Ludo turned to a Hutaakan priest nearby, “Who of your people was taken tonight? The scream that we investigated was not of the undead. I fear a greater evil is lurking out there, it will pick us all off one by one. Hasan you tell them, they listen to you, this land has a poison infecting it, unless they make peace with the Traldar their people and culture will be destroyed.”
The dwarf took a moment to catch his breath after the battle ended with the fleeing of the undead. He was wary about allowing the Hutaakan priests to heal his wounds but it was better that than wasting Maruc’s prayers or going without.
With his wounds tended, the dwarf took up a watch position near the group, his crossbow retrieved and loaded once more, and listened to the discussion adding in his own brusque opinion and comments rarely. “We are wasting time with all this talk. We should just get on with finding this Vault of the Elders that they spoke of.”
“Quickly now, build a great fire,” summoned Hasan. “We can talk all we want, but we need to handle him first.” The elf gestured at the twisted shape of the wraith he still held suspended in the air. “We shall give this one the pyre he craves.” The ancient Traladaran snarled his defiance as the party pulled together a great fire at the edge of the forest, but Hasan gently lowered the wraith into the flames. The elf thought he saw the winking wistful look as the wraith’s looks reformed before disappearing into the night sky.
With the last of the enemy eliminated, Miklos let the tension run from him. He was glad that this night would not yield more death. He was looking forward to an unbroken night. Such was not to be. He gathered his robe about him and curled up in the warmth of the fire and caught what rest he could.
As the fire cooled and peace returned to the deep Vale night, Hasan’s emotion waned as well. “Feldard, I think you are right. We should end this chase. The Kartoeba is a great foe, and the valley may never be free of it. But perhaps if we can bring peace to this vale and its woken dead, the vale can defend itself. Let us sleep and prepare for the Vault.”
Stephan was happy to receive the healing ministrations of the Hutaaka. They excessively used a strange unguent from a green bottle on all the wounds before applying dressing. As one of the Hutaaka was using this fluid on Stephan’s chest wounds, the bottle ran empty. He was shocked when, without warning the jackal-headed creature deftly continued the treatment by licking the numerous cuts. The act was unnerving but somehow poignant and the woodsman found himself grateful.
Soon he was asleep to the sounds of the crackling pyre.
Maruc sank back exhausted and and enthralled at the mighty power of Halav. The creatures had retreated from His power as Maruc knew they would. This was a testament to his growing favour with the immortal and he would strive even more to the furtherance of His goals.
He watched with satisfaction the banishing of the wraith, then turned to the Hutaakan priests. “Your faith is lacking, attend to your god with more piety so that you can fore-fill His purpose.”
He gratefully sunk into slumber with his friends, the morrow would require all their strength.
In the morning, the party departed for the Vault of the Elders, accompanied by two Hutaakan priests. The journey was uneventful, and by late afternoon they had reached their destination. This shrine was similar in style to the others they had seen, but larger and more structurally sound. The doorway to the shrine was open. The priests explained that the entrance to the vault was inside.
The Hutaakans had become quite fearful at this point. They had wondered why they had not rushed out to save their captured brethren the previous night. Now the answer was clear. It was because they were terrified.