Sebastian sent word an hour later. Analise and Millie from the Broken Cudgel Inn had gone down the lizard folk tunnel to take a gander and see if Blargle and Liz were inside the door. They would report back as soon as they could. In the meantime I was barred from reentering the village. Those poor folks had gone through quite enough, thank you very much. That was Kershaw. Seems that our tenuous relationship didn’t extend as far as putting my needs in front of that of her people. Well, maybe I was being petulant. I was tired, cold and hungry. So, as I was to wait, I broke into the food stores, ate my fill and lay down in the wagon to catch a bit of shut eye. It was glorious.
Kershaw left soon after and I woke to see the two guardsmen from this morning peering over the wagon. One of them was leaning over, stretching his hand out to try and flip back the edge of the cloak I had Kithri wrapped in. I reached over and slapped his hand, which caused him to draw it back and nearly fall when he lost his footing from where he was standing on one of the wheel spokes. His partner caught him, laughing and the two of them wandered into town, exchanging coins as they went. I sat up to find Sebastian coming down the road toward me, carrying two packs: mine and Liz’s.
Analise reported that there was blood on the door on the inside and two dead gnolls in the tunnel. There was no evidence of either Liz nor Blargle, but the packs had been left there. I took them, combing through them and took out three largest gems: yellow, white and a deep red for the largest of the three. I handed them to Sebastian, imploring him to use whatever he could get for them to help the villagers rebuild. I also said to keep the money from the weapons and armor we had brought to see that the families of the guardsmen were taken care of.
He blinked at me in astonishment and dropped the stones into his pockets. Well, the smaller of the two. The largest wouldn’t fit and he had to carry it in his hand. It looked awkward the way he was trying to conceal it against his body, half tucking it and his fist into his armpit. He was definitely uncomfortable and a little baffled by my generosity.
Analise approached me and said the blood they saw was definitely from Blargle and the gnolls. They saw no sign that Liz had even made it into the tunnel. Not that she couldn’t have done, but there was nothing she could divine with her magical abilities. Mille backed up her version of the story and I was heartbroken. Where had they both gone? They said the stores under the inn had been broken into, and that it appeared that several gnolls had made it up the tunnel to the keep, explaining how the pair of off-duty guardsmen inside the mess hall had been killed. The gnolls could’ve smashed through the food stores, but Millie thought the act had been deliberate, not random destruction.
This cleared something up for Sebastian. Captain Kershaw had assumed that several gnolls had come through the open gates when the civilians were moving into the keep, but perhaps now they would change that tale. The gnolls that had made it into the keep had been killed, and with those outside the tunnel also dead. They would just have to assume their secret tunnels had been secured. They should keep a guard in the tunnel nonetheless. Sebastian nodded when I suggested it.
I asked if the gate over the well had been tampered with and neither Analise nor Millie could recall. Which gave me my best hope of finding the others. They probably escaped down through the well and went in search of me. What a surprise they were in for when all they found on that tiny island was my armor.
I thanked them, added our packs to the wagon, hugged all three of them, and set off down the road at an easy walk, giving the horse a chance to feel comfortable with the wagon in tow. The grade downward made me wish for Bob who could’ve told me the exact rise per distance and the safest speed to take the wagon, but I just let the horse set his own pace.
I was anxious to get back down to the lowlands. I know what an emotional state I had been in when Liz and Blargle hadn’t returned, I did not want to contemplate how they would react when they couldn’t find me. Made me think I should’ve stayed put. Hindsight is an interesting teacher.
The horse was warming to the hill by the time we were about a quarter of the way down the road to the river. I was happy to be riding in the wagon again, even though it handled differently now that it wasn’t weighed down by all that extra armor and weapons we’d sold to the keep. I could definitely make better time on the road with the wagon, but with Bishop Cirila in Blackstone Landing, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go in that direction.
I was lost in thought when I heard an echoing “halloo”. I looked back and saw that Sebastian was running after me, holding the red gemstone in his fist. I stopped the wagon, pulling the brake to secure the wheels and stood, watching as Sebastian ran toward me. Now that I was no longer moving, he caught up fairly quickly. By the time he got to the wagon, winded and blowing, he held up the stone with one arm, and leaned against the wagon with the other.
“He wants to speak with you,” Sebastian said, which made no sense in the world.
“He who?” I asked.
He shook his fist holding the gem. “Take this,” he said, his breath settling down. “Just take it.”
I reached over and took the gem from him, thinking back to where I’d seen it before. It was very familiar. I clutched it in my hand, staring at the way it suddenly pulsed and heard a voice in my head.
“Damn it, Cleric. Where are you?” It was Wizard Tim and he sounded terrified.