continued from Lydin's Story Part 4
I awake in the morning and treat the wounds of Scratch and Yue. Afterwards I return to sleep and rest. The battles in the preceding days seem to have taken a toll on my mind and my spirit as well as my body.
I awake again and realize with a start that it is approaching noon. Yue is awake, he is quietly cleaning and oiling he crossbow. He has not said much since he lost himself in the woods. I get the feeling he is hurt that even with his woodland skills he was lost for so long. There is a hurt in his eyes that I can not heal. I wonder if I have the same look in my eyes.
I go to look for food for myself and for Scratch. Yue looks up from his task but makes no move to follow or to speak.
I trail down the hallway towards the Fletcher's kitchen. I hear voices form the kitchen. One voice is the Fletcher's. The other is a familiar voice, but one I can not immediately place. This voice is angry. The Fletcher argues that the time is past, "It is too late!" he cries. The other voice snaps back at the Fletcher. Admonishing him.
"Remember your place, remember your duty, remember your destiny."
I move closer to the kitchen I see a flash of light. I enter the kitchen to see the residue of a transportation portal spell. The Fletcher is alone.
I ask him about the other voice I heard in the kitchen. The Fetcher seems to think I have been spying on him. "That was the voice of out master, Lord Cedric." the Fletcher growls. "Were you listening to our private conversation?"
I don't remember what I said to him, but it convinces him that I was just traveling to the kitchen. I gather some food to return to Yue, but turn to find him already in the kitchen. We eat with the Fletcher. He reminds us of our duty. As if the horrors of the past days could be forgotten. Our host tells us of Lord Cedric's plan. He has a massive force gathered to the east. He will strike tonight.
Our orders are to hold the bridge and protect the town. I am only half listening. I make the correct sounds to show the Fletcher that I am listening to his instructions but I am drifting into deeper thoughts. "Yes, I understand. We must protect the bridge at all costs." I tell him. He nods, as if to tell me that I had better follow his instructions. My mind drifts to the events of yesterday, what happened to me when I cast my spirit at these beasts and they fled form me like leaves before the wind. The Fetcher is staring at me. I search for what he was saying. "Of course, we would destroy the bridge rather than let the lifeless monsters use it." He starts to wave his arms and shout. "Of course, we would never allow the bridge to fall." That seems to calm him again.
Yue also stares at me. I search his eyes, for some sign of what he plans. Our group was so unified when we first left our sinking prison, but now we are more and more separated by our own mistrust. Especially since we were betrayed by Tugwyn. What secrets does Yue keep from me? What secrets do I keep from him?
Again I notice that the Fletcher has stopped talking and is waiting for an answer. I am at a loss. I do not recall what instructions he was pressing when last he spoke. Thankfully Yue speaks for me. "We will wait for the signal, and strike into the heart of the forest. We will kill these undead lords, vampires, or whatever they are. We will not fail."
"Yes, yes." I murmur. Is this our fate, to become the victims of the undead? To be killed and return as these monsters? Not for the first time I think about releasing Scratch. Allowing him to make his way back our natural homes. I again do not, knowing that even if Scratch knew the way home I need him too badly to release him. Maybe later I can free him.
"Is there a temple in this town?" I ask. I am not sure why I ask this, I need no temples. My temple is the forest, the plain, the lake, the mountain. Wherever the spirit of nature resides is where I worship. My now I feel a pull to a temple of man.
"As I have told you every time you have asked of the temple," replies the Fletcher, "we had a temple, near the guard house. The temple disappeared shortly after the creatures started attacking the town. I start to think you are ill, the way your eyes stare off. You look at me, but you do not see me, you look through me. What do you see druid? Do you see me? Or do you see only death, as I see only death. I spoke in haste yester-eve, you may return to my home for as long as you serve Lord Cedric." The Fletcher slowly and deliberately meets my gaze, then gives Yue the same piercing look. He stands from the table and stalks out of the room.
"We should find the others." Yue barks at me as he stands also.
I nearly send him to go himself, but Scratch bites my hand and pulls towards the door. "Yes, " I answer, " we must find our allies and return to the forest."
As we leave the Fletcher's I see the crazed beggar that always predicts my death. Hawber is following the beggar, for once staring at something other than his reflection. I walk up to the beggar, awaiting his proclamation of my doom. He smells of illness, at times it is almost like I can see something in his soul that is fractured. I try to give him a fresh Logan berry. I earlier prepared the berries, such that they have the power to supply a full meal in just a single bite. The beggar pulls away from me.
I notice a medallion around this beggars neck. It is a symbol I half recognize. I grasp the medallion and fire and pain shoot down my arm. I spy our new companion Lex watching me. Lex comes over to me and pulls me away from the beggar, and he runs off.
We follow the beggar to the guard house. Once inside the beggar just disappeared. We find a concealed trap door in the floor. Following the stairs under the floor takes us to a small underground cathedral. The same symbol that the beggar wore, the same symbol that burned my hand and arm adorn the walls.
Pandarus, Yue, and Hawber are collecting holy water from a case on the north wall. I ask Lex about the symbol. He laughs and pulls out a medallion of his own. "Like this one?"
"What does it mean?" I ask.
"It is the symbol of my faith. We are dedicated to eradicating the undead menace. I did not believe that it was true but now that I see it, I can not deny my own eyes." He points to my hand. "You should not grab the symbol of a powerful cleric, they have protections that you can not comprehend. This homeless beggar is the high priest Elderage. Years ago I studied under him. When our church first sent Elderage here he was but an alcolyte, sent to establish a mission house.
This he did. Eventually more of the faithful revealed here. Including my brother. Recently the undead started to win the battles against Elderage. " Lex paused, looking deep within himself as if knowing the answer but not knowing if the answer is the one he wants.
"In rare cases, very rare cases, " Lex continued, "a high priest will give himself up to protect his followers and his church. Elderage must have made this sacrifice, although I do not know how. He has caused his own insanity to save his church and only the defeat of the threat will allow him to return to health."
We climb the stairs and leave for the bridge. We cross to the far side and take up positions to defend the bridge. I start to question why we have all our strongest warriors north of the bridge when a group of skeletal undead breach the clearing from the north. Hawber, Pandarus and Gworeth smash these enemies as the close within reach. Only two get through, and of those one turns north along the river and one head directly for the bridge. Scratch and I bring down the beast heading to the bridge and Yue chases after the one flees north.
Another group breaks free of the trees. These again are repelled. A third wave engages us. This group includes Orcs! Hawber and Pandarus are killing the Orcs as well as the undead. More and more are breaking through. Yue returns just in time to slay a monster as it approaches the bridge.
Another group is chased into the clearing around the bridge. Again Orcs are with the undead. The orcs seem to be attacking the undead, but they also attack Hawber. Pandarus is swathing through the Orcs like a sythe through winter wheat.
Another group steps into the clearing. These are men! Several men accompanied by these foul abominations surge towards the bridge. Gworeth and Pandarus attack form the North. Yue fires his bow again and again. Hawber, Lex and I attack from the South. We are being over taken.
I call out to the forest for assistance and a badger breaks from the bushes and attacks my assailant. Sinking his claws into the warriors leg he distracts the warrior so that Hawber can crush him entirely.
When the next beast enters the clearing my heart stops. A rotting giant of a man. Is this a troll? Or maybe was this a troll would be more accurate. Obviously dead the shambling giant moves towards Pandarus. Gworeth and Yue start firing missiles at the beast. Hawber falls before me, as does Scratch! They killed Scratch! I fly at my enemies slashing with my sword. One after another falls before me. Gworeth and Yue have engaged the giant. I check Hawber and advance towards Scratch. The giant falls to Lex.
I look around our enemies are dead or fleeing but at what cause. I go to Scratch and bind his wounds. I use prayer and magic to revive him. I do the same for Pandarus and Hawber. Looking at the gashes, bites and bruises I wonder if we won or lost.
We retreat to the very edge of the bridge, to rest and prepare for the next assault. It has only been moments since the first beast appeared but I feel like it has been hours. My heartbeat is pounding in my chest, sweat coats my arms and chest, fatigue drags at my legs as I pull Scratch to the safety of the bridge. I know the night has just begun but I wish that I could just let the night take me, let sleep erase my memories and my pain.
continued from Lydin's Story Part 4