Chapter Two: Spare the Dying
One and a Half Years Ago
“Listen, kid, if you’re going to be clever, then be clever. If you’re going to be tough, then be tough. If you’re going to be wise—then get older, because you’re too damn young.”
“First of all,” Roon said, raising a finger and squinting across the table at the sailor, “you’re technically not much older than me.”
“Technically,” Kilian broke in, laying aside his cards and moving in for another one of his speeches, “your gnomish age compared to my human age is like comparing dogs to dragons. So, yes, technically you may have been alive for comparably as long as I have, but logistically, you’re far behind me, and always will be.”
“Until you’re in the grave and I’m around for another few centuries,” Roon snorted, and the sailor rolled his eyes.
“The way you’ve been living, you’re like to perish before me, Roondock.”
Roon shrugged and Kilian picked up his hand, reorganizing his cards.
“If you hadn’t met me,” Kilian continued, throwing a low card and drawing another, “you’d be dead already. I guarantee.”
“If you hadn’t met me,” Roon said, drawing from the discard pile with a smirk, “you would still be bleeding out of your ears back in Mintarn.”
Kilian rubbed his clean-shaven chin thoughtfully. “I’m sure someone would have picked me up.”
The rock gnome wiggled his fingers at the human. “No one with my majestic healing powers.”
“Let’s keep that head of yours from getting too big,” Kilian laughed heartily. “And,” he added, eyeing Roon’s hand in the air, “keep those fingers away from me.”
“Four of a kind,” Roon dropped his cards.
“Already?” Kilian asked, throwing his cards in a scatter across the table. He drew back in his chair and folded his arms. “Show them to me.”
“Show what?” Roon asked innocently, arms out. “The proof is in the cards, my friend.”
“I’ll not fall for that trick again,” the sailor told him, and Roon relinquished the trick card in his sleeve with a sigh.
“Even after having blood leak out of your ears,” the gnome shook his head, pocketing the cards, “you still know my tricks.”
“You’ll need to learn new tricks.”
Roon nodded thoughtfully. “You know, you may be right.” With that, he stood abruptly and made for the door. “I’ll be right back!” He called as he flew into the night.
Kilian waved down a server and ordered another ale, rubbing his eyes.
They were ten miles from Nightstone before they heard the insistent ringing of the bell. The sound echoed across the fields, hollow after the memory of their short encounter with the giants.
Nightstone was a small town, wrapped with a moat of brackish, slow-moving water and walled in by a makeshift wooden palisade. The drawbridge leading into the town was down, and there were no guards in sight. They entered the town quietly, hesitantly, surveying the damage. There were tracks leading out of the village, mostly human, but there were signs of goblins and wargs as well. The town was empty.
Gong, gong, gong. The bell persisted.
“Let’s search the guard towers,” Thia suggested, and they split up.
Strewn across the town were massive boulders, some of which had ripped through the rooves of houses and shops. There were no bodies, anywhere. “We need to find out who’s ringing that bell. It’s giving me a headache.” Roon told Kilian and Evelyn, and both nodded in agreement.
The companions gathered near the drawbridge and discussed their plans. “Where did all the townspeople go?” Thia asked.
Kilian shook his head. “Taken, or escaped.”
“Taken, I’d bet,” Roon said. The town was too clean. Every door to every building lay wide open.
They crept across the abandoned town toward the temple, where the bell was ringing fiercely. Whoever was up there had clearly lost their wits.
Kilian snuck up to the door and peered inside, then waved them all over to him. “It’s empty down here,” he told them, and they filed in, closing the door behind.
The interior of the temple was small but decorated well. At the end of the chamber lay a pulpit before a colourful mural of several gods and goddesses. To their left, a spiral stone staircase lead up to the bell tower. As they ascended the stairs, the ringing grew louder and louder until Roon felt he may be deafened by the noise of it. When they hit the second landing, he could barely hear the crash of a sack of baubles that Thia tripped over noisily and sent scattering down the stairs.
“Wait,” Kilian whispered and put a hand out. His voice was drowned out by the bell, but Roon understood. There was shouting over the noise, coming from upstairs. Goblins.
Evelyn rushed past them and clambered up the final few stairs, jumping onto the top landing. She drew one of her rapiers against the flesh inside her arm, drawing blood, and the sword flashed with the sudden light of flames. With a wicked grin, the tiny girl rushed up and out of their sight, and a moment later Roon heard the dying screech of a goblin.
They joined Evelyn a second later, all drawing weapons. Opal threw an ice shard of magic into the air, narrowly missing the goblin who was swinging on the bell rope and causing the ruckus. The goblin leaped and rolled, raising a scimitar and rushing in to attack the intruders. It managed to scrape its blade across Evelyn’s arm before being interrupted. The body of a second goblin lay in two pieces on the floor, clearly slain by Evelyn only moments before.
“Answer my questions if you want to live!” Thia shouted, the noise of the bell now swinging to quiet.
The goblin hesitated, eyeing the five of them. It knew it had been beat.
“Why are you here?” The elf demanded.
“The town was empty,” the goblin replied with shifting eyes and quivering hands.
“Empty? You mean, you found it this way?”
The goblin nodded, and Thia turned back to her companions.
“Who is your leader? Why were you ringing the bell?” Kilian asked.
“Boss is Hark,” it was unclear on the gender of the goblin, but its voice seemed squeakier, so Roon attributed it to female. “We came to take stuff. Lots of stuff.”
So, they had found the town empty, and made some fun out of it.
“Can we kill it now?” Evelyn asked in her quiet voice.
Roon raised his bow and shot an arrow into the goblin’s pitiful face, and it fell backwards out of the window of the tower. It was a merciful kill. Kilian dragged the two pieces of the other goblin body and heaved both out of the tower, staining the dirt below to crimson.
“I’m glad to have that noise done with, but it’s bound to attract anyone in the area.” Kilian told them, moving back to the stairs and descending. They followed, weapons out, and by the second landing they could hear the low growls of beasts. The huge nose of a warg was just beginning to peek through the temple doors, and Evelyn was the first to charge it, one rapier flaming, the other slashing. In the span of a few moments, the girl thrust one rapier into the dog-like creature’s head and used the other to partially hack off its jaw. There must have been some incredible magical elements to the swords, or the girl, because Roon had never seen a blade fine as that one able to cut through anything so thick.
A second warg pounced as Evelyn hacked the other and tore its teeth into her shoulder. Kilian had run up to the pulpit, using it as a cover, and shot a bolt from his crossbow, which embedded itself in the door, narrowly missing its mark. Opal’s bolt missed the beast, but Thia and Roon’s arrows struck furry flesh and the animal released howls of rage as it thrashed its head, jaws tightly gripped on small Evelyn. The light-haired girl wasn’t moving as the warg threw her against the stone wall just as Thia and Roon shot two more arrows into it. Roon’s arrow hit its open mouth, and it dropped heavily to the ground.
Roon rushed toward the unconscious Evelyn, whose shoulder was torn to shreds. “Aetha,” he whispered, watching the magic do its work. The girl’s eyes fluttered after a moment, and the gnome breathed a sigh of relief. Her blade was no longer in flames, and she sheathed it, looking annoyed.
“There’s more coming,” Kilian warned, standing at the partially open door.
Sure enough, Roon heard more goblin shouts through the wall. Kilian shot a blast of fire and hid behind the doorframe. Evelyn, now thoroughly enraged, threw open the doors to the temple and killed two goblins within a few seconds. She turned her blood-spattered face to her companions, a white smile on her face. A third goblin dropped to its knees and begged for its life. Evelyn trust her rapier through its abdomen, silencing the pleas.
“Look out!” Roon shouted, just as another two goblins rounded a corner and drew back their bows. The arrows took Evelyn in the back, and she fell to the dirt, unconscious again.
Thia shot an arrow at one goblin, and there was an explosion of cold as Opal cast another dagger of ice. Roon ran to Evelyn again, releasing a sparing spell to keep her from bleeding out as he pulled the arrows from her back. Kilian shot his crossbow and killed one of the goblins, and at the same moment, Thia cast a ray of frost at the other and froze it where it stood.
“Help me get her inside,” Roon said, “there’s not much else I can do for her at the moment.”
Kilian lifted the unconscious girl out of the dirt and carried her through the temple doors, setting her down gingerly on the ground and resting her pack under her head. The man then walked up to the doors and wedged them shut with a slab of wood, dragging a wooden bench over to prevent intruders.
“What do we do now?” Opal asked, eyes wide.
“For now, we rest,” Kilian told the genasi, taking a seat against the wall. Roon joined him.
“Then what?” Thia asked.
Kilian shook his head and looked over to the unconscious girl. “Then, we get to the Keep. If anyone remains in the town, that’s where they’d be.”
Roon closed his eyes as exhaustion swept over him.
They were partway to the river, across which lay the Keep, when Thia stopped them. “There’s an inn here. We should see if we can find anyone inside.”
Kilian nodded. “Very well. I will stand guard outside, if you want to go through.”
“I will stand guard as well,” Evelyn said, now revived.
“Hey,” Roon said, looking up at Opal, “let me know if you find any booze.”
“Come on, Opal,” the elf said, and the two of them entered the open door. Roon drew his bow, notched an arrow, and scanned the abandoned town.
A moment later they heard a scuffle, a shout, and something green streaked past them through the doorway. Surprised, both Kilian and Roon’s shots missed the creature as it skidded past. Evelyn caught up to the goblin easily enough, however, and slid a rapier into its back before it could escape. She wiped the blade clean and returned to human and gnome where they stood at the door.
“Evelyn, you’re very good at this death thing,” Kilian said approvingly. “I’m glad I’m on your side.”
“Should we go in and check on them?” Roon wondered aloud.
“Give them another minute. The more of us who are in there, the louder we’ll be.” Kilian said.
“And the easier we are to kill,” Evelyn added solemnly.
A few restless minutes later, Thia and Opal returned, and they weren’t alone. A tall woman with dark hair and a living snake wrapped around her, came through the doors. She and Thia were speaking in hushed voices. Opal appeared behind them carrying a large wooden chest that looked extremely heavy.
“What’s happened?” Kilian asked, eyeing the newcomer.
“This is Kella,” Thia told them. “We found her in one of the rooms upstairs. She said she was sleeping at the inn when the giants attacked. Supposedly they were throwing boulders down from a floating castle in the sky.”
“A floating castle?” Roon asked doubtfully, inspecting the woman carefully.
Kella nodded. “I woke up and barricaded myself in my room. Took down a few goblins.” She showed them the crossbow she held in her left hand.
“Where did all the townspeople go?” Roon asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s talk inside,” Thia suggested, and they all entered the inn, Evelyn keeping a cautious eye on the door.
Opal handed Roon an hourglass. “What’s this?” the gnome asked.
She shrugged. “I fixed it.”
He admired the smooth glass and fine metal design, then stuck it in his pack. “Thanks, Opal.” She nodded happily.
There was a goblin body on the floor with a crossbow bolt in it. Kilian reached down and pulled the bolt out, wiping it clean and handing it to Kella. “You did this?” He asked, and she nodded. “Would you care to join us? At least until we can get this thing figured out?”
“I suppose so,” Kella said, her snake sliding up her neck and tasting the air with its flicking tongue.
Opal threw open the chest she had carried down and raised a shirt of chainmail, inspecting it. She dropped it and pulled out a few gold pieces.
“We shouldn’t be looting these things,” Kilian said. “The townspeople will return to Nightstone. It’s not right for us to steal it.”
“Come on. Let’s get to the Keep.”
They encountered a trio of goblins chasing down chickens and dispatched the group quickly. Another group of goblins were carrying pumpkins twice the size of them from the fields. They killed these creatures as well. It seemed this empty town was a vacation spot for these scattered goblins. Finally, they reached the windmill, where two goblins were standing atop and holding bows.
“Halt! Who goes there?” One of the goblins demanded.
“Get down from there,” Roon said, now thoroughly annoyed by all the interruptions.
“Longo, shoot the elf!” The other one cried, and the first goblin shot an arrow at Thia. Before the wizard could react, she was on the ground.
“How was that, Yek?”
“That’s it,” Roon growled, drawing his own bow and taking aim.
Kilian shot his crossbow first, striking the goblin named Yek in the foot and causing him to fall off the top of the windmill. Roon shot the other one in the arm at the same moment that it released an arrow at Kilian. Opal’s bolt missed the goblin, which was howling in pain, and Kella finished it off a second later with her own bolt.
“Kilian!” Roon cried out. The sorcerer was laying on the grass, unmoving.
He pulled the arrow out of Kilian where it had struck his neck. The man’s face was incredibly pale, and Roon cast a sparing spell on him, then rushed over to Thia and did the same. “Help me drag them into the windmill!” What in the hallowed halls of Cloakshadow was happening to them today?
Opal, Kella and Roon dragged their unconscious companions into the windmill. Evelyn was already inside the windmill, descending the stairs. “See anything?” Roon asked, and she shook her head, looking disappointed. “Opal, can you keep an eye on these two until they wake up? I’ll take guard upstairs.”
“I’ll come with you,” Kella volunteered. Evelyn pulled out what looked like an eyeball from one of her cloak pockets and started playing with it. Roon shook his head and didn’t ask.
They sat atop the windmill for the better part of an hour. Despite Roon’s pushing for conversation, Kella was a guarded person and only gave one-word responses.
“Look!” She shouted suddenly, pointing across the town at an approaching group on horseback.
Roon squinted his eyes, but he couldn’t tell what they looked like, nor if they were friend or foe. “Who do you think it is?” he asked.
She shook her head, eyes alight. “People come to help the town.”
Roon rushed down the stairs and told the others. Kilian and Thia were looking rough, but at least they were awake. “Riders coming into town,” the gnome announced. “We’re not sure who they are yet.”
“Have they seen us?” Kilian asked, standing slowly and making for the stairs. Roon shook his head and joined back up with Kella. She was shouting and waving her arms, and he cast thaumaturgy, creating a ringing bell noise. The riders stopped, pointed, then turned their horses to a trot and approached. When they were nearer, Kella yelled out and ran down the stairs, throwing the door open.
“Xolkien!” she said. Roon followed closely behind her. So, she knew the riders after all.
This man, Xolkien, sat at the head of the group and was a half-elf with a scar across his face and a snake coiled around the top of his head, scalene wings tucked behind its back. A flying snake.
“Kella,” he said smilingly. “What news?”
“Lady Nandar must be in the Keep,” she responded.
“Very good,” Xolkien said, looking at first Roon, then Thia and Opal, who had followed behind. Kilian and Evelyn were nowhere to be seen. “This is our town now. And you’re coming with us.”
Roon snorted and crossed his arms. “What makes you think that?”
Xolkien kicked his horse and it stepped forward so he was towering over the gnome. “There are seven of us, and three of you. You’re coming with us.”
“There should be two more,” Kella said. “A man and a girl.”
Xolkien nodded his head in the direction of the windmill. “Find them,” he ordered, and two of his men dismounted their destriers and went to investigate. Roon could feel his heart pounding hard in his chest, but he gave no reaction.
“You can have the town,” Roon said, eyeing the half-elf. “We honestly don’t care what you do with it. Take it, own it, whatever. Don’t care. All we want is to chase down some giants. So, if you don’t mind, we’re going to leave now.”
“I don’t care what you want,” Xolkien growled. “I said you’re coming with us. To the Keep.”
“Why exactly do you want us?” Roon raised an eyebrow, unsatisfied.
Xolkien just looked down at him for a moment, then turned his gaze to the windmill as his two men returned with Kilian and Evelyn in tow. They shoved everyone together roughly and mounted their horses again.
“We’re going to the Keep,” Xolkien announced, kicking his horse. Kella followed next to him on foot, and the other men swept up around Roon and his companions.
“These fine folks seem extremely reasonable. We should definitely follow them,” Roon said loudly to his companions, and Thia gave him a warning look.
“I should have known we couldn’t trust that woman,” Kilian cursed under his breath. Roon sidled up closer to Xolkien’s mount to inspect the insignia emblazoned on his saddlebag. It depicted a white dragon flying down. He reached a hand up to look inside.
“Don’t,” Thia warned, and he dropped his hand just as Xolkien turned and gave him a dirty look. His chest was swelling with rage. Whoever these people were, they clearly couldn’t be reasoned with. But, who were they? Why did they care about a few travelers? What did they want with some small, deserted town?
They reached the river, across which stood the Keep. The bridge was broken, but it only took a few minutes for Xolkien’s men to jump across and string a few ropes, which they crossed, leaving the horses behind to graze.
“That’s the Zhentarim emblem,” Thia whispered to them while their captors were busy.
“What does that mean?” Kilian asked.
“From what I know of them, they’re a power-hungry faction looking for new means of control.”
“What do they want with Nightstone?” Roon demanded in a hushed voice, but before they could discuss it further, Xolkien dismounted and walked up to them. “Well, well, look who got off his high horse,” Roon said.
Xolkien raised a gloved hand and backhanded Roon across the mouth. The three-foot tall gnome fell back and spit out a glob of blood, then shot the half-elf the dirtiest look he could muster. Kilian helped Roon stand, and as he did so, Roon cast a blessing of the trickster on his friend. Kilian and he shared a look, and the man nodded imperceptibly.
“Guess they don’t have a sense of humour either,” Roon whispered to his friend, who nodded in agreement.
They crossed the river one by one and were soon entering the stone Keep. The gatehouse was all but destroyed by a massive boulder, but the main building remained intact. Inside the Keep were four guardsmen, who relinquished control to Xolkien and his men without a fight. They were leaderless in a town with no townspeople.
“Where is the Lady Nandar?” Kella demanded of the guardsman who introduced himself as Alara.
“Dead,” he told them. “Crushed by a boulder.”
“The Lady Nandar is dead?” Kilian asked, stepping up. “Can I see her?” The guard looked at Xolkien uncertainly, who nodded. “Excuse me for a moment,” Kilian said.
The guard gestured to Kilian and took him to a secondary room, where the woman’s body was laid on a stone slab, pale and lifeless. He put his hand on hers, and a guard shouted at him, “hey! Don’t touch her!”
Kilian raised his hands and took a few steps back, and the guard grabbed his arm and dragged him back out of the room.
“This town is under our control now,” Xolkien was telling the guards. His own men began setting up inside the Keep, unpacking weapons and stoking a fireplace in the corner.
“We have no quarrel with you,” Thia said to the leader. “Let us leave this town and pursue the giants. That’s the only reason we are here.”
“Where are the townspeople?” Xolkien demanded.
“Damned if we know,” Roon said, glaring at him. “Kella can tell you just as easily that we came here with no clue of what happened. She was here during the attack—supposedly. She would know better than us where they went.”
Xolkien looked to Kella, who shrugged.
“You work for us now,” Xolkien said, looking at the five companions. “You’re going to find the townspeople and bring them back to Nightstone.”
They all looked at each other, a mixture of confusion and exasperation in all of their faces. “Sure, why not,” Roon shrugged. “We all have a ton of experience with tracking entire villages of lost people. Let us go, and we’ll find the people of Nightstone, no problem.”
Xolkien stared at the gnome for a full five seconds before tearing his gaze away. “You will all sleep here tonight.”
“Great, can’t wait,” Roon muttered, and he and his companions found a corner of the Keep near the guards of Nightstone, who were sitting down, uncertain of what to do. They unrolled their blankets and had a fitful night of sleep.
Roon awoke to the blaring of a war horn. Men were rushing about inside the Keep. Kilian arose and grabbed Kella. “What’s happening?”
“Fire on the edge of town,” she said.
Both the guards and Xolkien’s men seemed lost, so Kilian started shouting orders at them to organize. Xolkien walked up, looking harried. “What’s your plan?” Kilian asked the half-elf.
“You five can go out and see who’s coming.” Xolkien said.
Kilian stepped up to the half-elf, his face inches away, and poked a finger into the leader’s chest. “Fine. But you owe me.” He spun on his heel and gestured to Roon and the others to follow him as he stormed out of the Keep.
“These people are clueless,” Roon said as he jogged to keep up with his friend.
“I know,” Kilian shook his head. They crossed the ropes over the river and ran through the abandoned town of Nightstone in the direction of the drawbridge.
“Orcs. At least twenty of them,” Kilian announced as they all stood atop the guard’s tower, gazing over the palisade.
“Should we lower the drawbridge and let them in?” Roon asked. “They could deal with Xolkien and his men, and we would be free to leave.”
Kilian shook his head. “I’ll not leave this town to ruin and ransack.”
“Why do you care so much?” Thia asked.
“Because,” Kilian sighed, eyes down. “This is where I grew up.”
“Do you have family in Nightstone?”
“I did,” he nodded. “My—parents. Though, I have no idea where they are now.”
“What do we do, then?” Thia asked.
“We kill them,” the sorcerer said simply.
Thia nodded and looked over at Opal. “I need a blade.” They ran out in search of new weapons.
It took a while for the orcs to come within range of the town wall. They swam across the moat with difficulty, and some of them began tossing ropes to catch on the top of the palisade so they could climb it. A few split off from the group and ran in the direction of the river. Good, Roon thought, watching the hulking creatures leave, maybe they’ll take care of Xolkien.
Once the orcs were within range, they began firing weapons and spells. Thia cast a sleep spell over those climbing the wall, and a couple of them fell to their deaths. The orcs retaliated with javelins, but the guard’s tower provided good coverage from the missiles. Opal twisted her hands in the air and massive vines grew up from the ground and wrapped themselves around some of the orcs. Roon shot a burst of yellow spiritual flames over the vines, which burned and killed.
A singular javelin soared through the air and caught Kilian in the shoulder, pushing him back. He ripped the javelin free with some effort and cast it to the ground, tying off the wound. Evelyn took up the javelin and threw it back, spearing an orc instantly.
“This town is well defended!” Kilian shouted to the creatures as their renewed vigor drove them forward. “You will never take it!”
The orcs ignored him, tying up new ropes to throw onto the palisade. Another war horn sounded from the forest, drawing everyone’s gaze. Suddenly, half of the orcs below turned to flee, some swimming desperately across the moat, others running along the fence-line and out of view. The companions shot the enemies in the backs as they ran.
“There are riders coming!” Kilian shouted, loading his crossbow and peeking out of the window again.
“Will they help us?” Roon asked uncertainly.
“Elves!” Thia shouted, whooping aloud. Roon scooted in around their legs to see the incoming riders. Sure enough, there were at least six elven riders on white horses galloping down the road. Thia ran to lower the drawbridge.
“Wait! How do we know they’re not enemies?” The gnome demanded.
“They’re elves,” Thia said, turning the crank.
“Orcs approaching!” Opal cried, looking out the window facing the town. The orcs, Roon could now see, were slowing and looking confused at the lowering drawbridge.
Opal shot a bolt at the orcs as they continued forward, and Evelyn cut her rapier against her ribs, drawing blood and alighting it with flames, then ran down the stairs to attack. Roon notched an arrow, released, and took down an orc as Kilian rushed down after Evelyn and thrust a hand against the ground, releasing a wave of thunder and knocking all but the furthest orc back ten feet. With a swirl of wind, the sorcerer lifted off his feet and flew back to the window of the guard’s tower, clambering in. Evelyn was going to be surrounded. The lead orc was pounding against her thin blades with a heavy great-axe.
Roon ran out to the girl, but it was too late. She was knocked to the ground, unconscious. Again. She had a huge gash across her chest, and it was getting harder to tell which blood hers was, and which was the enemy’s. Damnit, girl. Quit running into fights alone. As arrows, bolts and blasts of magic flew from his companions, Roon cast a healing spell over Evelyn, now that the orcs had moved away from her. Where are those elves?
Evelyn awoke and Roon ran back to the tower for cover, then, with a wave of his hands, invoked an illusion of himself, a duplicate, to run out in front of the orcs and hopefully distract them. From the hands of the illusion, he cast a roaring yellow flame, which caught the nearest enemy and sent it to the ground screaming.
“Surrender!” Kilian shouted to the leader. There were only a few orcs remaining.
The leader summoned the floating, shimmering shape of a large spear and sent it bobbing through the air. It came at Thia, who dove out of its range and drew her newly found blade, singing over it in a strange language. The blade crackled with blue lightning, and her eyes glowed blue for a moment.
Suddenly, the leader of the orcs raised a hand, pointing it at the elf, and said “approach”. Thia’s eyes went blank, and she slowly walked toward the orc.
Roon looked around desperately. How could they break this spell? When Thia was only a few feet away, the leader gestured to another orc and it stepped up, cutting Thia down where she stood. Opal shot a bolt into the leader’s chest, and he ripped it out, looking around to see who had shot it. Roon sent his illusion to Thia’s body to cast a sparing spell over her bleeding chest. Evelyn cut down another orc, ducking under its heavy blade.
“Kilian, no!” Roon shouted as Kilian jumped from the tower window and shot a leash of lightning at the leader, wrapping it around his body. The orc scowled and shook the lightning free, and Kilian fell back onto the ground. The floating spear shot from the sky and pierced Evelyn’s chest, knocking her off her feet. Roon sent his duplicate to the girl and cured her wounds, then turned the illusion around so it could make a rude gesture at the leader, who all but ignored it. Again, the leader resisted Kilian’s lightning, but Opal hit him with another bolt. Finally, the lightning wrapped around the huge orc’s body and pulled it through the air. As the orc was dragged, Evelyn leapt to her feet and thrust her rapier hilt-deep into the orc leader’s throat.
They finished off the rest of the orcs with ease. A volley of arrows shot up over the palisade and one struck home. When there was one final orc standing, Opal killed it with a lethal bolt to the chest. Roon cursed, glad to see none of the elven arrows had hit his companions. Somehow amongst the fighting, Kilian and Evelyn had been injured. Kilian was on the ground, bleeding heavily from several wounds. Roon relinquished his duplicate and ran to Kilian’s side. “Don’t die, friend.” He whispered, sending a trickle of healing through the human’s body. He healed Evelyn next.
A few of the elves appeared moments later, their white horses lathered with sweat and snorting. They stopped before the bleeding, exhausted group, steeds pawing at the ground impatiently.
“Do you have any healers?” Roon asked the elves. There were three of them, and the lead one barely looked at him. “Please, my companions are very injured.”
The elf surveyed the orc bodies strewn everywhere. “Is that all of them?”
“I think so,” the gnome replied.
The elf took up the reins into both hands, met Roon’s eyes for a moment, then said, “you’re welcome.”
The three of them turned their mounts and rode off.
“Well, you can always rely on the help of elves,” Roon said sarcastically, looking over at Thia, who was shaking her head in confusion. “Come on. Let’s get Evie and Kilian into the tower before we have any other chatty people to deal with.” Opal and Thia moved their companion’s bodies out of the field and into the entrance of the guard’s tower, Roon trailing behind them with the weapons.
This has possibly been the worst two days of my life, Roon thought, throwing the weapons in a pile next to Kilian’s sleeping form. And I’ve had some pretty bad days. He slumped down next to his friend and touched a hand to his forehead. He had come on this adventure, not to die, but to experience life. This… this was something else entirely. This was dark and filled with misery.
Without his words and his tricks, who was Roondock Garrick?