Cuana Chapter 16 Entry 4

Xacksmith cried out that the jellyfish appeared to be spreading out in the water now that they had no victim to swarm, and continued to fire arrows at them. Confident that his armor would protect him from the agonizing sting of the jellyfish, Tullweim lunged into the water and began attacking them. Ghaznavi was intent on something across the stream still hidden in the subterranean darkness, and I saw him wince and gasp as one of Amadan’s arrows buried itself in his side. Noting that his attention was riveted upon something across the stream, I jumped into the water by the shore’s edge and went deep, pushing off the rock bank in an effort to cross the stream underneath the jellyfish and climb out on the other side.

Swimming through pitch darkness, I managed to reach the other bank without coming into contact with any jellyfish. Quickly climbing out of the water and onto the rocky embankment, I turned to see Tullweim flailing away at the jellyfish surrounding him, and Xacksmith firing arrows frantically into the water. The wizard was still intent upon something unseen in the dark, and as I watched he was momentarily eclipsed by a dark shape, similar to that of the urn that stood before him. As I watched I saw him stagger and gasp as another of Amadan’s arrows buried itself into his hide, followed by a shaft fired by the Hyrkanian. Tullweim had drawn most of the jellyfish toward himself, so the water between the wizard and I looked clear enough to try to swim across.

I dove back into the water, intent on reaching Ghaznavi and wrapping my fingers around his scrawny throat. As I was mere feet from the bank, a powerful voice boomed in my head, saying ‘Warrior, protect your friends by keeping them away’ and I knew the words to be true. I began to climb up onto the bank, resolute in keeping my friends safe by preventing any form of attack they launched from affecting the wizard. Once I gained my feet and took a step toward the wizard, I was immediately engulfed in a burst of flames, but likely due to the fact that I was dripping wet, the flames had little effect on me. I turned to see the Nordheimer climbing onto the shore a few feet from Ghaznavi, and become immediately engulfed in flames as he stood. Two more of Amadan’s arrows buried themselves into the wizard’s hide, and he sank to his knees, blood bubbling on his lips as he gurgled his last breath. Not missing an opportunity to force a little humility upon our foe in humorous fashion, the Nordheimer doffed his mold-encrusted codpiece and shoved it violently down the dying wizard’s throat.

Seeing the jellyfish scatter at the death of the wizard, I quickly dove into the stream and swam across to where Xacksmith awaited with Amadan. Tullweim had lifted the blue vase and set off a fire trap in attempting to open it, doing little more to him than scorching his eyebrows and coating him in a thin film of soot. Inside, he found Jehungir’s half of the bracelet, so he tucked it away and soon joined us on the near side of the stream.

After a moment’s debate on whether to continue down stream or leave the way we came, we retraced our steps and returned to we had left the rope hanging down from the shaft. With a boost from my Aesir friend, I was able to get a firm grasp upon the rope. Quickly climbing to the top of the closed shaft, I was able to gain enough of a grip on the mortared stones to allow the rope to drop back down, and Tullweim climbed up the rope behind me. It was a tight fit with the two of us at the top of the shaft, but it took our combined strength to lift the stone covering that had toppled over the opening, especially with the force of the water which still poured across the stone. W e managed it with a mighty heave – the stone covering was thrust aside, the water came pouring back down the shaft, knocking the Nordheimer back down the well to land in an awkward splash in the river below. Supressing a chuckle at my friend’s cursing and flailing below, I climbed out against the force of the water, and made sure the grappling hook was secure.

I called down to have my companions tie the rope around their waist one at a time, and I would take turns hauling each one up. First came Amadan, then Xacksmith, followed by the body of the bastard sorcerer, with Tullweim coming up last after several failed attempts that landed him repeatedly in the river. With everyone finally back in the mausoleum, we headed back through the burial ground to the gate, and left the cemetery. As soon as we emerged from the burial ground, we were met by Orqina, the priest who had been guarding the gate, and Gunsakh, who was practically bouncing from foot to foot, so excited was he that the sorcerous yellow light had been extinguished with the death of Ghaznavi. When the priest asked if we had acquired the bracelet halves, Xacksmith silenced him by claiming that we hadn’t.

Following Gunsakh back to the soldiers’ camp, I eagerly accepted the drink offered by the grateful soldiers, and relaxed for the first time since the night before coming upon the slaughtered villagers. Now that the yellow light had been dispelled, the change in the soldiers – both in appearance and spirit – was drastic. Gone were the sunken cheeks and eyes, the drawn, haggard look of their faces. They stood erect, as if a weight had been taken from their shoulders, and they laughed as they drank, toasting us and making sure our cups were never dry. Their cheer was infectious, and I joined in, matching them cup for cup, until I could do naught but lay back and sleep.

Morning was announced very abruptly by warm mead splashing me in the face, and I pulled myself up onto my elbows to see Tullweim laughing at me through eyes that felt as if all the liquid had been sucked out of them. I started to get up and almost fell over. My muscles were stiff, I felt dehydrated, and I ached from head to toe. My beard was sticky from dried mead, and dirt and sand had stuck to it, creating a sort of crust throughout. I resolved to shave it off at my first opportunity.

Stifling a groan as I stood, I slowly moved to join the others, who were mounting up for a trip to the forge. They were explaining to Gunsakh that they wanted to repair some of their weapons, so off we rode. Once at the forge, Tullweim offered the smith some silver for private use of his forge, and I watched as they threw both halves of the brothers’ bracelet into the fire and pumped the bellows. Once that was accomplished, Gunsakh and his troops escorted us to the city of Djamal, where we were presented with silver and jewels for our efforts. It will be good to spend the night in a bed, under a roof, for just one night.

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Cuana Chapter 16 Entry 4

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