll ride with him?"
"Men ," Elmont orders to his soldiers, "you help the caravan leaders how you can and I will investigate with Corax again. The giff breaks into a jog to catch up to Corax on horseback.
"Whoa, Corax! Your horse trots faster than I do, and there is a good chance that my armor weighs more than you!" Elmont says to Corax and then chuckles from his own joke as the rogue slows his mount to allow the giff to catch up.
As the two head southward, the party members return to the tasks at hand. Dolak resumes his smithing and the other adventurers resume the mundane tasks of a day spent in camp.
* * * * *
Mid-morning, 5th Day of Marpenoth, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The hunt has taken two and a half hours. The first hour was the most productive. First two rabbits, and then three deer fell prey to Alani's bow and the pair of wolves - Darius and Soft Fang. The last hour and a half or so has been fruitless, however. Now, it is time to return to the campsite to see how the others are faring. Perhaps one of them has found a way to release Lucas from the amber force field in which he is trapped.
The three hunters have traced their steps back to where the carcasses of the slain deer lie amid the tall grasses of the prairie. The two rabbits hang from a brace on Alani's belt. With her hands on her hips, Alani purses her lips and looks back across the vast expanse of land - nearly a mile - between the hunters and the campsite. Then she looks back at the three deer carcasses and frowns.
"How are we supposed to get our prizes back to camp?" she asks herself out loud, glancing at the wolf with the patch of sandy hair whom she knows by now to be the shapeshifted Darius.
In response, each wolf grabs a deer by the neck and drags it to where the third lay fallen. Soft Fang picks up one of the rabbits and starts tearing at it, eating the raw meat. The sandy haired wolf moves over to Alani and bumps into her legs, pushing her slightly in the direction of camp. He watches her for a moment, and then bumps her legs again with his head, in the direction of camp. He then takes the second rabbit and follows Soft Fang's lead, rending the flesh apart and gulping it down. The two wolves then lay down, alert, heads up, and wait.
Alani watches with a little disgust as Darius gobblse down the rabbit while in his wolf form. "By the gods Darius, am beginning to think that you not only take wolf shape when we hunt to sniff out our quarry but also to get out of the run back to camp to get help bring home the kill." The dark haired woman laughs as she speaks.
Looking back towards the camp Alani lets out a deep sigh. "Well, I guess I had best get a move on. It shouldn't take me long to get to the camp Darius, so please be a dear and try not to gobble down the deer also." Giving a wink, Alani scratches the sandy headed wolf behind the ear behind the ear. Darius stretches his back out in response.
Alani turns around and begins the mile or so jog to the camp. In her wake, Darius pads over to where Soft Fang lies to await the return of Alani and more men from the camp. The two wolves stay alert, looking around for 'kill-thieves'.
* * * * *
The Abandoned Campsite
Corax dismounts his horse on the road and slowly walks into the tall grasses toward the abandoned campsite discovered by Alani and Darius the day prior. He moves with his bared rapier in one hand and his mount's reigns in the other. Behind him, Elmont moves slowly as well, his huge sword held easily in his massive hands.
Soon, the two adventures find the trampled clearing. It is not difficult. A small flock of vultures has taken up residence while they pick over the choicest morsels of the two cadavers - man and horse. As well, the incessant buzzing caused by the thick swarm of flies makes it easy to find the site by noise alone.
Shooing away the carrion birds, Corax gently goes over the slain man while Elmont stands guard. The rogue notes that the man wears riding clothes of fairly well tailoring. His purse has been slit open, likely by the same blade that slit his throat from ear to ear cutting to the spinal cord and nearly severing the unfortunate traveler's head. A simple dagger, still firmly seated in its sheath, rides on the man's opposite hip. Corax searches for a few more minutes but can find neither a sign of identification nor any items of worth on the man's person.
He next moves to the horse. A sharp bladed weapon of some type has also cut the beast's throat. A search of the horse's saddlebags turns up a few days' worth of grain and standard human rations, some basic traveling cooking utensils, but nothing further of interest.
Corax takes the man's dagger from its sheath and examines it for any worth or substance. After examining the blade he places his rapier on the ground near his own hip. The rogue then takes the man's dagger and loosens the dirt next to the decomposing body. When enough of the hardened earth is sufficiently loose, he uses the iron pot to remove the dirt, creating a shallow grave. He next rolls the body into the grave and scoops the excavated dirt up with the iron pot, placing it over the corpse.
After having taken the scene in fully, he places the dagger and pot in his pack, grips his rapier and says a small prayer to the goddess of luck. Then he retrieves Doom and, accompanied by Elmont crosses the road to finish his gruesome work.
Following the paths of crushed grass, the two find their way to the body of the sorceress. Like the previous corpses, this one has also attracted a host of carrion. Strangely however, there is a large black bird lying motionless in the dirt next to the body.
Approaching carefully, Corax discovers that the dead bird is a raven. It has died fairly recently; there is a large penetration wound in its abdomen where it has recently been struck by some sort of piercing weapon. The feathers around the wound appear to be singed.
In a process similar to the previous site, the rogue pulls the recently retrieved dagger from his pack, unsheaths it and in the same order buries the sorceress' body. Discarding the pot by this second shallow grave and returning the dead man's dagger to his pack, Corax takes the bird by the talons and slings it over his shoulder before mounting Doom and returning to the party's campsite.
* * * * *
Mid-morning, 5th Day of Marpenoth, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
It has been about an hour since Corax's departure when Alani returns to the campsite, alone. The elven scout approaches the camp in a jog, her short bow grasped firmly in hand. When she reaches the others, Alani finds that Dolak has set up parts of his portable forge and is currently working on sharpening his axe. Glancing around, the scout notices that Corax and Elmont are absent from the camp.
Entering the campsite and seeing that all is well, save that Elmont and Corax are missing, the elven female speaks up. "The hunt went well this morning, a little too well if you ask me. Darius and I down have downed three good size deer and we are going to need a little help getting the meat back to camp."
She then looks to Dolak. "Great - I was hoping you would break out the forge. My sword is in need of some work and I would like if you could have a look at it when I return," she says, smiling as she speaks.
Looking around the camp and still not seeing the two missing travelers, the elven lass asks. "Where have Corax and Elmont gotten off to? We really need to get the meat back and properly dressed else it will spoil on the hoof." Alani waits for volunteers to retrieve the deer.
Dolak diligently pumps at the wheel grinder working a fine edge into his blade. He pulls the axe back from the stone and lifts his foot from the pedal as Alani begins addressing the camp. "Corax got a bit nicked about the blade with us earlier. He run off t' have a look at the campsite and the vulture ya found earlier. Elmont went with 'im. They havna come back yet," Dolak volunteers to Alani.
"'Bout the time ya get back with yer kill," he continues, "I'll be finished with me blade and Cy's too. I'd be honored to put an edge back on it fer ya. I dinna think I will be able to come with ya to get yer deer if I'm t' finish here anytime soon."
Dolak removes the now cooled shoes from their spot hanging from the side of the cart and lays them on the ground. The cart now is mostly empty with the forge, reservoir and wheel on the ground. Some coal, anthracite, a few tools and some raw stock remain in the cart. "If ya kin hitch up the cart to me mule, ya kin use it to haul back kills, though."
When no one else volunteers, one of four soldiers steps forward. "We will assist," he announces, in deference to Elmont's earlier instructions to them. Under Dolak's supervision, the soldiers hitch the cart to the dwarf's mule. When they are finished, they mount their war horses and wait for Alani to lead them back to where the deer await.
The elven lass leads the quartet of mounted warriors and the hitched mule away from the campsite. She heads east, into the tall grasses.
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