Kweld Andu, Part 2
(10 Arhat 358 SV: 16 of 19)
The Gaethzen firefly now hums contentedly, filled with what holy mana I could manage to cram into its crystalline recesses. The glow it produces is warm comfort for the next portion of this day’s journey.
Myrta, Ammara, Damaria and I faired well and hardly noticed the passing of the day from noon toward evening. Truth be told, there seems little difference from day to night in that dismal place. Even the sun has turned its face away from this graveyard, bequeathing its responsibilities to the vultures that have its name.
I had managed to scribble the notes I would need for the journal and we all repaired to the quieter side of the massive gateway. There we caught our breath and shared impressions of the hunt. I made mention that we had done well exploring the entirety of the hill, but Ammara shook his head and said there was one place we had not yet touched.
On what happened I take my share of the responsibility, for Ammara described what we would face before we stepped foot back into Kweld Andu. Upon the top of the mesa there is a place where the Blood Wolves and Bone Wolves have dug a burrow, and from this breeding den they issue forth with alarming rate. The passages are of such height that only a Dwarf or smaller would have hope of standing within. All other races would be forced to crawl.
Myrta added that any who did have misfortune to fall would need one of the smaller of the Living Races to pull them out. Yet, having tasted victory so easy for the best portion of the day, we all held such a possibility as being improbable at the very most. Remember, Good Reader, such hubris leads to misfortune.
After a brief argument between the ladies and Ammara and myself, we all four decided to go. The topic was on whether it would be just the fellows or all of us. To our fault, Ammara and I had little ability to dissuade such a united front that Damaria and Myrta confronted us with. We can face the most dire of monstrous creatures with aplomb and ease, but come resisting the council of a pair of ladies with their mind set to something…I challenge any man to have done better.
I will not divulge the route we took, nor the exact location to the Wolf Lair. If you can find it on your own through the swarms of Kweld Andu, then you have better chance of surviving its dangers. On the way there, Myrta passed on that within the offal at the center of the pit, some adventurous (and smelly) prospectors have dug and found rare gems. Unfortunately we would never get that far…
Ammara crawled into the hole first, scouting the way and Damaria followed. Not wishing her to go unprotected, I followed next and Myrta took the rear. As my companions had promised, we could not raise above one knee and this made things awkward at best.
Damn me! The lessons I took from hunting Wolfspiders should not have failed my memory so soon. I knew the dangers of hunting at such a disadvantage but I had not accounted for the sheer multitude of the beasts. We managed to travel only a little ways inward before the packs began to take their toll.
Let me make several things very clear to any would be hunters to this lair or any place one must crawl to fight. You cannot advance, you cannot retreat, and you cannot guard. It is these three things that would spell doom for any empath not of the smaller races who ventured within the lair. We had Damaria well guarded on the start of our venture, but one by one, Myrta, Ammara and I were pulled away by creatures attacking her.
The beasts would fall to us, but (the rest of the sentence is underscored twice) we could not advance NOR drag her away from the attackers. Like the rest of Kweld Andu, there was no holy mana within these caves so a Banner of Truce was impossible. Internally I curse my lack of a missile weapon in my inventory. With such we would have had passing chance to save the Healer’s life. Ammara’s crossbow was deadly in its accuracy but could not kill them all. Once one wolf got through our screen, Damaria’s fate was a foregone conclusion.
All I saw was bravery despite the tragedy of the situation. Time and time again, I saw Damaria restore her vitality to buy us time to attempt to save her. First one wolf, then two, then three wolves were on her. When she mentioned quietly her mana was running out I could only growl my frustration.
There was nothing else to do but prepare for the worse. I had Myrta head back out to the gate (the wolves, may Damaris curse them, only had eyes for Damaria) to wait for the healer’s return. It was my hope to glyph her before she departed and speed her return. Ammara and I would clear the cavern of beasts so her return would be safe. I profess I was giving orders to keep myself from going beserk for being forced to watch the healer fall.
The cavern’s claustrophobic nature began to have its toll on us. Ammara had called it cavern sickness, and I do not know if it was due to the cramped conditions and the horde of beasts or some evil energies that warp through Kweld Andu itself. As we fought within the lair I could feel my nerves begin to rapidly deteriorate. By the time we would leave that dark hole both Ammara and I would be virtually paralyzed, moving by willpower alone.
Damaria fell. The confusion of the situation took its toll as she departed before the glyph managed to take true form. We were left with not a glyph but a grave. Faced with the Elven healer having to dress in this hullabaloo there was no choice but to have Myrta protect her at the gate and wait for us to bring her gear to her.
I have been witness to bravery on this day: Damaria’s in facing the creatures so soon to kill her with quiet fortitude, Myrta’s quick thinking and solid calmness, and Ammara (forgive me, my humble friend) truly glowed as he work to rout the remaining wolves. If he had not been there, I fear I would have been swinging until my body became fully paralyzed and I fell to the beasts teeth. I saw his bolts fly true and when he commanded, the wolves actually retreated from him.
It became a matter of killing a wolf or two and then digging at the grave with an axe turned to a shovel’s use. As the paralyzation began to spread, the piercing strikes the wolf’s teeth made became more frequent. Dig, kill, kill, dig, kill…Neither Ammara nor I would leave the other until he was safe.
The Thirteen be blessed, but they do seem to appreciate irony as much as mortals. As the final object within the grave was revealed by my axe, the rest having exhumed themselves one at a time as we fought, the last wolf fell. The last item was the only thing I knew Damaria would have valued returned above all others: her staff. All that could be heard inside was our strained breathing, the paralyzation of our nerves leaving us little ability to speak.
I took the staff, and Ammara and I made our way to the surface. Even as we crawled out, we could hear the distant cry of more wolves coming. The gate’s threshold was not soon enough behind us. Damaria and Myrta were there waiting for us, I could see the furrows in the ground for their pacing, and could tell the strain patience had taken on Myrta in fighting her desire to rejoin her husband.
We paused quietly there, each pair giving thanks for each other’s safety and to the gods. We gave my healer her clothes back, allowing her to dress in dignity. There were little in the way of words spoken. We all tried to take blame on each our own shoulders, but considered that a fruitless task at once. Mistakes were made but, more importantly, they were overcome.
The firefly has long since sputtered out, but the early morning’s light has proven ample enough to allow me to continue to write. A night has passed and my fingers now ache from quill’s steady scratching. I hear Damaria stirring within the cabin behind me and I will stop writing now to give thanks to the Hodernia, Goddess of the Dawn, for her safety.
Good Reader, if this journal is to serve any purpose, then take heed of whatever errors I may describe here within so that you too do not find yourself in a similar situation. Until our paths cross again…