By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 65 - Contraband
Berdusk 1371 DR, Eleint, 11th day (Penultimate Thunder: Hoar), mid-morning
The sound of the hooves approaching is the first sound that breaks the silence, the second is a barrel which had been send spinning awkwardly on its side and now falls over. The clatter of approaching hooves draws Nik’s frightened attention. “Oh, gods.” he moans as he tries to make his tall form even smaller and less obvious. “What now?”
As if this is the signal to act, chaos breaks loose…
“Marc!” shouts the Rashemi witch as she heads toward the shattered remnants of the barrels and crates the boy landed atop.
Not moving, Marc lays barely breathing amidst the wreckage of a crate. The wooden structure having cushioned his fall to some extend. The young man is still breathing, but an arm and leg are positioned at an awkward angle, and most likely there are other bones broken, though not as readily visible. Marc appears to be in an unconscious state.
In horror Ditalidas watches Marc fall down. “Oh no…” She whispers, her blue eyes large and filled with terror. Immerine’s movement towards Marc sets her into motion as well, but then she pauses, her head cocked as if listening to some distant sound. She looks at Immerine kneeling down with Marc and then to Portia. All people who can help Marc better then she ever could. “I don’t want to get in the way…”
Pain is building in her hearth as she feels she is abandoning Marc to his fate when she turns in the direction of the sound she’s heard. She tosses one last pain-struck look over her shoulder, praying to Sune that her little friend will be well. Slowly, almost unwillingly she checks out the origin of the sound. Her shoulders slightly slumped by the weight fear and doubt put upon them, the Lady returns to the grate where Immerine had heard a sound from below before. There she tries to gather the information as into what direction to look for a way down and listening if she can make some sense out of the sounds she’s heard.
With a muffled curse, the Kelemvorite watches the boy fall. She winces as he crashes into the barrels, and rushes forward to see if she can do anything for him.
As Marc hits the ground, Emlyn’s eyes become wide with terror and concern; her first impulse is to follow Immerine as quickly as her short legs can carry her. Then she sees Jez dangling from the rope and with Ditalidas and Immerine back with their feet on the ground, she figures there isn’t anyone left to hoist him back up or lower him safely to the ground. Instead, she starts sprinting to the exit, determined to find the way the others took to climb the building. “Come on!” she shouts to anyone strong enough near her, in between mutterings of; “oh crap, oh crap, oh crap…”
“We have to help the half-elf!”
The half-elf in question, looks below in fear as Marc plummets onto the barrels. “Lliira… protect him… please,” he grunts as he feels his shoulder and forearm lose slack, “I’m not gonna fall! By Tymora’s favor, I won’t!” He loudly blurts. He takes whatever remaining slack he can find with both hands and presses his feet against the rope and begins, in what he hopes, is a graceful slide towards the warehouse floor. Perspiration begins to trickle off his forehead.
The possible danger in the approaching hoofbeats vanishes from Nik’s panic-filled mind as Marc crashes to the ground. For a long moment Nik just stands there, his mouth open in shock. As Emlyn rushes past him, the tall bard simply watches her go, murmuring “Marc…?”
As Immerine and then Portia rush over to Marc’s aid, Nik finally seems to realize it WAS Marc who just fell from the roof. “MARC!” he cries, his voice shrill with fear, but for a change it is not for himself. Nik scrambles over to the wreckage, graceless and clumsy in his haste, his sword still lying forgotten where he dropped it. Looming over the witch and the priestess, Nik begs “Oh, gods, tell me he’s going to be alright…”
Gently the Rashemi woman places her hands on the boy’s face and invokes a prayer. Energy coalesces around the witch’s hands for a moment, before flowing into Marc’s battered body, soothing his features and brining back some color to the boy’s face.
Portia, having arrived at the scene and placing her hands on the young bard’s body, whispers a brief thanks to her Lord for letting Marc stay a little longer in the realm of the living. Despite the administrations of the two priestesses, Marc remains unconscious – though he appears physically to be in a better state…
Taking a few steps forward, the Sembian looks alarmed at the site of Marc’s crash. Then with two priestesses rushing forward and Nik coming to their aid as well, he stops his movement and instead looks up towards Jezbodiah. “Start swinging!” He yells upward, “That way you can reach the safety of the second floor. Your rope is not enough to reach safely down!”
Buzzing upward from near the stricken Nik, Puddy moves close to the half-elf’s sweat-drenched face. “Swing you should. Safety in reach will be.” The fairy points a little finger in the direction of the balcony of the second floor. As Jez halts his descend for a moment, he sees that indeed with some vigorous swinging, he should be able to reach more stable ground easily… if the grapple and the small chimney hold…
As members of the group move off in different directions, Telsom leans against a crate breathing heavily for a few moments before he regains his composure and stands up. Moving to retrieve his fallen shield, Telsom stands ready should any more opponents present themselves.
As Ditalidas deducts that there should be a way down somewhere nearby her position to the floor below, the sound of horses approaching gets clearer and clearer, and the horsemen seem to be riding for the warehouse. Through the open doors, the men can be seen dismounting. Silhouetted against the bright light from outside it is not quite apparent who they are, but it is clear that the men are armed.
A single figure steps forward as two others on each side kneel with their crossbows pointing into the warehouse. The standing figure starts to waves his hands in arcane gestures.
Telsom slowly begins to move towards the new figures, carefully concentrating on them trying to discern whether or not they are evil. Though his head is throbbing, the pain is caused by the wound from the armed skeleton, and not from any emanations of evil. As the hurt paladin steps closer towards the door.
From her position Ditalidas glances around the room to see if there is a place around her where a stair down could be hiding. She notices the small gray stone building and looks at it with narrowed eyes. She slaloms around some crates and barrels and moves towards the space between the small building and the warehouse wall. The dark haired lady holds her crossbow ready in case she should encounter nasty surprises.
At the other end of the indoor-alley she looks around the corner to see if there is an entrance, when her attention is drawn to the door opening and Telsom.
The arm waving man apparently finishes his spell, as he stops and stares inside. “Drop your weapons and come out.” He commands in a clear voice, eyes staring straight at the blood-covered face of Telsom. To back his words up, two sword wielding men step into the door opening, under cover of the two crossbows.
Both Ditalidas and Telsom can now clearly distinguish the Berdusk coat-of-arms on the men’s tunics.
In the middle of the warehouse, partially obscured by crates and the debris of some, Immerine looks at Portia, “We have to set his bones before continuing the healing, else they will heal wrong.” Immerine tries to gently pluck the youth from the wreckage and lay him on the warehouse floor. Once she gets him in position she shakes her head, “At least he is unconscious already.” She pulls her healers kit from her pack and gets as many splints out as she needs. She looks over to the Kelemvorite, “Ready?”
The priestess looks over the other woman’s kit the Rashemi is readying, noting that it’s well stocked. The Kelemvorite nods. “It’ll be easier on him now than later,” she says, noting his unconscious state. “Let’s do it.” With the skill of someone trained to medicine, the cleric assists the other woman.
Immerine ignores the order from the front of the warehouse and continues her ministrations on Marc, aided by the Kelemvorite priestess. As the lanky bard watches anxiously, an expression of horror mixed with hope on his face, Portia fastens the last of the splints. “He needs rest, it is more the shock that has him out cold now rather then the physical injuries.” The red-haired woman looks at Immerine, “Where shall we take him? To the inn where you are staying, or if that is not suitable, we can take him to the Crystal Mansion.”
Above the healing of Marc and the command of the patrol, Jezbodiah and Puddy hang in midair. The one by means of a rope, the other by means of his wings. Surprised at the sight of the faerie creature, Jezbodiah rasps to no one in particular, “Lliira’s dance, this is a day for bloody surprises isn’t?” He looks at the length of the rope and the distance to safe railing on the second floor and makes his judgment. He says to the small faerie, “go downstairs and check on Marc, please. Let me know how he is.” With that, he begins swinging his body to and fro hoping to gain enough momentum to reach safety. Tightly holding the rope, he raises his head and looks up at the gapping hole in the roof above him. He looks at the line that is his only safety and wonders if the rope is losing its thread with every swing.
The half-elf’s fears don’t come true, as after a couple of swings the rope holds, and the lithe rogue manages to land on the other side of the railing. Rolling with the momentum of his swing, Jezbodiah reaches for a weapon as he scans the surroundings, though nothing seems to come forth.
As he gets to his feet into a ready crouch, he notices a trapdoor in the floor close to the wall.
Down below, Telsom sheathes his blade but keeps his shield on his left arm. “We’ve wounded to tend to in here, so please excuse those who don’t rush about to follow your orders just yet.” Telsom walks towards the guardsmen slowly, holding his arms slightly out to the sides to show that he isn’t unarmed. “I am Telsom Torentshed, Paladin of Sune, we’ve run afoul of several skeletal warriors here. The undead have been dispatched, but we’ve several wounded and one dead companion. There will be no hostilities forthcoming from us.”
At the command of the men outside and the words of the paladin, Matteo leaves the healing of the young bard in the capable hands of the priestesses and moves at a brisk pace – though not running – towards the open doors and re-sheathes his rapier. Squinting a little at the bright light outside, he steps next to Telsom, palms outward indicating no hostility. “Well met Saer.” The Sembian starts, “My name is Matteo Ashgale, lieutenant of the Berdusk guard and reporting directly to Captain Zaina Tellendar.”
At these words the spellcaster among the guards, a raven haired half-elf, steps forward, but is held back by another man. One of the riders in banded mail, a human male with a red beard that flows from his open helm, speaks as he steps in front of the spellcaster. “Hail and well met. I am Captain Fairfax of Berdusk. Can you show me proof of your claim?”
Slowly Matteo moves his left hand to a pocket in his jacket and withdraws a small metal object. “This is the ring the captain provided me to handle the mission under cover. Though I’m afraid that cover has been blown already judging by the events here.”
Telsom raises an eyebrow at Matteo’s announcement of actually being part of the guard. With the immediate threat of being peppered by friendly fire out of the way the paladin reaches slowly to his face, touching the wound gingerly. “Have I failed your or the other way around mistress.” he whispers. “Let us see how you feel about the matter shall we?” Looking back towards the shattered crates and the healers, Telsom turns partially back so that he can keep both the guard and his companions in view. “Lady Firehair. My faith is sorely shaken, please give me a sign that I am still in your good graces.” With that the paladin closes his eyes and begins slowly to drag his fingers from the top of the wound to the base of it.
While the conversation between Telsom, Matteo and the apparent Berduskan guards takes place, Ditalidas carefully moves around the corner of the squat stone structure, hiding the loaded crossbow behind her back. The young woman stops, as her hands suddenly feel wood instead of the brick wall. Glancing to the side, she sees a door in the otherwise featureless structure – and the door is partially open.
As she tests the door to see if it opens further, she discovers that there is nothing behind it obstructing the movement as the door swings lightly on well oiled hinges. No sooner has the door moved an inch, or the sounds of pounding and hoarse yelling from below become clearer to the young woman’s ears.
Ditalidas slips quickly into the room and closes the door behind her hoping that she has not been seen from outside. For a moment she scans the room, ignoring the yelling woman downstairs. As she notices nothing special in particular except a closed wooden crate and an open trapdoor leading down, she moves to the ladder leading down and carefully descends towards the lower floor. With her crossbow still ready she follows the sound of yelling and pounding.
The ladder, set at a steep angle ends in what looks almost like a broom-closet. No light save the light coming through the metal grate in the structure above and the open trapdoor. In this gloom the Jalarghar woman sees a door at the other end, from where the sounds of the woman also seem to come.
As Ditalidas first listens and then carefully opens the unlocked door, she finds herself in need of light. The light from above is not enough to penetrate the darkness below and save for the first yard or so in front of her, she only has the feeling that she’s in a larger room. From somewhere off to her left the pounding and horse yelling comes.
Once Marc is tended, Immerine smiles grimly toward the entrance. “Well, we are going to need assistance taking him wherever he needs to go. I cannot tend him constantly so a temple would be a very nice place for him to be cared for. He should not be overly jostled, so a litter or a contrivance of some sort will need to be used in transport.” Immerine looks up at the gangly bard, her eyes twinkling devilishly behind her mask. “Nik, would you be so kind as to fetch Lord Ashgale so I can apprise his Lordship of the situation. There is also someone trapped below us, and it might be prudent to continue searching for whomever is pounding on the door.
The little fey nods and starts to comply, but with a sharp turn of his head at the voices near the door, Puddy whispers to Jez, “Capable hands he is in. Healed he will be. See him, go.” With that, the pixie quickly fades from sight and flies down to investigate the new arrivals, passing closely enough to Nik to lightly brush the tip of one wing near the tall bard’s ear.
The tall bard flinches as Puddy flies by him, looking around himself wildly for a moment before Immerine’s request draws his attention. Swallowing nervously, Nik looks at the gathering by the door. Recognizing the voices of authority -even if he doesn’t see the badges- the bard’s haggard face pales, filled first with shock and then despair. “I… ehm… T-they… uh…” Nik stammers, then clears his throat and continues in a much steadier voice “It looks like Matteo has things under control. As do you.”
His shadowed eyes are filled with more shame than fear now, and Nik sighs and looks off in the direction Ditalidas headed. “She shouldn’t have gone alone…” Nik mumbles, then squares his narrow shoulders and starts off to follow Ditalidas, but pauses with an anguished glance down at Marc’s crumpled form. “I’ll bring your lady back safe.” he promises the unconscious lad. He gives Immerine a crooked, sardonic grin and mutters bitterly “She might need help, and if she does I’ll be sure to yell. I can at least yell pretty loudly.” With a short bow to the Immerine and Portia, Nik heads off after Ditalidas.
On the second floor, standing and clutching his sore shoulder, the half-elf sighs, closes his eyes and sighs more deeply. He holds his breath and lets the pain pass through his body muttering, “I’m going to need a cleric and soon!” Taking his rather hefty side pack and snapping it open, a furry nose with all its whiskers sticks out; chittering and squeaking rather loudly. “No, not yet little one,” Jezbodiah says. “You sound hungry. Once we are done here I’ll see to it that you have as many grapes as your tummy can hold.” The furry muzzle squeaks some happy notes as it disappears back into his side pack.
“Hello, What this?” The Berduskan half-elf asks himself as he regards the trapdoor. Extending his hand outwards and pointing his index and middle fingers away from him while swishing his wrist from right to left, the half-elf casts a spell at the direction of the trapdoor. “Hmm, nothing magical,” he says to himself after a couple of heartbeats.
Once he has determined the nature of the trap door, he move towards it cautiously, he checks the trapdoor in floor for traps and other mundane nasties it may hide. Again nothing out the ordinary. Slowly and carefully he lifts the trapdoor. With short word poised at the entrance, he patiently listens for anything, a click, a springing noise, or anything that may work its way below him and catch him off guard.
Nothing. It would makes sense, traps would hinder the regular workers if they’d had to climb up, but one can never be too careful. The ladder leading down seems serviceable and sturdy if well used. And the voices of several people can be heard not too far off.
As Jez lowers himself through the opening and descends the ladder, he sees Matteo and Telsom standing near the open doors at the front of the warehouse. A rosy-glow seems to envelop the paladin’s hands as he holds them to his face and moves them slowly – almost reverently down.
A red-bearded man in the uniform of the Berduskan guard steps forward, accepting something from Matteo. After holding the small thing closer to his eyes for inspection, he hands it back. “It appears genuine lieutenant.” The red-bearded officer says, “Do you need further assistance, or are things under your control?”
The voice of the strange officer slowly registers in the descending half-elf’s mind. Jezbodiah remembers a name now too; Captain Fairfax. As Jezbodiah is a bout halfway the ladder – progress is not that fast with the aching shoulder – Matteo answers. “As my friend stated, we have some wounded and one casualty. I’d like to get them moved to the Crystal Mansion – the dead man is a priest of the temple.”
Telsom’s prayer and question are answered as a warm comforting glow surrounds his hands and a sweet perfume of roses envelopes his head. The slight tingling feeling rushes up and down the wound, soothing the pain and knitting damaged tissue together.
Puddy, hovering invisible above Matteo and the captain, sees the effect of Telsom’s activities first. As the paladin removes his hands, the only traces of the wound appear to be a pinkish outline of where the sword bit into the man’s head, and the bloodstains on his face, hands and tunic.
A grin finds it’s way onto Telsom’s face, his cheeks dimpling up from the action, even though his body language shows him to be happy however his eyes are haunted and still filled with pain. Running his free hand through his hair, the paladin moves out of the guards’ way making room for them to go about their business.
Immerine curses loudly in her native tongue as Nik ignores her and instead goes off after Ditalidas. “I suppose it was bound to happen. No one seems to worry about me heading off alone though.” Immerine half-turns from Marc’s form and gives a shrill whistle. In moments Qwenta tries pushing his way through the gathered military to come to his mistress’ call.
The patrol’s horses whinny loudly as the witch’s stallion tries to enter the warehouse, knocking one of the men over in the process. Stepping away from the horse, Matteo raises his hand to halt the captain. “It’s okay sir. No danger from the horse.” Despite his words, Matteo involuntarily clenches the hand in which the horse bit him back at the stables of the Running Stag.
The horse ignores the gathering men at the front of the warehouse and steps into the gloomy place. Snorting a couple of times as it stops next to Immerine, pawing the floor of the warehouse restlessly with one hoof. The remaining aura of evil from the destroyed undead probably upsetting the magnificent animal. Portia looks up in surprise as the warm breath of the horse suddenly flows into her neck. “Ehm… you want to lift the boy up on the horse and take him to the Crystal Mansion? More skills are available there to speed up his recovery, despite the surroundings…”
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