Coda part 2
When my eyes opened, I thought for just a moment that something had gone wrong. I was lying naked on the ground, and it was dark and cold. The coppery scent of recently spilled blood was thick in the air, and my head was still pounding. I tried to push myself up on my elbows, but my arms failed me.
“You’ll want to lie still for a bit, you’ll be pretty weak for another hour or so.” I heard someone say to my left. The voice was familiar sounding, but I couldn’t place it right away. I resigned myself to wait, and tried to be patient as my eyes adjusted to the dim light around me. The horde of dwarves pounding on my skull slowly began to tire of their fun, and I could feel strength returning to my limbs. In the distance I heard the voices of Talvon and Zaos, and every so often Bael’Gaius as well. There were other voices I did not know, but they did not sound hostile.
Feeling stronger, I pushed myself up and checked my surroundings for the familiar sounding voice. I don’t know who I was expecting, but sitting nearby was Doran, your ward from Fuson. He seemed to be meditating, but I judged my need for information to be more important than the musings of an eight year old, so I asked him, “Where is everyone?”
He opened one eye, and then said, “I don’t know. Sounds like they may be over there. Can you move your legs yet? I’m tired, but want to make sure you can move your legs.” I looked at him oddly, as that was not at all what I expected him to say. To my delight, my legs functioned exactly as expected, and I was able to get to my feet. We appeared to be at the crest of a large hill, with a rocky outcropping concealing several small openings. Not proper caves, but shallow niches that were just large enough for a small group of people to huddle out of the weather. Doran was sitting nearby, looking at me with one squinty eye. I found his gaze to be unsettling, so I decided to make my way over to the voices I heard nearby.
One of the drawbacks of my current traveling companions is that they all have the ability to see in the dark. As a result, their camps are generally cold, dark, gloomy affairs. Being naked did not help matters, but I finally stumbled into their campsite with only mildly skinned knees and asked them for a bloody light. The next hour was a whirlwind of new information – Eric was dead, we were working with Duke Thomas II, and Doran was inhabited by some type of spirit, but we were helping him as he claimed to be able to close the rift near Mountainview. I confess that I still don’t think I’ve completely absorbed all of that information or its implications. I was greatly surprised that you were not traveling with them, but I assume that you have returned to either Leighstead or Fuson. If you are in Leighstead then you are reading this note. If not, then I will discuss this with you when I arrive in Fuson.
I spoke with Bael’Gaius and expressed my gratitude for his efforts to bring me back. He expressed interest in retaining my services, and we were able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. The terms were not something that I would normally have agreed to, but I do feel some obligation to the elf as without his efforts I may have spent the ever after in the horrible place I described earlier. As part of my retainer, he has provided me with some equipment that makes some of my items redundant. I’d like you to keep my shield for the moment, but please begin scouting out a buyer to purchase my armor as I find my current gear to be more suitable.
Our objective was to continue west towards Halldon, then south to Anskar. Once in Anskar, Doran will provide additional instructions as to what we should do next. I think it best that I reserve any further discussion on that service until we can talk in person. Do not judge me harshly when we talk, as I find the task to be unconscionable, but I am now sworn to the service of another. With luck we will find an alternate way to accomplish our objective.
We used the King’s Road on the way to Halldon, so the path was not as perilous as it were had we been traveling to Fairhaven Downs . We encountered some type of apparition in ghostly armor, but it proved to be more a nuisance than a threat and it was dispatched quite easily. Outside of Halldon we encountered something far more dangerous.
We found out later that he was named Cyrus the Pestilent, and he was a sight to see. A dragon in the proper sense, but in its own way it was more horrible. Cyrus had evidently become contaminated with some sort of plague, and he now flew outside of Halldon, mindlessly devouring any he encountered. He did not seem to act with much intelligence, which I believe was sapped by whatever disease he had contracted. His raw abilities appeared to be too much for our group, as he circled overhead and attacked us out of my range, so we were limited to the magicks of Bael’Gaius and Zaos, and also Talvon’s magic bow. I have two new companions as well. Siff is a friend of the Duke, and seems to have a wide range of talents, with the exception of spell casting. The other member of our group is another warrior, a large half-elf named Dragan. He also appears to be an agent of the Duke, but as far as I know he is not a family friend like Siff.
Cyrus largely ignored me, despite my best efforts to provoke him. He focused his attacks on our mages and Talvon, and things were beginning to look pretty grim for our group. I think that Talvon may have been able to dispatch it all by himself with that murderous bow of his if we were able to keep something between him and the beast, but Cyrus simply flew past us and used his breath weapon to good effect. Zaos used his arsenal of spells against the creature with his normal bombastic proficiency, but he did not have anything to protect him from the dragon’s breath. We sorely need some type of healer in our group, as we risk losing someone every time we enter a battle. It reminds me of old Rornak One Eye. He was well-nigh untouchable from the left, but if you approached him from the right you’d be able to land a blow before he even knew you were there. It was likely that was going to be your only blow, but still, you’d get that one in. Gods, I miss Rornak.
It turns out that Siff had an enchantment that allowed him to fly, and he took to the skies to engage with the diseased dragon. Bael’Gaius was able to cast a spell allowing Dragan to fly as well, so they began engaging it above, with Zaos and Talvon adding additional damage as they could. Bael’Gaius summoned a hippogriff to assist them, and they finally managed to bring the beast down. Unlike the other dragon we slew, we did not try to salvage any parts, but moved away to avoid any possible contamination. Looking back on that encounter, I regret that I did not take up a spare bow which our group was carrying and try to do what I could, even if that was not my choice of armament. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
We began to encounter refugees fleeing Halldon, as it appeared to be in middle of some civil unrest. While Halldon was ruled by Duke William Sassly, cousin to the King himself, it was also claimed by Duke Harmon Quinn. Duke Quinn is known as the Bronze Dragon, and the refugees told tales of violence and conflict everywhere in the city. It was not an overt conflict, but more of a shadow war with agents of the Bronze Dragon opposing the Halldon City Guard. I don’t know why the King would permit this to continue in a city as large and important as Halldon, but perhaps Duke Sassly is not the King’s favorite cousin. For all I know, the Bronze Dragon could in fact be an agent of the King, who may be trying to prune that particular branch of the royal family tree.
As a result of the conflict, we decided to skirt the edge of Halldon as we continued south to Anskar. We were a little nervous about leaving the road, but were concerned that we may end up drafted by either the insurgents or the guard for their dispute. The wild has risks of its own, but even an encounter with an enormous lion proved to be more in the category of mundane rather than what I would consider serious. Dragan however appeared to have taken ill after our encounter with Cyrus. By the time we reached the road south of Halldon he was in very poor condition, and after only a few days of traveling we had to stop to determine what we could do to help him.
He did not appear to be getting any better with the ministrations of both Talvon and Zaos, who both have some small healing ability. By this time we had travelled too far to return to Halldon, so our only hope was to observe the refugees leaving Halldon to see if we could find someone to help us. Fortunately for Dragan, a priest named Alin was traveling south from Halldon with some in his church. Father Alin agreed to help Dragan, although it was against his better judgement. I’m not sure why, but he seemed to be on edge when he was around us. After consulting with Dragan, we set up camp and he performed whatever ritual he needed to in order to cleanse Dragan of his sickness.
Dragan seems changed by that experience though, and is more thoughtful and deliberate about his actions. When we parted ways, I was concerned that there may be open conflict between our groups. Father Alin did not think it was appropriate for Doran to travel with us. He insisted upon taking Doran with him south, as he would be better able to provide for the needs of a young child. The spirit possessing Doran had fled earlier as he detected another spirit in possession of another person headed to Anskar. As a result, Doran was a normal, very scared young boy. I did what I could to minister to his needs, but I missed your skills as I was not sure what would comfort the poor boy.
After some tense discussions, Bael’Gaius agreed to transfer his ward to Father Alin for a modest fee. I still cannot believe that Father Alin ransomed the child, but perhaps he saw it as the most expedient way to separate the boy from our company. Fortunately we did not test our strength against the priest, and Doran returned to us just 4 days later, having escaped his erstwhile benefactors. We are now come to Abermore, and I’m hopeful that I will meet up with you in Fuson very soon. If not, then I would ask you to remain in Leighstead as I do not want you traveling without me. I will be liquidating my goods here in Fuson, so there is no need for you to travel here.
You should have enough funds to cover a prolonged stay in Leighstead, but if you find yourself running short I would encourage you to contact our mutual acquaintance whom you have contacted previously for help and see if you can provide any service to him. I hope to return to Leighstead as soon as this dreadful business is sorted out, and look forward to rejoining you there.
With warm regards,
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