Maruc finished the ministrations on the final body. He could tell that Feldard wanted little to do with the goblins or the orc. But Maruc was morally obliged to see if they were alive. As his old abbot constantly reminded him ‘the fact that society shuns you for your creed or perhaps race – judge not until you are in a position to judge. Have you not noticed that certain Traladarans view our order contempt? Especially the bigots of the Church themselves. What makes us different from them is that we see the truth and we care enough to allow those who cross our paths the chance to prove themselves.’ Wise words.
And what was interesting was that Feldard had taken just as much care lowering all the bundles. Maruc doubted he would have given them a second glance three months ago. Small but important steps.
It was too late for one of the goblins. Its pale scaly face scarred and pitted with years of abuse and battle looked almost serene. Almost. He went to the next goblin. This one hadn’t been under the influence of the poison for so long and there was a flicker of life in it, a labouring pulse it was severely dehydrated and starving. Not much and without some serious attention wouldn’t last until the morning. The orc was alive. Maruc could tell it had been envenomed several times to keep it docile but even now realising it was free of the web was starting to struggle against its bindings. Maruc glanced up to the ceiling and wondered if the spider had been concussed buy Miklos’s magic.
Now he understood the condition of the victims he turned to Stephan. “Pull the orc through to the main chamber. I’ll pull this one.”
Stephan, looked quizzically at the priest then returned he gaze to the web-laden roof. “They are not the chosen of Halav. Why aid them?”
“That is what makes us different from them.” explained Maruc. “I can give you more reasons but for now lets get them out of here before she wakes up?” Maruc grinned.
“She who? Ah, the spider..” Stephan stowed his blade and showing impressive strength hauled the body back out into the main chamber with one arm. The other not letting go of the burning brand and not for one minute did his experienced eyes stop scanning for movement above.
Maruc hauled his burden to one side and checking once more to see if it was not getting significantly worse turned an registered the strange conversation that was happening behind him. He didn’t understand a word of it, but that wasn’t what struck him. It was the fact that the dwarf was up and about. Amazing creatures, dwarves he thought.
Miklos pulled the reminiscence of the webbing from the poor gnomish miner. “There you are my friend.” He proffered his water skin which the gnome took gratefully and gulped at. “Lucky we popped by eh?” The gnomes eyes swiveled toward the spider’s chamber radiating fear. “Ah, its unconscious, don’t worry we have dispatched one or two spiders in our adventures.”
“You don’t speak much do you. I’m Miklos.” the mage introduced the others. “…and that fine dwarven warrior is the redoubtable Feldard.” At these last words a flicker of recognition crossed his face. “Ah, you know Feldard? No. Heard his name before….. from…” the gnomes eyes betrayed his dwarf companion. “…from her. Interesting.”
Miklos looked over to the Dwarves engaged in a hushed and urgent conversation. “How timely and delightful! One might almost believe in fate, or religion eh Maruc?”
The priest shook his head. He let the the mages’ jibe go.
“You know who it is don’t you,” insisted the mage barely keeping his excitement down. “We wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for her.”
“You mean this is Feldards ‘friend’? Ah, I see your thinking. The quick side journey to Highforge,” he said without rancor. “Well bless me. Halav truly guides our steps. What more proof do you need Miklos! Join us. Forget all those dusty books and arcana and embrace the love of Halav. Rejoice! Rejoice!”
Miklos recoiled, “Err Maruc, I think you’ve been on the communion wine, old chap,” then the mage noticed the grin. “Ha-ha, very funny.”
It was petty, but worth it just to see Miklos’s expression. “You have any idea what they’re going on about?” Maruc asked.
“Not a clue.” replied the mage.
Feldard nodded at Hernane’s request and turned towards the rest of the group, only to find Miklos and Maruc watching, him and Hernane in amused interest. Feldard gave the pair of humans one of his infamous scowls before proceeding with introductions. “Hernane of Rockhome,” he stated simply in answer to the questioning looks from his companions.
“Maruc, devote follower of Halav—and a priestly healer. Miklos—our groups record-keeper and mage. Hasan, of the Elyan elves.” Feldard pointed toward each as he introduced them. “And Stephan – a local of the Sukiska clan whose brothers homestead was attacked not that long ago by these same goblins. It is their trail that brought us here.”
Feldard looked over towards the awakening orc and grimaced. “Despite my similar desire to see these beasts killed outright… we need to question them first.”
“Pleased to meet you Hernane of Rockhome!” said Maruc and made a perfunctory bow. “Doubtless you will not wish to be administered to, however like Master Feldard here, you don’t get a choice. Say Ahhh. Good, eyes…clear. Excellent. You look a little pale my dear. But plenty of water a good meal and sunshine will cure that. How do you feel? No. Don’t answer that, you’d probably say something like ’stop fussing you irritating human’.” Maruc grinned wolfishly. “Good, well you’ll live. Whats the name of your silent friend over there?” Maruc could feel the ‘why don’t you ask him’ coming from a mile away…
“Likewise, Miss Hernane.” added Miklos, “Master Feldard here has been most tenacious in his attempts to locate you. I’m glad I could help in my small way! But my chief concern is the nest of spiders. How many are there that you are aware of and what are their markings? We must see to our safety first. I’d suggest a small conflagration and since Stephan is already there with a burning brand this should take too long.”
Hernane nodded to each in turn and haltingly stated after giving Feldard a quizzical look, “I give you my thanks for your timely intervention and rescue of my Gnomish friend and I”.
“As Feldard has already confirmed I am Hernane of Rockhome, Feldard and I am kinsman, his clan and mine have a long and lasting friendship,” looking at Feldard as if reconfirming this statement. “And my Gnomish friend here is Tekaryon.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” said the gnome. Now recovered from the webbing’s effects, it could be clearly seen that he was a wide-eyed, animated fellow, his pupils darting about as he spoke. “My brother and I discovered this goldmine. We were set to turn quite a profit until these Wolfskullers showed up.”
“If you want to torch what you can in the cavern, feel free, but I am now unsure if the beast is even here and I suspect it will do little good. Personally, I suggest we move on as quickly as possible. I suspect the beast will soon return and I am in no mood to face it a second time. I am surprised that it has not already shown its presence. I also suggest that if you have to question the Orc and Goblin that we do it a bit later and we all move to a safer environment, for me I would rather just be rid of their foul stench once and for all. Their kind has killed many of my new friends and has caused much suffering“.
“I am surprised that the ‘green skins’ found the mine,” said the gnome. “We took great care to keep its presence as low key as possible, and this part of the forest is off the beaten path. Still I suppose it was inevitable, but I wonder what has led them here.”
“Sadly they were many in number and did not care of the losses and damage we inflicted upon them,” continued Hernane. “When we began to be overwhelmed we were forced to retreat into the mine and inadvertently freed the creature. It was indeed a sad day when these green skins stumbled upon the mine.”
“Where did this orc come from though?” inquired Tekaryon scratching his head.
“Stephen is it?” asked Hernane. “I am sorry for your loss that these creatures have wrought on you and your family. They are heartless and pitiless creatures, and you have my deepest sympathies. I will gladly aid you in hunting down any survivors for I too have a score to settle with them. As Feldard can confirm, I have a strong arm and stout heart and it will be my pleasure in helping you in hunt down these foul creatures. Plus I do need to discuss some personal matters with Feldard. Feldard, once again you have my thanks and gratitude for your timely intervention, I will never forget your loyalty and devotion to duty. Your Father will know of your courage.”
Stephan stabbed a nod at Hernane but kept scanning the cavern roof. “Pleased to meet you. I agree, let’s get out. The greenskins will be more pliable in the sunlight. No need to torch if we can just get out.”
The fighter, for all his strength, seemed uneased by the webs and what they may conceal in the lofty shadows. He glanced about to ensure their exit route was clear. “Leave the greenies bundled in the web. We’ll drag them out.”
Hasan nodded with gravity at the new dwarf and her story of retreat and fear. He headed to the southeast tunnel, ready to move on from the grand cavern. Still, despite the horror of the tale, the elf could not fail to remark to himself at the wonder of the two dwarfs finding one another. It appeared that the world beyond his Radlebb home was smaller in some ways than it seemed.
The others emerged from behind the teeth, dragging the three humanoid packages along with them. The elf turned his head. His keen hearing was the first to pick up the sound of armored movements approaching.