The snow fell lazily on the strange salamander’s corpse in the morning light. It had taken hours to kill the creature, but they had done it. More footmen had joined the fight as it progressed, but they still lost the majority of them.
The sixteen remaining men stood near Gaemacirch’s humanoid form. The ferret armor sat in a heap and Gaemacirch wore simple, tight-fitting clothes. He was helping the men move the bodies of their comrades. Four of the survivors were footmen who had thrown spears at the strange salamander. Only two of the archers were remaining beside Burner, the acid breath of the creature reached as far as the arrows had.
Dreekt was helping put the bodies onto a cart to take back to Dregton for a funeral and burial. Gaemacirch approached, carrying the captain’s body.
“He fought well. Do you know if he had any family?” The captain’s face was untouched, but acid had eaten at his body.
“Yes, a wife.” Dreekt helped place the body carefully onto the cart. “He said to talk to her about a dagger if he couldn’t explain it.” Dreekt handed the scimitar-like weapon to Gaemacirch. “It looks elven, almost.”
Gaemacirch studied the dagger for a moment. “Hmm. Well, Dreekt, I need to get back to helping the men.” He handed the dagger back. “Your cart should head in to be emptied.” Gaemacirch turned away then half collapsed.
“Gaem!” Dreekt steadied him. “I think maybe you need to come with me.”
Looking at his shaking arms Gaemacirch nodded. “Yeah, I probably just need some rest.”
Dreekt nodded then helped Gaemacirch onto the driver’s bench. He pulled himself up next to him. “The men can handle the rest.”
One of the men waved. Almost all the men helping clean up the dead were the archers from the wall. “Hey, Gaem, go get some rest! We won’t start burning the Dark Under creatures until you get back!”
“Remember to harvest the strange salamander!” Gaemacirch yelled back as Dreekt started driving the horses forward.
Part way back to the wall Dreekt slowed down and waved to Burner. She was throwing a skittering creeper onto a pile. She had changed into black robes instead of her purple ones. Dreekt assumed it was so the ichor wouldn’t show up as a stain later.
Burner waved back and started walking toward the cart. The weariness in her eyes shone through the falling snow. “We going to get some rest?”
Nodding Dreekt motioned to the captain’s body. “We found him.”
A deep sigh escaped from Burner. “Well, that’s good. It would’ve been better to find him alive, though.”
He’s not dead yet. Dreekt heard in his head.
“Hey, did we check for a pulse?” Dreekt hopped off the seat and went behind the wagon. He climbed a small ladder and reached for the captain’s neck.
Burner shrugged at Gaemacirch and walked to meet Dreekt at the back of the wagon as he pulled the captain down. She helped lower him to the ground and pulled a small mirror from within her robe. She held it to the captain’s nose, reflective side towards the nose. The mirror fogged very slightly. “Shast!” She pulled a flask from inside her robe and poured it on the captain’s acid burns while humming a dirge and casting a healing spell. After the spell the captain’s breathing became steadier.
The captain’s eyes fluttered open slowly. “Water.”
Dreekt pulled his waterskin from his belt and slowly dripped water into the captain’s mouth.
“How did you know, Dreekt?” Burner put away the now empty flask and pulled her pack off. She was waiting for an answer as she searched for bandages for the man.
Dreekt paused from giving the captain water and looked at Burner. “I just had a feeling. We can discuss later. We need to get him back into town.”
Burner nodded and started binding the captain’s wounds. “What’s your name, anyway? We never got it.”
“Well, hold on Hereweald. We’ll get you back to your family soon. I just need to clean and bind these burns.” She motioned for the flask of water from Dreekt. “If it weren’t for Dreekt here you’d be counted among the dead.”
Gaemacirch made his way around to the back of the cart, leaning on it the whole way. “Well, the old soldier is alive after all.” He nodded to Hereweald.
“I’ll be right back.” Dreekt stood back up and jogged over to one of the archers who was tossing a skittering creeper on a pile. He quickly told her that the captain was alive and to send for a stretcher. He jogged back with her. “Take the cart and Gaem back to town. Burner and I will stay with Hereweald.”
Gaemacirch nodded. “I would prefer to stay here, but I need my rest. I collapsed earlier.”
– – –
Hereweald sat on a bed on the first basement floor of his house. His wife, Wassa, was watching as Burner applied a new set of bandages and hummed a healing spell.
Burner got him to drink a sleeping draft and eased his head back onto his pillow. She looked back at Wassa. “He’ll need his bandages changed twice a day. I don’t have anything for the pain other than making him sleep. I’m not an alchemist, you’ll need to get one to make you medicines.”
“Of course, there’s one near the Flagon. If you’ll go and explain what we need I’ll send Johnny with you to pay and bring it back.”
“Oh,” Burner said “the mayor said he’ll pay for any medicine for the first month. He says it’s the least he could do and wishes he could do more.”
“Thank The Kindness. That man has been the best mayor this town has had in a long time.” Wassa motioned to the house around her. “If you need a place to lay your heads, you and your two friends, you will always be welcome here.”
Burner smiled, her eyes glowing under her cowl. “Oh, I’ll be sure to take you up on that offer the next time we’re in town. We’re leaving tomorrow to the cave where these creatures are coming from. With these many casualties you won’t be able to defend yourselves against even a small fraction of the numbers we fought.”
Wassa nodded. “Tell Dreekt I need to talk to him about that dagger Hereweald gave to him before you leave.”
“Right. He told me about that as we came back into town. He’s on the ground floor. Let’s go to the alchemist.” Burner nodded at the young human in his early twenties who looked like Hereweald and Wassa’s son. He had been on inner defense in case the dark under creatures had broken through.
Gaemacirch and Dreekt were waiting for Burner on the ground floor. Dreekt sat in a chair and Gaemacirch was curled up in his ferret form on a rug in the center of the room. When Burner walked up the stairs they stood up to leave with her.
“Wassa is coming to talk to you about the dagger.” Burner motioned for them to stay put.
Dreekt nodded but stayed standing. He pulled his pack off the floor and set it on the chair. He started rummaging through it as Burner left and Wassa walked up the stairs.
“Getting the dagger out?” Wassa nodded to Gaemacirch and approached Dreekt. “Show me the dagger and I’ll explain it.”
Dreekt pulled the dagger out of his, pulled it out of the sheath, and set it on a nearby table.
“You see the hole in the hilt? There’s a gemstone that’s supposed to go there.” She motioned at the hole. “It’s called The Black Gem. It looks like an onyx stone, but with less of an albedo.”
Dreekt looked at Gaemacirch with wide eyes. “Umm…Gaem?”
“Hold on. I’ll go get it.” Gaemacirch stood in his ferret form and started loping out the door toward the Blue Flagon.
Wassa’s eyes went wide. “You have The Black Gem?”
“Maybe. It’s the right size, matches your description, and definitely has magic energy surrounding it.”
“Ok, umm.” Wassa took a deep breath. “Well, the dagger allows the wielder to channel The Black Gem effectively without suffering the ill effects. It allows you to tap into its powers without succumbing to them. It also stores the blood of your enemies when paired with the dagger.” She pointed at a series of small, intricate runes in a shallow trench along the curved blade. “It becomes more effective against those enemies for a short while and allows you to react to them faster in combat.”
Gaemacirch loped back through the door, a small bundle in his maw. He placed the bundle on the table next to the dagger. The wrap around the stone burnt off and the stone floated into the air. The dagger also lifted off the table and the two started spinning rapidly. Dreekt pulled Wassa away from the table and watched as the two objects got closer together then the dagger dropped, still spinning, onto the table with the gem in its hilt.
“Well, that answers that question.” Dreekt reached out for the blade and it floated into his hand. “Uhh, is it supposed to do that?”
“I’ll go out on a limb here and say yes.” Gaemacirch said, keeping a close eye on Dreekt. He positioned himself where he would cushion Dreekt if he fell.
“Think about something you’re going to do soon that you want to know more about. Burner told me you’re going to clear out the dark under caves. Maybe focus on that?” Wassa watched anxiously, also ready to catch Dreekt if he fell.
“I’ll try.” Dreekt focused on the mission and saw the mist he had seen when he touched the stone the first time, only this time he had control. He didn’t feel it, but he somehow knew that his body had fallen and been caught by both Gaemacirch and Wassa. As he focused on the mist a scene began to play in front of him.