3. Unfinished Business
As usual, I was wandering around the woods a bit as soon as my injuries were healed in full. I still felt lost and alone. Sir Ravian was in the inn, with our friends Sir Quantum and Lady Thaliana. But the one dear friend we all missed was Sir Rion. May Storok guard his remains and may his god Imperil guard his soul.
The yarl, chieftain of the village, Hrothgir, announced that there would be a ritual burial at the grave of Sir Rion. All people present in the inn, with Quantum, Ravian and me leading the way to the graveyard, accompanied Rion's body to the grave. Hrothgir and his idiot son were standing near the grave, accompanied by a priest of Duan. I stood a bit to the right, near a large tree. Ravian tried to comfort me by laying an arm on my shoulder, but his touch scared me a bit, while tears streamed down my face.
Later some scouts reported back, and told us abouta cavern, a dungeon or a cave, where monsters appeared from. Though a refugee said we might as well wait until the next morning, we tried to enter. Quantum, Thaliana, Ravian and I entered in file, since the cavern walls were close together. Soon however, Quantum shouted "Back! Back!" and he dragged Thaliana outside. She was asleep, and Quantum said there was a monster there. Nevulma tried slapping her in the face to wake her up, as Ravian, Quantum and I entered again. Soon, however, the beast got to Quantum, and he fell asleep. We dragged him outside too just as Thaliana was waking up. From inside the bowels of the cave we could hear muffled screams of other people who had entered, and we didn't stop fighting until we had reached the first large chamber and rescued the ones who were stuck there. Then, we retreated from the caves and went back to the longhouse.
The next morning I spent a quarter of an hour in prayer, before being disturbed by people going in and out of the foresty patch surrounding the longhouse. I returned to the village. There, the paladins ran into another paladin of Imperil, who was chasing a murderer in green. We promised to help him, or at least Quantum and Ravian did, and Thaliana prepared a ritual for Imperil. While the paladins were busy preparing, I heard screams, and a village woman came running out of the forest. "Decapitated creatures!" I ran into the direction she came from, followed by other people, and found three headless monsters, orcs or something. "They got what they deserved" I said, and turned around. My eyes were caught by the sight of a useful herb. I stepped over and plucked some of it, before returning to the site of the ritual, next to the longhouse.
Back there, something seemed to be the matter with Nevulma. She tried to come close to us, but she couldn't approach any of her friends, because at ten meters' distance it was like a wall kept us apart. It was very strange, and she had to observe the ritual from a distance, in her own separate circle, connected to the main circle. The ritual was strange. As always, I observed the ritual. Even though Imperil is not my god, I had offered my help to my friends, and would help them out by not letting anyone interfere with the ritual. During the ritual three voices from the merged god Imperil could be heard, demanding an oath. The paladins and I too, swore to Imperil, to uphold the law.
Quantum approached us again, and explained what exactly was the problem with Nevulma. Apparently, somebody had taken the flag of Imperil from Nevulma and cursed it, causing an invisible wall to form between the one carrying the flag and us. While the flag was on the ground, it was harmless, but it could be used as a weapon against us. Quantum asked me to take it into the forest and hide it somewhere really safe. So I picked up the flag when everyone was at a safe distance, and walked into the forest again. But close to where I intended to hide the flag, some people were busy with a ritual. One of the scouts came close to me, and as I saw others approaching, I ran, with the horrors of being mugged in the forest before surfacing again. Soon I saw someone approach from a different angle, and I almost tripped. They closed in on me and surrounded me.
I waited for a distraction, which soon came. Apparently, an army of monsters (later I found out they were orcs...Anna hates orcs and would have loved to have attacked them) was approaching. I took the opportunity to run back into the forest. The other people had left already, and I took the opportunity to dig a hole in the earth behind sir Rion's grave. Underneath his tombstone, I buried the cursed flag of Imperil, and I said a prayer before returning to the village.
I told the paladins that I'd entrusted the flag to sir Rion, and where exactly I had buried it, before we were guided on a series of tests. First test was that of fire, and the second that of wind. The third test was of magic. A magician and his apprentices were trying out spells on one another, until we came along. "By the power of earth...*fizzle*" Sometimes the spells didn't work, other times they did. First we were entangled in plants, then we had to make the magician laugh, which was really hard. Hiedaol, the 28-year old nephew of Thaliana (and an annoying child elf) tried by telling a story, which took too long. Then the magician tested us by a game of 'catch the goblin' and that of warriors. I was bound by the wrist to one of his apprentices, and fought for three blows. Finally, there were a monster which we had to survive for 5 minutes, and a blindfolded game against one of the other groups. We survived okay, and were sent on our way.
Then the other two tests were of ice and earth, and finally we returned to the village. I enjoyed scouting with Nevulma a lot, because when we finally had convinced Hiedaol to stay with the group, and we were just the two of us on the path, no sounds were heard at all. We were successful scouts, and I enjoyed her company.
After dinner my friends came across an impostor paladin. I asked the clan chief whether pretending to be a paladin was a crime, and it was. So I apprehended the man, put my knife to his throat while holding his shoulder. He gave up his weapons and with Quantum and Hrothgir we went into the inn. There, he resisted more, and tried to grab my knife. I quickly stepped back with my right foot, and carefully made sure he couldn't grab my knife. I believe this move almost sent him flying out of the window, but it made sure the bodyguard of Hrothgir kept a close eye on him, knocking him out with the blunt side of his naginata. "He twitched..."
I thought I saw lights near sir Rions' grave and got Quantum, the fire sorceress and the wind wizard to accompany me to the graveyard. Once there, we stumbled upon a white hand, which pointed to the caverns again. With shaking knees and trembling hands we entered the dungeon, and found it deserted. No monsters were there anymore, and the fire sorceress told us what she knew about the hidden door.
Later that night, we found out somebody had opened a portal we were sure should have remained closed, and somehow it was connected to Drow territory. Not long afterwards, the drow attacked the village, and with my new friend, the bodyguard of the Yarl, I stood my ground. Sadly, I was injured on my legs and arm, and Ravian brought me to the tavern for healing, while he went back out there to protect the village.
So the bodyguard and I scouted (try finding Drow without white wigs in absolute dark forest, that is near impossible), but we noticed some movement near the graveyard. A sole drow came out of hiding, and quickly we surrounded him.
This drow, however, cast a circle of holding on us. Unable to move, blink or even talk, we were at his mercy. The drow exclaimed; "I have a message for you. This is all Drow territory now. I will set an example, and you may take the message back to your chief!"
The priest of Duan knelt over me, and looked at my wounds. Then he started praying to Duan to help my soul have a nice transition from this world to the next. Anna was, of course, furious, because she wasn't even half dead (though her legs hurt like hell). When the priest walked away, someone came storming towards her and in a shower of leaves, knelt next to her. "Anna! Anna!"
When the drow were semi-gone (retreated, perhaps defeated? I doubt it), I kept watch outside with Ravian and other fighters. Suddenly, drums were heard, and satyrs, goblins and other creatures with a large barrel and jambes and drums were approaching the longhouse. They entered, and a feast started, with roaring fires and the music of the drums.