Maruc cast his flail to one side and shrugged off his shield. He knelt down and checked over the bodies to see if any were still clinging onto life. What a sorry mess, he thought. There was something familiar about the tenacity of their attack. Like they were driven. Insane? Or close to it. Not like the elves of the Elyan under the sway of the Witches. This was darker, more insideous. None had survived on the boat, Maruc turned to Miklos.
“Did you manage to enchant any of the archers on the shoreline?”
“Yes, it was touch and go on the distance but I managed to capture the majority. I believe Prince Hasan went to shore after them. I lost him in our fight.” Miklos replied squinting into the low brush of the wood.
“Good. We have none to talk to here.” said the priest sadly. “They fought like they were possessed. Unusual for simple bandits I would guess. Most would run at your first incantation.”
Maruc checked them over for cultist symbols as he lined them up ready to unload them to the shore. On the left forearm of every dead attacker was the same brand—two manacles linked by a chain.
He turned to the surviving stranger. His face had the haunted mix of sorrow and grim determination. “Well met. Thank you for your help there. Please accept my sorrow for your loss. They were brave men.” Miklos offered his hand to the warrior.
“My name is Miklos of the House of Dostevar. A Seer and Conjurer … of sorts.”
Stephan found the need to spit immediately after the battle but quelled the urge when one of magician greeted him.
“Thank you,” he said taking the man’s proffered hand. “I am Stephan Sukiska. Traladaran.” He looked down at the fallen Boris and Rokov, “Not to seem cold, but they were not close to me. Beloc! They were good hands! Though not much in a battle, it seems. I should have thought of that when I took ‘em on what with all the rumors comin’ out of Dymrak. And I have to go deeper in still!”
Upon meeting the Dwarf, Stephan noted his skill in battle. “You’ve seen some grit, I can tell.” And he looked at the others. “All of you, no doubt, have some tales to tell, I’m sure. Well, I can say, thank Halav we wound up on the same boat! Crazed lot, these villians! And not the sort I know to be about in Dymrak! If these be here, there’s more trouble to come I wager!”
Stephan couldn’t hide his emotions, and when asked about his fallen comrades, he had to let it spill. “No, no. They were not close, as I said. But I’m in a bit of a trouble. These lads were to accompany me to my brother’s homestead in Dymrak. We were to drive some of the family’s prize Dorian’s to Rifllian. We’re to head there from Misha’s Ferry. Can’t be far from here. And then it’s but a few stretch to the homestead.
“Look, I’d try to make it worth your while if you accompany me to the homestead and then on to Rifllian.” Stephan wasn’t much of a pitchman. “What I mean to say is, and I mean no insult, can I hire you to help me in this? The Calaari Elves are likely to pay handsomely for the Dorians. They’re pure white steads–the symbol of the Calaari. I’d give you a fair wage.”
He looked at the dwarf, guessing he might like this: “There might be some goblin heads to dislodge, too.”
Feldard aided the cleric in the task of checking over the bodies for any clue as to their identity or reason for their attack. There seemed little to no gain in it.
The dwarf snorted at Stephan’s offer. The man fought well enough, yet the humans attempt to convince and sway the party from their current mission by both promise of ‘fair pay’ and ‘heads to dislodge’ was a bit of an insult. As if their task to return Nicolai’s ashes could be dismissed so lightly. Plus there was also his bride to find. The dwarf had no interest in herding horses and his expression made that fact plain.
Hasan rejoined his companions aboard the riverboat, and Miklos quickly appraised him of Stephan’s offer. “Well met, Stephan. Calaari, you say?” questioned the elf. “Listen. Know now that we four are blood-bound to our cargo, which must be delivered to Threshold. A former companion of our must be laid to rest there. Why not travel with us there, and we can join you when our mission is complete? For I would see the Calaari.”
When time permitted, Stephan saw to rousing the crew from below. “Hasan, you didn’t happen to notice what’s caught up the boat?”
It was a chain that had been stretched across the river. It would not take long to undo the chain, but Kalanos’ crew had been decimated. Of those that weren’t dead, some were wounded. They would be able to get as far as Misha’s Jetty, but travel beyond that on the damaged boat would be impossible. It would seem that the delivery Nicolai’s ashes and Feldard’s quest for his missing bride was to be delayed.