Chapter 16: Feasts, Feys and Flanking
When they returned from their defeat in Dragonspear Castle, Shale lay in her bunk staring up into the darkness. It was late afternoon, but she was exhausted and had drawn the curtains over the window. She was alone beside her fox. “I failed,” she whispered, feeling tears roll down the sides of her cheeks. “I’m supposed to destroy them, but I couldn’t even scratch one. Gwaeron,” she wiped her face, sitting up and wrapping her arms around her knees. Trigger lifted his head to look at her, then rested his head back on his paws and closed his eyes, “I need more from you. I need to be better.”
She waited for what seemed like an hour in complete stillness, listening for a sign. Finally, she pulled the blankets up over her face and rolled over, closing her eyes. Just as she drifted to sleep, she heard the soft voice of Gwaeron in her mind. “The powers are within you. Seek them out, Shale. I gave them to you long ago…”
When she awoke the next morning, she wasn’t sure if the voice had been there, or if she’d dreamt it.
Shale descended the stairs of the hostel and found the Feast of the Moon celebrations had already begun. Ale was flowing as freely as the fried pork and breakfast porridge, and she found Oszaren and Whisper already sitting and finishing their meals, Whisper lapping at a bowl of milk. She joined them as they were discussing the cloaked girl with the green skin.
Once the rest joined them, Oszaren said seriously, “I’ve been thinking a lot about the fight yesterday, and I think we need to be smarter. We need a strategy before we walk into places like that. We need better exits.”
“Bring them to us, rather than fight on their grounds,” Shale said. “And set up traps.”
“My philosophy,” Reverence began, “has always been—to run in there—mess things up—and get out.”
“That doesn’t work as a group,” Oszaren shook his head. “We should be flanking our opponents and catching them off guar—”
“Flanking.” The tiefling interrupted. “I know about flaying, but flanking…”
With that, Oszaren launched into a thorough explanation of how flanking worked in a battle situation, using their mugs and positioning them as people in a battle scenario. Eventually, they asked the barman for the ales they’d tapped for the celebrations, the Daggerfield Honey Lager and the Greenfield Brown, and each took a mug and stepped into the fresh morning air. Shale agreed with Oszaren. If they were going to travel as a group, they needed to fight as one. Especially if they were going to defeat the Queen of Dragons.
Large tables and dozens of tents had been erected around the yard, and the place had filled with new travellers overnight. A small caravan of musicians had set up their instruments on a wooden platform and were tuning them in preparation for a full day of revelry.
“I’d like to see if they have any instruments for sale,” Shale said to her companions, sipping on her lager and eyeing the stage.
“I go too,” Whisper said.
“I would be—interested as well,” Reverence said, and the three of them, with Trigger bounding between their legs, walked over to the musicians.
A small halfling man with a pointed white beard and bright blue eyes smiled at them with creased skin as they approached. Shale returned the smile and introduced them. “We’re wondering if you have any instruments for sale, perhaps ones that you no longer use but will do for an amateur’s use?”
The halfling looked at her thoughtfully. “What sort of instrument are you looking for, my lady?”
“A viol, if you have it,” she said. She’d learned to play the viol from her father as a child. It had been years since she’d practiced. The children loved to hear it…
“And the rest of you?” the halfling asked Whisper and Reverence.
“Drums?” Whisper asked.
“Aye, I might have some,” he nodded.
“A dulcimer,” Reverence said with a smile
“Now that is a unique instrument,” the halfling told him. “But you’re in luck. We do have a member in our troupe who plays it. I will warn you, however, we don’t sell our pieces to just anyone. You’ll have to prove your ability.”
Shale nervously agreed, and he trotted off to one of their wagons to dig out the instruments, calling to another halfling, a younger boy, to help him in his search. They returned several minutes later with the requested pieces and Shale took the viol carefully in her hands, testing the sound by running the bow along the strings. The sound was clear and sharp, though a bit out of tune. The varnished wood was chipped in places, but it was still a beautiful instrument. She pressed it under her chin and began plucking the strings, adjusting the tautness of each one until they rang out with a distinct sound. Then, she raised the bow lightly in her right hand and began to play, slowly at first. Then, as the music took over, she felt the familiar sensation of a song being formed. Low and feeling, then quick but paced, then drawn into a slumbered sadness, then pulled into one lasting note, a mournful cry that faded to a whisper and was gone. She looked down at the viol in surprise, then lowered it from her chin when the halfling man started clapping. “Bravo!” he said appraisingly. “Well done, miss. The viol is yours for twenty-five gold. Take good care of it. It was Mayit’s before it was yours, our master tiefling violist.” Shale thanked him and handed him the gold, and the young halfling boy gave her a latched leather case for her to stow it.
Whisper went next, and the halfling passed him a Bodhrán, a circular drum with animal skin stretched over one side, and two wooden crossbars inside. He placed his paw inside against the skin and took the tipper, a small rounded stick, in the other hand, and began to thump the tipper against the drum, creating a smooth rhythm. Shale had seen this drum before. Kelek played one when he was alive.
“Excellent rhythm,” the halfling nodded approvingly. “Yes, yes, you’ll do just fine with this one.” With that, they exchanged gold for the drum.
Finally, Reverence was given his requested dulcimer. It was a flat, trapezoidal instrument that Shale had never seen before. It had four strings stretched across it, and Reverence sat on the edge of the stage to play it, placing the dulcimer across his lap and plucking at the strings. The sound was a tad too pitchy to Shale’s liking, and the tiefling played it hesitantly. After a minute or so, the halfling stopped him. “Right, right,” he looked at Reverence musingly, a slight grimace to his features, “I suppose that will do, though I suggest you stick to the basics for now and keep at it with the practice.” With that, he sold the third instrument.
They thanked him and turned away to see Keelan standing close by. As they passed him, he shook his head and said, “what is Kossuth’s name was that gods-awful sound?”
“Rev-erence,” Whisper said matter-of-factly, then trotted away.
“I need another drink,” Keelan muttered as he walked off.
“It’s not even noon!” Shale objected.
Reverence went to get another drink, then climbed onto the roof of one of the stables and began meditating, the drink beside him. Occasionally he peeked to see if Zelena, one of the twins setting food out on the tables outside, was looking at him.
Oszaren joined Shale, calling to Fillip to come closer. “I just spoke with that girl’s father again,” he shook his head, looking disappointed, “he says they’re taking the girl to Waterdeep to have spellcasters try and cure her curse. I offered to help, but he couldn’t be convinced.”
“Understandable,” Shale said, “her parents are protective, and it’s easier for people to believe in something they pay for rather than something given to them freely.”
Oszaren sighed, then said, “Fillip, can you get Oyn blackout drunk?”
“I’ll have to pay extra for the good spirits,” Fillip said, checking the blue skies, “but okay.” With that, he sauntered off.
“Why do you want him out?” Shale asked curiously.
“I noticed something,” Oszaren told her, taking her a few steps from the gathering crowd by the field of tables, “when we saved Oyn’s cart from the hobgoblins. There’s magic in there, and I want to find out what it is.”
“Fair enough,” she said, “but I don’t want to steal from the man. Reverence has grown strangely fond of him, and he is a tad pitiful to behold.”
“I just want to see what it is,” the warlock said. “Keep an eye on Fillip and Oyn, and when it’s dark, I’ll come get you.”
Shale agreed, and Oszaren went off to find Keelan.
Trigger was having fun bounding around the tables, where patrons dropped the occasional scrap of food for him to gobble up. As it drew to afternoon, Shale walked through the people, sipping on an ale and watching dancers take to the field, spinning and twirling and pulsing to the ever-growing music. The sun was hot, but no one seemed bothered, and it seemed most people were feeling their drinks and had thrown off their shoes to stomp in the flattened grass. Shale kept away from the dancing. It wasn’t something she did anymore.
Soon, Fillip was dancing with Arietta and they were laughing together and flirting. Oyn sat by one of the tables shouting loudly to no one in particular. It seemed Fillip had done his job well—the man was nearly unconscious from drink. When Fillip ended his dance with Arietta and the girl rushed off to continue working, the druid grabbed a couple more glasses of spirits and poured them into a full mug of ale, bringing it to Oyn. The man drank it eagerly, then stared off, unseeing. Fillip clapped him appreciatively on the back, and the man dropped to the table, snoring. It was midafternoon.
Oszaren found Shale a few minutes later. “We should go now, while he’s out. I hadn’t expected Fillip would get him unconscious this quickly,” he admitted, and they stole off toward the stables.
After creeping past the stable boys, who were running around playing games or sneaking drinks, Oszaren and Shale pushed open Oyn’s wagon and jumped inside, Oszaren scanning for magical items. Inside was a rack of fine silk clothing and a few empty bird cages. On the floor were a couple of locked chests. The warlock reached out a hand and touched the clothing, drawing his fingers across the hangers until stopping on one and pulling it out. It was a tattered coat covered in multicoloured patches. “The coat,” he whispered, “it’s some sort of conjuration magic. Something to do with the patches.”
“Try putting it on?” Shale suggested.
Oszaren hesitated, then stuck his arm through the coat and put it around himself. He felt around the inside of it and checked the many pockets. The inside of the coat was also patched, and there were runes stitched along the inside of it. Nothing changed as he wore it. “Intriguing,” he said, removing the coat and pointing to a blue silk robe on the rack, “there’s something magical inside that one’s pocket.”
Shale cautiously pulled open the pocket and looked inside without touching the contents. “Looks like a vial,” she said, reaching in and taking it out, “and it has a note with it.” The vial contained a light blue fluid. She unfolded the note. “Dear brother, here’s a small gift. You’ll know when to use it. Signed, Maurice.” The word ‘small’ had been written in quotation marks. “Do you know what it is?” She asked Oszaren, handing him the vial.
He inspected the liquid for a moment, shaking, then swirling it. “Looks like a potion of growth,” he said.
“Gross,” Shale whispered, taking it back and returning it, with the note, back into the pocket.
“I don’t think that’s what it’s for,” Oszaren said quietly. “I think Fillip’s rubbing off on you.”
Shale smiled and Oszaren returned the patched coat to the rack. “I don’t want to take anything,” he said again, “I just wanted to make sure we could trust him.”
“Fair enough,” Shale said. “Let’s get out of here before someone realizes we’re gone.”
They left the cart as they had found it.
When they returned to the feast, the light of day now fading into an evening lit by hanging lantern light, they saw the dancing had stopped to make way for Reverence and Keelan, who were shirtless and sparring, each wielding a staff. Fillip was running through the crowd making bets as tiefling and human cracked one another with their staffs, dodging and punching where they could.
“We leave for two minutes,” Oszaren muttered, then raised a hand and placed a bet with Fillip.
They had, more accurately, been gone for half an hour, but still.
The fight was a close one. Reverence used his agility, spinning and dodging around Keelan, but Keelan used his strength, taking each blow from the monk as if it were a mere tap, then charging and swinging with the staff until it snapped in half and he had to resort to fists. Reverence threw aside his staff and raised his fists, getting in kicks where he could.
Shale turned and saw Oyn still snoring loudly on the table, oblivious to the people around him. A couple of young boys were stacking playing cards on his head, and there were crude drawings inked on his face. She felt laughter bubble up and had to admit that the day was a good one, and a much-needed break. Fillip, having finished collecting his bets, came to stand by Oszaren and Shale, a cocky smile on his face.
“Who did you bet on?” Shale asked, curious to see who would win.
“Keelan, of course,” Fillip said happily. “The monk’s got his speed, but no one’s as strong as—”
“Fillip!” Arietta called excitedly, pushing through the circled crowd to reach him. “Fillip!” She flipped back her golden hair and smiled at him beautifully, “I spoke with Zelena, and she’s agreed, if somewhat reluctantly. We’re going to join your caravan! Only until Waterdeep, and we’ll find jobs there,” she was out-of-breath with excitement.
“Really?” Fillip asked, eyes glimmering. Shale couldn’t tell if the glee was from her news, the drink, or both. The druid was more than a bit drunk.
“I can’t wait! I’m going to pack right now,” the girl said, then turned and ran off back to the hostel.
“You invited the two barmaids?” Oszaren asked in exasperation.
Fillip nodded, looking pleased with himself.
Oszaren sighed and shook his head. “You really will do anything to get that notch on your bedpost.”
“It’s really more of a—oh, never mind,” the druid said, waving the thought away.
Just then, Keelan sidestepped out of Reverence’s kick and body-checked the tiefling into the side of the stage, which had been set up with poles and hanging lanterns. One of the wooden poles cracked as Reverence slammed backwards into it and the lanterns swung dangerously. The musicians scrambled off the stage quickly. There were cheers all around as the monk steadied his feet, shaking his horns, stumbled for a moment, then charged at Keelan. The man blocked the first two punches, then ducked as Reverence feinted, and the tiefling’s punches hit him in the chest, arm, stomach, then, came around in a sweeping blow across the man’s jaw. Keelan dropped as the last one hit, and he landed heavily in the grass.
“The tiefling WINS!” Fillip announced, bouncing into the ring and grabbing Reverence’s arm, lifting it in the air.
Reverence’s eyes flashed a glowing red and he shouted in triumph. Keelan rolled over, looking dazed, a large bruise forming on his face. Reverence reached down and grabbed the paladin’s arm, helping him to his feet and slapping him happily on the back.
“Well fought, indeed!” Fillip was saying, “anyone else ready to step into the ring…?”
Reverence helped Keelan through the crowd and brought him over to an empty table, where they sat. Oszaren and Shale joined them, and the warlock offered to buy them each a drink. Keelan pressed a hand to his face and cast a healing spell over himself until the bruise faded to a yellowish green. “Ah, that’s better,” the Paladin sighed, and a few minutes later he had an ale in each hand.
Fillip came jogging over to them, looking rather unsteady on his feet, and said in a slurred voice, “hey, Keelan. Good fight! Say, you wouldn’t be able to maybe sober me up a bit? Use one of your…” he wiggled his hands in the air dramatically, “magical religious thingy’s or something?”
Keelan stood and raised his two mugs of ale, saying, “afraid I can’t right now, Fillip. My hands are full.” Then, the paladin wandered off into the crowd to find his employer, Colyn.
As the night progressed, so did everyone’s drunkenness. Oszaren and Whisper had gone off to try some scheme to heal the cursed girl, Fillip had gone to see if Arietta would dance with him some more, Reverence was busy staring at Zelena any time she came near, and Keelan was going around telling people about the Lord of Fire. By midnight, the barman announced that the Feast of the Moon was upon them, and they all drank to their ancestors, and those who’d fallen in the year. Reverence shot crackling sparks of light into the air, and the musicians played.
Shale felt slightly buzzed when she finally wandered upstairs to bed with her fox. As she passed Fillip and Arietta, she heard her telling him, “I think I’ll sleep better in my own bed tonight, Fillip…”
The caravan began moving on the road by late morning, many of those in it grumbling about headaches and dehydration as they packed their wagons. Arietta moved around the caravan, chattering animatedly to her sister Zelena, who nodded and seemed disinterested as they brought their packs of clothing into Fillip’s wagon. Shale didn’t trust the girls and found Zelena especially suspicious, but she made room for them to sit with the druid as she hopped off and followed on foot, helping Whisper keep an eye out for other travellers on the road. The road they travelled on was wide and flat and well-used, and they passed several other caravans within their first few days. Keelan now rode a black gelding, a thick beast and well-armoured, beside Colyn and his other guards. The paladin simply told them he’d conjured the warhorse, though none of them had seen proof of that, so Shale suspected he’d purchased it from another traveller. The horse’s name was Ember according to Keelan, and it seemed a calm, well-trained beast.
By their fourth day of travel, Shale noticed a strangeness about Arietta and Zelena. They claimed to be twins, but everything about their features were too perfect—too similar. Zelena was quiet and brooding where Arietta was chatty and excitable. Neither of the girls had many skills, and contributed very little to their nightly guarding, their daily cooking or their morning packing. Oszaren finally had Beyd agree to take them on as servers in the evenings when his wagon of ales was open for business.
Shale asked Whisper to keep an eye on the girls and see if he noticed anything strange or magical about them. The tabaxi admitted there was something strange about the way Zelena walked, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
Reverence took his chance romancing Zelena one day, walking up to her and having an awkward, stilted conversation about the weather. When he talked to Fillip about it later, Shale overheard the druid telling him confidently that the twin was falling for him, he had no doubts.
There was a commotion a few wagons ahead of theirs, and a teamster stood up in his stirrups, pointing out to the rolling fields and shouting, “there! See it? See, I told you I saw something! See the shiny one?”
Shale ran around the wagon to get a better look at what the man was pointing to. She squinted her eyes and saw, sure enough, a herd of about twenty deer, and one buck standing in the middle of them glittering in the sunlight with silver antlers and a shimmering golden hide. The buck looked up at them, then turned and the herd sprinted off toward the forest’s edge.
All at once, people in their caravan began grabbing bows and crossbows and running after the herd, shouting and whooping. Shale called Trigger, and they started running, her long legs taking her to the front of the group.
Fillip transformed into a deer and bounded past them, Whisper riding low on his back. They reached the forest ahead of them and disappeared through the trees. Shale slowed to a jog, realizing the deer were lost to them unless she were to spend the time tracking the herd. She looked back at their caravan, which had stopped on the road. The rest of the hunters caught up with her and started pushing through the branches of trees.
“What if it’s a trap?” Shale said to Trigger, and the fox yipped up at her.
Reverence and Oszaren were with the hunters, Shale noticed, yelling at them to get back to the caravan. She jogged toward them. Oszaren looked annoyed. “What do you think?” She asked him, still a bit out of breath.
“Seems strange, seeing a magical buck out in the middle of nowhere.”
“Exactly what I thought,” she said, relieved someone else agreed. “I worry it’s a trap.”
“They will do—what they want,” Reverence said, walking over to them with a sigh, looking back at the hunters, who were still working their way through the trees. “I’m going back to the caravan.”
They walked back, keeping their ears strained for any notes of distress from the hunters.
Fillip bounded through the trees after the herd, Whisper weighing on his back. He slowed to a stop, looking around and sniffing the air, his large ears turning. The air was warm here, much warmer than it should have been. He heard the snap of a twig and turned his head. Through the trees, he saw a horse-sized wolf with a white and gray pelt. The wolf was watching him, and when he caught its eyes, it winked, then turned and ran off.
Fillip ran after it without hesitation, Whisper wrapping his paws tightly around his neck.
The wolf leapt out of sight and Fillip suddenly felt air under his hooves as he went tumbling down. Whisper flew off his back as he rolled to a sliding stop at the bottom of a steep hill. He blacked out for a second, then shook himself and saw he was back to his half-elf form. Cautiously, he stood, brushing leaves and dirt from his cloak. The forest was quiet. He scanned the trees for a moment and saw there was an overgrown pond nearby with long, bending reeds dipping into the deceivingly shallow waters. He pressed his mind into the reed’s consciousnesses and said, have you seen a large wolf nearby?
Of course we’ve seen it, the reeds whispered in his mind, swaying in a nonexistent breeze, it’s right behind you.
Fillip spun around. At the top of the hill he’d fallen down, at least forty feet above him stood the wolf, its yellow eyes watching him.
“Who are you?” Fillip demanded. Where had Whisper gone?
The wolf titled its head, and with a soft voice inside his mind said, you mean you don’t remember me? Fillip, I feel hurt…
The druid stared for a moment, then said, “ah, um, yes, no, it just took me a moment. Of course, I remember you—how, how are you? It’s…good to see you.”
How am I? The wolf asked. I don’t think you do remember. Let me remind you. Then, the large wolf leapt and sprinted down the hill straight toward Fillip.
Whisper got to his feet at the top of the hill and howled at the wolf, but it ignored him. It pounced on Fillip and the two of them rolled, tumbling, straight into the pond, where they were fully submerged in weedy darkness.
Fillip opened his eyes to see himself standing in a strange land. It was a forest, but everything was sharper and more colourful, the bird’s songs more melodic. When he turned his eyes to a tree, every single leaf came into focus at once. He could count the veins, the ridges, and he could feel the water pumping through the roots, being sucked from the wet earth. The world pulsed and throbbed, and he felt strangely aroused. “Now do you remember?” a woman’s voice said softly.
Fillip spun, and instead of a wolf, there stood the beautiful fey sprite he remembered, with long, shimmering dark hair. “My love,” he said, smiling brightly and opening his arms to her.
Her perfect face formed into anger as she slapped him hard in the face. “Do you know how long it’s been?” She demanded, eyebrows drawn together. “It’s been DECADES! Did you ever think of me? Did you?”
Fillip touched a hand to his stinging cheek. Sensations were stronger, more vibrant here. His skin seemed to vibrate. “Of course I thought of you, darling. Every day I thought of you!” He insisted.
“Bastard,” she muttered, but her expression softened, and she sighed, touching a light hand to cup his. “I know you did.” She drew him into an embrace. “I’ve missed you,” she said.
He traced his hand along her smooth back, the hairs raising on her skin and he drew his fingers up along her spine and twisted them into her soft hair. Her lips pressed into his, and his memories faded as light and colour and every sensation took over.
Whisper stood over the pond, stirring the murky water and drawing it up into a sphere, then letting it splash back down and drawing up more water. Suddenly, Fillip emerged on the other side of the pond, coughing and spluttering, and dragged himself over the reeds. Whisper ran to his side and helped him up. “What happen?” The tabaxi demanded.
Fillip coughed up more water, wiping back his mud-coated hair. “How long was I gone?” He finally breathed.
“Gone?” Whisper looked at him in confusion. “Not gone, you drown. Maybe minute.”
“A minute?” Fillip said slowly, “how can that be? I was there for… for years.” The memories were already fading. Had it been years? Or only months? Perhaps a few days? Or, now that he thought of it, maybe it had been only a minute, as Whisper said.
He felt warmth in his coat pocket and thrust his hand in, drawing out a smooth, palm-sized stone. It was a polished green gem with carvings of vines. Whisper reached out a paw to grab it, but Fillip snatched it away and stowed it back in his pocket. As he released the stone, he heard a woman’s voice inside his head. Now, don’t forget me this time.
When Fillip and Whisper returned from their hunt of the buck, they were both quiet. Fillip was covered in mud but didn’t seem bothered by it. Oszaren used a spell to quickly clean off the druid, and Fillip spent the next few days to himself. Even Arietta couldn’t pull him from his reverie.
As they rode on, Shale and Whisper scouting ahead, the air grew thicker with fog. Shale reckoned they were nearing the Misty Forest, which was aptly named. They proceeded cautiously for the better part of an hour before Shale halted, touching Whisper’s shoulder and saying, “do you hear that?” In the misty trees she could her skittering and clicking.
Whisper nodded and ran back through the mist to warn the others. Shale set up a crossbow in the dirt and aimed it at an angle toward the trees, wedging it between a couple rocks. “Help me, Gwaeron,” she whispered, and a trail of magic leaked from her hands and into the crossbow.
Trigger sprang from the trees and came to her side, yipping, and a second later, she heard thundering hooves as Keelan, atop his warhorse, rode out of the mist toward her, his red cloak billowing out behind him. He drew his longsword and gave her a nod just as four large black spiders and four ettercaps came crawling out of the forest. The ettercaps were bipedal figures with black, spidery pincers and long, hanging limbs prickling with fur. Their heads were bald and glistening. Keelan nudged his gelding in between Shale and the spiders, and Ember danced on his feet in anticipation.
The spiders clicked and clacked in their slicing language, and just as they began to charge Keelan and Shale, Reverence ran out of the mist wielding his spear and struck one of the spiders, a pulsing energy exploding from his spearpoint and leaving the spider stunned and reeling. A massive ball of fire rolled into their midst, Whisper following behind it as he pushed it toward the creatures. Fillip held out his arms and two shimmering bear forms appeared in front of him and charged one of the spiders. Then he himself transformed into a grizzly. The crossbow Shale had wedged into the ground began shooting bolts at the enemies as they drew nearer, but most glanced off their natural armour.
Oszaren came through the mist near Reverence and swirled his hand in the air, creating a pulsing black sphere around two of the ettercaps, obscuring them from view. From within the black sphere, Shale could swear she saw shards of ice writhing like snakes and snapping out of the darkness.
She turned and drew her blades, charging as Keelan’s horse was coated in webbing. Ember snorted and reared, but his legs were trapped. Keelan swung his blade and decapitated one of the ettercaps as it drew too near. Another ettercap drew closer and puked a glob of webbing at Keelan, but he caught it with his shield and Shale rolled out of the way to miss another glob of the sticky webbing. Keelan’s horse broke free of the webbing and he kicked Ember forward, slashing down at the ettercap. The horse ran past, stopped, and kicked at the ettercap with its muscular back legs. The ettercap stumbled to its knees just as Shale got to her feet and stabbed it through its clacking pincers. The pincers closed in around her arm and she felt a piercing pain shoot up her arm as she ripped it free. She suddenly felt dizzy and stumbled to the ground. Trigger ran to her, licking her face with concern, and she tried to stand, but her entire body felt like led.
Keelan cried out and there was a crack of lightning. Shale managed to sit upright and saw Keelan slashing at one of the spider’s legs with his glowing blade. She turned her head and saw another spider already dead, Fillip’s two brown bears tearing apart its long limbs. Oszaren and Reverence finished off theirs with deadly blows. Another ettercap was aflame, Whisper shooting bolts of fire at it as his sphere slammed into it from behind. Fillip’s grizzly form was clawing at the last ettercap, and Whisper turned as his died and threw an ethereal hand of ice into the ettercap, which froze and shattered.
Shale looked down at her arm and her veins had turned blacker than her skin. “Keelan,” she barely whispered, her voice cracking. Trigger ran to Ember’s legs and jumped around them.
Shale lay back, her lungs burning. Then, she saw the paladin standing over her, hands out. They began to glow as the poison was sucked from her body. It flew up and hovered in the air for a moment before dissolving. She breathed deeply, and he helped her to her feet. “Thank you,” she said in relief, checking both sides of her arm to ensure the poison was well and truly gone.
When she looked around, she saw three dead spiders and four dead ettercaps. “Did the fourth spider get away?” She asked, and the paladin nodded with a grim expression.
“I think they got more than they bargained for,” he said, then smiled and put a friendly hand on her shoulder. “I should really talk to Colyn about giving me a raise.”
Shale smiled back as the man took Ember’s reins and led him through the dispersing mist. Whisper was already collecting samples from the fallen bodies and Fillip had made his bears disappear and was back to his half-elf form. Rather than his usual boasting, he returned to the wagon quietly, Arietta running after him to praise his fighting skills. Reverence sat cross-legged in the grass and pulled some food from his pack and began eating. He always seemed to be hungry after a fight, no matter how short. Trigger ran up to him and the tiefling tossed him a morsel.
“See, Reverence?” Oszaren said confidently, walking past the tiefling where he sat, “that was flanking.”