The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past, Part Fourteen
Date: Thu, May 05, 2016
Topic: Stories & Fiction
An hour later, they were on the road, all seven.
The Crown of Arumdina was waiting.
Casting a cloud of steam at the two men
attacking her forced them back, giving Seline time to cast one of the few
spells she had left. The mass of webbing did not expand from her hands so much
as explode, rising up from the floor to the ceiling and hopelessly entangling
the men at the same time.
Finally, Seline cast her last spell, as her
fiery sphere rolled forward and ignited the webs. The men screamed in agony as
the flames were consumed all around them, collapsing to the ground as Seline
brought the sphere back to roll over them. It wasn’t long before they stopped
thrashing, their charred corpses lying dead on the floor.
Taking a deep breath, Seline looked around at
her companions. As exhausted as they were, bloodied and wounded from the long
night of battle, they had all survived. Even Amyalla had outfoxed her
opponents, throwing a flask of oil in the face of the remaining soldier facing
her after the first one had been forced to block her thrown dagger. Getting the
surviving soldier between her and his blinded ally, she had taunted the blinded
soldier into striking at her. The sighted soldier was skewered by his
companion, instantly slain as the blinded soldier realized what he’d done. It
had been an easy matter for Amyalla to cut his throat after that.
Seline felt a tremendous sense of relief at
that, but it was soon subsumed by her worry for Airk.
He might be killed by Kalrek, but that was only
half of the reason Seline was so worried about him.
Trendin had distantly heard the sounds of
battle from his cell, and wondered if it would be his family’s salvation or
their doom. He recalled Kalrek mentioning how he was serving as motivation for
another of Kalrek’s old “friends”, and wondered if the sounds of battle were
related to it.
For a long moment, all was silence, until the
answer finally came in the form of his cell door being flung open. Rising to
his feet in surprise, Trendin was surprised to see a young human woman with
brown hair coming towards him, a ring of keys in her hand. He was struck by the
weariness on her face, and the many cuts and bruises on her body, and the calm
silence with which she freed him from his shackles.
Finally, Trendin and the young woman stared at
one another for a long while, before he spoke.
“You are a deliverer for my family and I, are
you not?” Trendin asked curiously. “If indeed you are, you have my thanks.”
“Yes, that’s right,” Luna smiled weakly, her
eyes brightening for a moment. “I am Luna Roas Del Cranden, daughter of Pelor
for all my efforts.”
“Are you enemies of Kalrek?” Trendin asked, as
he followed her out of the cell. “Or were you bidden by my father to come to
his family’s rescue?”
Luna offered no response to that, the haunted
look that crossed her face catching the gnome completely by surprise.
“It’s a simple question,” Trendin persisted.
“Which of them is it?”
Even the sight of Weimar and Ma’non’go coming down the hall, having
freed Marthe and his sisters from their cells, did little to reduce the concern
Trendin was now feeling.
With the death of their master and so many of
the warriors in his service, it had not taken long for most of Kalrek’s other
servants to surrender. Nor did it take them long to help the companions release
the slaves and other prisoners Kalrek and his minions had kept trapped here, or
to reveal the locations of the large stock of healing potions Kalrek had on
hand. The potions were a welcome relief to the adventurers and many of the
prisoners, soothing the wounds they’d suffered at the monsters’ hands.
Soon, the adventurers and Kalrek’s family were
gathered in the main amphitheatre, the rest of Kalrek’s prisoners and his
servants gathered all around them. Airk and Trendin stood at the heads of their
respective groups, the two gnomes staring at one another for a long time.
Finally, Trendin spoke.
“You’ve done us all a great honor with your
rescue,” Trendin smiled gratefully at Airk. “We cannot thank you enough for-“
“You thank me too much,” Airk said quietly,
shaking his head as a solemn look crossed his face. “I am merely making amends
for a great wrong, amends which are far for complete.”
“…What do you mean?” Trendin asked in surprise.
“I mean that I am responsible for the death of
one of the noblest gnomes I have ever known, slain when I attempted to force
the location of Kalrek’s lair from his lips,” Airk continued. “My anger,
festering for so long, got the better of me, and Laessar Bradon lay dead at my
hands, however inadvertently.”
Trendin turned ashen pale, as his mother and
sisters staggered behind him.
They all stood there for several seconds as the
horrible truth dawned upon them.
Finally, Trendin came forward and struck Airk
viciously in the face, knocking the other gnome flat on his back. As Airk began
to rise to his feet, Trendin punched him again with his other hand, knocking
Airk back down.
His face livid with rage, Trendin might have
struck again, but he paused as he saw the look in Airk’s eyes. The older gnome
wasn’t even trying to defend himself, simply rising to his feet again as if
ready to take another blow.
Staring stone-faced down at Airk, Trendin then
turned his gaze up to face Luna.
“You, do you have the power to resurrect
Laessar?” Trendin demanded.
“I’m afraid I don’t, not yet,” Luna shook her
head sadly. “There may be another means-if we were to find an appropriate
priest in Copper Crossing who might assist us.”
Trendin didn’t say anything, only shifting his
gaze back down to Airk.
“Pray, for your sake,
that she succeeds,” Trendin said solemnly.
The next several days were busy ones for the
companions. Luna treated the injuries her friends and many of the prisoners had
suffered; the complex was stripped of the food and riches it contained for
return to the surface; the companions conferred with the slaves and prisoners
Kalrek had captured, learning where they had been abducted so they might return;
and Kalrek’s servants readily surrendered all the information they had been
able to gather about the Crown of Arumdina’s possible whereabouts and the reach
of Kalrek’s organization.
The servants knew
full well that they themselves would be sold into slavery or slain if they
tried to betray the companions or Kalrek’s prisoners, and so the adventurers
knew they had nothing to fear. Some of Kalrek’s minions had returned to the
lair, but they were easily killed or driven off. Indeed, many of them had slain
each other in the tunnels, eager to thin out the competition for the bounty
Kalrek had been offering.
So it was that the companions, the prisoners
they had freed, all of Laessar’s former servants, and the vast treasures Kalrek
had accumulated, made their way back to Copper Crossing without any difficulty.
Along with the truly staggering amount of monetary treasure Kalrek had
gathered, they had also found several magical scrolls and potions, including a
scroll of clerical magic that contained a spell to resurrect the dead, and that
Luna could use to revive Laessar.
Such magic was always a tentative thing, of
course, but Luna knew she had to try. Now, she stood in the library of the
Bradon manor, surrounded by Laessar’s family and her own companions, with
Laessar’s body kept reverently in state before them. Her eyes looking from
Laessar’s body to the living people around her, Luna lowered her gaze to the
scroll and began to chant. She could feel the power connecting with her mind,
attempting to make her its vessel.
If the caster was not innately powerful enough
to use the spell from their own casting, it might fail or even turn back on the
caster, but Luna’s abilities met the test, the spell embracing her fully as she
gathered the runes’ power into herself.
Laessar’s body seemed to twitch, but none of
the living realized it, focused as they were upon Luna.
Give me your strength,
Pelor, Luna prayed
fervently as she continued the chant, building the spell’s power, preparing its
release. Help me, help Laessar, help heal
the grievous pain this family has suffered…
Laessar’s body began to glow, as his limbs
began to move. His eyes, previously closed, began to flicker, opening and
closing even as the wound in his neck began to close.
The spell reached its climax, as Luna’s chant
rose an octave.
Finally, with the last syllable, Luna released
the power, channeling all of it into Laessar.
The glow surrounding Laessar’s body vanished in
a final flash, before the gnome began to raise himself up on his elbows.
Then, with a sudden gasp, he collapsed once
more, the life gone out of him entirely.
Trendin gasped, as his mother and sisters cried
out in despair. Airk only stared at Laessar’s body, while the rest of Luna’s
companions looked at one another, realizing what had happened.
Luna herself staggered from the realization of
her failure, and would have collapsed if Ma’non’go hadn’t quickly caught her.
“What happened?” Trendin demanded, whirling
around on Luna with an angry glare. “Curse you, woman, why didn’t the spell
Tears streaked down Luna’s face, as Ma’non’go
looked with concern at her, and then angrily back at Trendin.
“I asked you a question!” Trendin shouted,
clenching his fists as he stepped toward Luna and Ma’non’go. Their companions
stepped forward, ready to defend their friends, but Airk got there first,
stepping between Trendin, Luna and Ma’non’go. His eyes blazing with anger,
Trendin threw a punch at Airk, but the older gnome easily caught it.
“Resurrection magic is an uncertain thing,”
Airk told Trendin, the intensity in his voice catching Trendin’s attention. “The
shock of being revived is itself dangerous for its recipient, and they may not
“You…all of you,” Trendin muttered angrily,
“his blood is on all of your heads!”
“Not on their heads,” Airk reminded him calmly.
“On mine and mine alone. They have come this far with me, contributed to saving
the lives of you and your family, solely out of friendship and compassion. They
deserve none of your curses and hatred-if you intend to direct them at anyone,
direct them at the deserving!” Airk continued, his eyes flashing with
Trendin struggled briefly in Airk’s grip, but the
look on his face relaxed at the other gnome’s words.
“So you are deserving of my hate,” Trendin
replied. “How, then, should I take the revenge that is rightfully mine on you?”
“My fate is whatever you deem it to be,” Airk
said calmly. “If you choose to have me to face whatever justice awaits me here
in Copper Crossing, I will do so. If you choose to send me into the depths of
the oerth alone, never to return, I will do so. If you choose to strike me down
here and now, then take the morning star that ended Kalrek’s life, and use it
to complete the circle. My companions shall take no action against you, as this
is but gnomish justice.”
Trendin stared intently at Airk, who awaited
his judgement. He looked back at his mother and sisters, and thought of all of
Kalrek’s other victims. He then looked at Airk’s companions, who had faced fire
and steel to rescue them, and the tense, concerned looks on their own faces.
He remembered that he was now the head of the
house of Bradon, heir to everything his father had built and strived for, and
the stories that his father and Kalrek had both told him of his ancestral land
of Flinthold. He recalled, too, the times that his father had mentioned Airk as
an old friend, a fellow veteran of the Hateful Wars who had fought for all his
heart for their shared homeland.
“I do indeed have the right to strike you down,
or do whatever else I might deem a fitting punishment,” he said calmly. “And
yet you led your companions to rescue my family, and Kalrek now lies dead at
your hands. Without your intervention, and those of your friends, we would all
be as good as dead. You too are a son of Flinthold, much like my father, and so
you know the truth of Kalrek’s search for the Crown of Arumdina.”
“You seek to make amends for the blood on your
hands,” Trendin continued, “so I will give you that chance. Kalrek Burunne
sought the Crown of Arumdina for his own selfish ends. Find the Crown in his
stead, and return it to the regents of Flinthold, so they may ascend the throne
as proper kings, and restore Garl Glittergold’s blessings to his people. If you
succeed, I will say that you have made amends for my father’s death. Refuse,
and I will see you hanged here in Copper Crossing for murder,” Trendin warned.
“I agree to your terms,” Airk agreed, “and I
will take them further. I say now, that if I fail in my efforts, may there be
no rest for me among the gnomish gods. I shall instead be cast into the Abyss,
to the company of Urdlen, as a punishment for my crime.”
Airk’s companions were startled to hear that, and even more startled to
see the serene looks on the faces of both Airk and Trendin.
The next two weeks were busy ones for the
Company of the Silver Wolf. First, they had divided up the vast treasures
accumulated by Kalrek. Much of the wealth was paid towards helping many of the
kidnapped slaves return home with their passage paid, while another large share
was devoted to compensating the Bradon family for everything they had suffered
at Kalrek’s hands, not the least of which was Airk’s accidental slaying of
Laessar. Then, they had attended Laessar’s memorial service, where Airk’s oath
to retrieve the Crown of Arumdina as atonement for his sins was sworn once
Airk had been working as diligently as anyone,
but Revafour was becoming increasingly concerned with how withdrawn the gnome
seemed. All anyone could get out of him was one-word answers, if that, when
they tried to speak with him, and he ate and slept in silence, away from anyone
Unable to bear it any longer, Revafour marched
into the side room of the Owlbear Arms where Airk was eating his midday meal,
and sat down next to him.
“It’s a busy time, isn’t it?” he asked the
“Yes,” Airk replied without looking up.
“Is that all you can say?” Revafour asked.
“What else is there to say?” Airk asked,
glancing at Revafour out of the corner of his eye.
“That’s more reaction than you’ve given anyone
for the last few days,” Revafour noted. “Why is that?”
“Perhaps I don’t need to say anything else,”
Airk replied sharply. “Did you ever stop to consider that?”
“Did you ever stop to consider that perhaps you
ought not to be tormenting yourself the way you are, as we have continually
reminded you?” Revafour reproached him. “Or do you intend to spend another six
decades wallowing in your shame, every time something new troubles you?”
Airk’s eyes flared for a moment, before he cast
them down again.
“…I don’t know,” he finally said. “I still have
a lot to think over.”
“You’re going to search for the Crown, of
course,” Revafour noted.
Airk said nothing.
“And we’ll be accompanying you,” Revafour
“If you want to, I won’t stop you,” Airk
“You should know better than that by now,”
Revafour reproached him. “Surely you cannot think that we wouldn’t follow you
to the ends of the Oerth, if that’s what you would need to finally resolve this
Airk fell silent again.
“Perhaps this might help,” he said, pulling
something out of a pocket of his cloak and pressing it into Airk’s hand. Looking
down, the gnome was surprised to see that Revafour had given him an eagle’s
“What’s this for?” he asked curiously.
“Many Flan peoples revere the eagle as a bird
of strength and courage,” Revafour explained. “They use eagle feathers as a
source of strength in difficult times, a reminder of what they’re capable of, a
reminder that they’re not alone. It’s helped me many times in the past, and
maybe it can help you.”
“It’s…magical?” Airk asked in surprise.
“Not in the traditional sense,” Revafour shook
his head, “but it means a great deal to the Flan, not only to receive but to
give such a feather. It can be for you too, if you want it.”
Airk sat in silence for several moments as he
let the words sink in.
The ghost of a smile crossed his face.
Finally, on the morning they were due to depart,
Airk hesitated in the doorway of his room at the Owlbear Arms. He was not
troubled with the idea of a quest for the Crown of Arumdina-indeed, he thought
it a fitting atonement for his crime.
I don’t know how long
it will take, the
gnome realized. They could spend years of
their lives pursuing a mad quest, only to end it all in their graves. I led
them into this madness, so how…
It was when he emerged into the common room
that he saw his friends, dressed and equipped for the road. They had already
ordered a morning meal, and gestured for him to join them.
“You’re all joining me, then?” he asked
hesitantly as he sat down.
“Why wouldn’t we?” Amyalla asked. “Surely you
would want us to do so?”
“…If you want to,” Airk said slowly.
“What would be the issue?” Seline wondered.
“You don’t feel we should come, is that it?”
Weimar asked bluntly, arching an eyebrow at Airk.
The pained look on the gnome’s face told them
everything they needed to know.
Luna looked from the guilty look on Airk’s
face, to the suddenly grim faces of her companions, her own eyes flashing.
“No,” was all she said. Her tone was calm, but
the force in her voice was all too clear.
“…What?” Airk asked, blinking in surprise.
“Have you ever stopped to think about it,
Airk?” Luna asked. “Why did we bond so easily, after a random meeting in the
Cairn Hills? Why we’re still together, when we could have gone our separate
“I…” Airk trailed off.
“We’ve all lost so much, Airk,” Luna reminded
him. “We’ve all been alone, all been searching…have you forgotten that night in
the Gnarley Forest?” she asked him, asked all of them, pointedly.
Airk looked intently back at her, and then to
all of his companions.
“To the end, then?” he asked with a smile.
“To the end,” Revafour spoke for all of them.
An hour later, they were on the road, all
The Crown of Arumdina was waiting.