[Note: Chapters 1-3 are in the archives under “Fractured Mountains”.]
Draveth was about to take his first step out of Galta in years, and knew he wouldn’t be returning soon. It was a strange feeling to leave the village, but it wasn’t overwhelming. He was stepping from somewhere that he knew everyone and everyone knew him and into a world full of strangers. His mind started wandering to memories of the kindness of people in the village.
“Reliving childhood memories?”
Kreet’s voice brought Draveth back to reality. He started to follow after her. He didn’t remember stopping, but he must have while he was thinking. “Just a few. Let’s keep moving.” He looked at the fields of grass in front of him. He had rarely entered the tall grass mostly staying on the path. Horror stories of giant snakes had kept his childhood self in check. The sight of a red and puffy body of an unlucky traveler didn’t hurt any either.
The two travelers started up some small talk while they were moving along, and their conversation helped the long hours feel short. Around noon they sat near the edge of the road for a small meal. It was hard to see anything to the north, with thick clouds dropping snow down everywhere. They had lucked out, the precipitation wasn’t falling on them here, but there would soon be snow along their route.
Draveth looked back towards Kreet and saw her moving into the grass. “Wait, it’s not safe in the grass! There’s giant rats and snakes!”
Kreet turned to start heading back and something crushed under her feet. The sound was loud in the silence. Then a rattling noise started.
“I think I found a snake nest.” Kreet jumped the remaining five feet onto the path. A large pair of snake heads struck at the place where she had been standing a moment before.
“How’d you know to jump?” Draveth asked as he grabbed their packs and pulled them to the center of the path. “Also, that’s not a snake, it’s a sraix. It’s basically a two-headed snake with four legs and extremely venomous fangs.”
“I figured that I needed to get away from the nest quickly.” Kreet answered. “So do they have two brains?” She pulled her bow off of her back and nocked an arrow.
“I don’t know, but we may be finding out soon.” Three sraixen walked out of the grass and onto the path. Draveth pulled his claymore out of its sheath and readied himself for a fight. “There may be more sraixen in the grass. Stay sharp.”
Two of the sraixen moved forward toward Draveth, while the third sraix flicked it’s tail and launched a group of quills at Kreet. Two of the quills struck, one in the skin at her left shin and the other in her left foot. She tried to pull one out, but it was barbed and the pain was excruciating. Instead she shot the sraix that had launched the quills. A throb of pain from her leg and foot made the shot go wide, but it grazed one of the two sraixen that were moving towards Draveth.
Draveth swung his claymore and cut both of the heads clean off of the right sraix, the same one that Kreet had grazed with her arrow. He readied his claymore to deflect the strike of the sraix next to him, and stood his ground. The sraix that had launched it’s quills moved towards Kreet. The other sraix moved around Draveth and struck out at him. He wasn’t able to act fast enough to block the strike. The sraix sunk it’s fangs into his calf and Draveth felt the venom enter his bloodstream. It burned up his calf and he fell to his knee.
Kreet loosed an arrow at the sraix that was moving towards her and it embedded into one of the heads. The sraix didn’t die, but it was stunned.
Kreet looked at Draveth. “Are you okay? I can take a look at you after these sraixen are dealt with.”
Draveth gritted his teeth and cut the sraix in front of him in half. “I can feel the venom working up my leg. I think I may die. Not much of a protector, am I?” He tried to smile, but ended up grimacing instead.
Kreet pulled out one of the kunai she got from in town and cut the other head off of the sraix next to her. “I may be able to make an antivenom from the venom remaining in the other two sraixen, but I don’t think I can do it fast enough.”
Draveth was about to respond to her when another voice sounded from up the path.
“I can remove the threat of venom from your blood, if The Wanderer will allow it.”
Kreet turned to look in the direction the voice had come from and saw a man in priestly robes with his hood covering his head hurrying towards them.
“I hope you can, priest of The Wanderer. I don’t think I’ll last the day if you can’t.”
The priest was now close enough to lay his hand against Draveth’s leg. He put his forefinger on the line of red going up his leg and muttered under his breath. “Wanderer, I beg you to heal this traveler and remove the venom from his body so that the sanctity of travel is preserved.” He said this in elvish so neither Draveth or Kreet could understand him.
The red line on Draveth’s leg stopped moving, and turned a less vibrant shade. The pain in his leg was much less than before, and he could move it again. “Thank you priest. My name is Draveth, and this lovely lady with me is named Kreet.” Draveth practiced putting weight on the leg, and was able to stand. The pain was just tolerable.
“Nice to meet the two of you. My name is Krashaeletin, but most people call me Krash. Elvish names are hard for other races to remember.” Krash lowered his hood to reveal his dark skin, shoulder length straight black hair, and slim face. His ears were not visible as his hair was not bound.
Kreet spoke to Krash. “I am grateful that you happened to be passing this way, and would like to repay you. Are you hungry or thirsty? We have food and water, or coin if that’s more to your liking.”
“Miss skravyn you need not give me anything for helping. If you are traveling, however, I should like to join you for a time. That would be payment enough to me.”
“We’re heading the way you came from.” Draveth said, pointing towards the north. “If you don’t mind backtracking you may join us. Don’t refuse food from us when we stop to eat or to camp however. The hospitality of travelers is in line with The Wanderer’s ways if I’m not mistaken.”
Krash thought about that for a moment. “True, it is. However, I have just eaten so I do not need food or water at this time.” He glanced around at the path. “I can see you have just finished eating yourselves. I’ll help you pack again if you wish.”
Kreet looked at the three sraixen corpses lying on the road. “I’ll take care of the sraixen while the two of you pick up then.” She grabbed a few vials from her pack and headed towards the bodies. She was able to harvest two and a half vials worth of venom, then retrieved her arrows. One of the arrows was broken, but the other was still usable. By the time she was done the other two were finished cleaning up the day camp and they set off north along the path.
Draveth was surprised how far they had gotten during the day. He realized that he didn’t feel all that tired, but he hadn’t traveled very far before so he had no prior experience to judge by. He had spent hours every day for years standing and walking around the forge. Maybe this had allowed him to build up stamina, but he wasn’t sure. Kreet and Krash didn’t seem tired either so he figured it wasn’t just him. The forest was visible on the horizon and the temperature had dropped noticeably. He saw more and more patches of snow the farther along they went, but no snow had fallen during the day.
“Well, this is a wide place in the path. Probably best to camp out here for the night than hope for something better this close to nightfall.” Krash set down his pack near the side of the road and started collecting sticks from the path. “You wouldn’t happen to have chopped lumber, would you?”
Kreet took off her pack and removed a bundle from the bottom. “These are small so don’t put them all on at once.” She uncovered the bundle and revealed small wedges of wood. “I figured we wouldn’t reach the forest for a few days so I bought this before we left.” She started to pull out a tinderbox from a pocket.
“No need for the tinderbox.” Krash placed a hand on the small pile of sticks he had arranged and whispered something in elvish. When he removed his hand the sticks were burning with a green flame that quickly turned orange. “Hand me one of those pieces of wood please. This isn’t going to last that long with just twigs.”
“Can you teach me some of that?” Draveth asked as he grabbed a piece from Kreet’s pile and handed it to him. “I’ve heard that some of the priestly spells can be learned by paladins.”
“Ah, yes. You did mention you are a paladin of The Kindness earlier. I think some of my spells you can learn.” Krash thought for a moment. “Only the simple ones, and some of them will act differently when you use them. The nature of the deity affects the spells, and there are some spells that can only be learned by the followers of specific gods.”
“I wouldn’t be able to learn any of them would I?” Kreet was clearing a spot of stones and unrolling her bedroll. “The priest spells anyway. I know simple spells can be learned by rangers.”
“I’ve not met anyone other than priests that could use them, and only heard of paladins being able to use simple priestly spells. I doubt that you would be able to unless a god bestowed them upon you.” Krash set up a small tent. “I will take first watch, then I’ll wake Draveth. You can have the last watch Kreet and then we can set out at first light. Does that sound good?”
Draveth laid out a few blankets on the ground. “I’m a light sleeper, that should be fine. Don’t hesitate to wake me early if you feel tired. I can function on less than six hours if need be.”
“Six hours?” Kreet sounded surprised. “I usually get eight hours of sleep.”
“With three of us that would be twelve hours total, half of the day, not moving. If we do three-hour watches then it’ll be nine hours. Three more hours to travel.” Draveth turned to Krash. “Do you think we will get to the village at the forest’s edge tomorrow, or the day after?”
“We’ve made good time, but I think it’ll be the day after. Best to start early in the morning in case we get there late and have a good night’s sleep in town. They have great rooms above the tavern, not to mention a great tavern. It’s a dwarvish town, called Traven.” Krash pulled out a ration and started chewing on some food.
“Isn’t that the town where your brother got off the boat?” Draveth asked Kreet, in between bites.
Kreet thought a moment. “I don’t know the name of the town, but if it’s by the forest then that’s the one.” Kreet pulled out a ration as well and started to eat.
Before long Kreet and Draveth were sleeping and Krash was keeping watch. He threw another piece of wood on the fire and pulled a book from his pack. The moon was full and the sky was clear of clouds so he would have no problem reading. He muttered something under his breath and his hearing grew more acute. He sat down on a wad of his blankets and began to read the scholarly works of Bahlet, a former apprentice of Jergolt.
He had only been reading for a few moments when a loud sound got his attention. He tossed the book into his tent and moved to wake Draveth. Krash didn’t want to investigate the sound with the camp unwatched.